Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel will undergo surgery on his left knee – injured Feb. 12 at Florida – on Tuesday by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews.James will operate on Noel to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament, which will take Noel six to eight months to fully recover. Scott Mair of University of Kentucky Sports Medicine will observe and coordinate Noel’s rehabilitation process, according to ESPN.com.Before Noel suffered the injury against the Florida Gators, the 6-foot-10 freshman was projected as a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, which influenced his decision when to have the surgery. He was leading the nation with 106 blocks before getting hurt.“Due to the unique timetable for Nerlens’ recovery in regards to the NBA Draft deadline, the University of Kentucky and Noel’s family thought it was in his best interest to have his surgery performed by Dr. Andrews in Florida,” Kentucky athletic department spokesman DeWayne Peevy said in a statement.Having Andrews to perform the surgery allows Andrews the accessibility to communicate with NBA personnel regarding his post-surgery recovery since Andrews has strong ties to NBA franchises. Kentucky is prohibited from speaking with NBA teams.Wildcats coach John Calipari declined to comment on Noel’s return to the team when asked during a teleconference on Monday.Noel, who was initially expected to have to surgery within two to three weeks of the incident, will not be with team at the Southeastern Conference tournament beginning Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn.“After talking with my family, I decided to schedule my surgery over spring break so I wouldn’t miss as much class,” Noel said in a statement. “I wish all my teammates luck in the SEC tournament and look forward to getting back to Lexington as soon as I can to begin my rehab and finish my school work.”The Wildcats have been inconsistent without Noel in their starting rotation, going 4-3 without him. They are currently 21-10 overall and 12-6 in SEC in play. They suffered a 30-point drilling to Tennessee in their first game without Noel, losing 88-58. But they managed to pull off three consecutive wins after the loss.Their inconsistent play had the reigning national champions on the bubble to reach the NCAA tournament until they defeated the Gators Saturday 61-57, which earned them a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. But they cannot afford a bad loss in the SEC tournament if they want to make it back NCAA tournament.
Month: September 2019
Troubled free agent Michael Beasley might return to the two-time world champion Miami Heat as sources say the franchise is considering the 6-foot-10 forward.According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Miami Heat is contemplating returning Beasley to their roster after he was waived by the Phoenix Suns following his arrest in early August for possession of marijuana.Several of the Heat’s key veteran players are supporting the signing of Beasley, who was the second overall pick by the Heat in the 2008 NBA draft.Beasley spent two seasons with the Heat, averaging 14.1 points, before team president Pat Riley traded him to the Timberwolves for draft picks and to clear salary-cap space to bring in LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Though no offers or guarantees have been made, Beasley is reported to have a strong interest in returning to the team.
HOUSTON — The NBA Finals are the crown jewel of the playoffs for obvious reasons, but it’d be hard to argue with anyone who views this vaunted Western Conference finals matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, which opens Monday night, as this year’s main event.The Warriors have two of the best three players in the world in their starting five, have won two of the past three titles and appeared borderline annoyed by having to face questions about whether they’re concerned to be starting a series without home-court advantage for the first time in their recent championship era. The Rockets won an NBA-best 65 regular-season games, have likely MVP James Harden and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul in their backcourt and possess a group of sweet-shooting teammates who stretch the floor as if it’s made of Play-Doh.The offensive firepower — Golden State and Houston finished No. 1 and No. 2 in offensive efficiency and virtually averaged the same number of points per 100 possessions — guarantees we’ll hear plenty about how well these teams score. But because of that, something else about the Rockets and Warriors may fly beneath the radar: The NBA’s two best clubs are even further ahead of the curve on defense. In a league that’s more reliant than ever on the pick-and-roll offense, these defenses are unmatched when it comes to their versatility and ability to switch assignments on the fly.Houston defended a screen-and-roll by switching on 1,406 possession chances during the regular season, while Golden State orchestrated 1,075 switches of its own, according to data from Second Spectrum and NBA Advanced Stats. These teams — which more than doubled the switch totals compiled by 20 other squads — were outliers: The Lakers were the only other club that broke 800 switches during the 2017-18 season.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/rox.mp4Media error: Format(s) not supported or source(s) not foundmejs.download-file: https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/rox.mp4?_=100:0000:0000:21Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.And it isn’t just that the Warriors and Rockets switch a lot. They also use the strategy to fuel their high-octane offenses. Houston forced 3.5 turnovers per 100 switches, while Golden State forced 2.4, the best rates in the league, according to Second Spectrum.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/warriors.mp400:0000:0001:38Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.That ability — having two similarly sized players trade their defensive responsibilities quickly enough during a pick-and-roll that the offense doesn’t gain an edge — speaks to the length and versatility these Western Conference foes have. And it takes on added importance in a matchup like this, in which the Warriors and Rockets use an array of screens (albeit differently1The Warriors use fewer pick-and-roll plays than any other team in basketball, while the Rockets use more direct screens than any team, according to Second Spectrum data. That said, Golden State, seeking to free up Klay Thompson, sets more off-ball screens than any club.) to free up their most lethal shooters beyond the 3-point line.“You have to cover more ground than ever before. It’s amazing: Sometimes I’ll turn on the classic sports channel and find Lakers-Celtics games from the 1980s — some of the best games ever — and the game is played in this tiny little radius. Now it’s way out on the perimeter,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Every possession was, you dump it into the post, a double comes, and you might see six or eight threes taken in a game. But everything was different. The rules were different. The talent is different. Very few low-post players anymore. The league’s adapted. Coaches have adapted. Things are ever-changing. And you have to change along with that.”Anyone who’s followed the Warriors’ dominance these past few years knows a huge chunk of that success stems from Golden State’s ability to go small and play Draymond Green — who may not even be the ideal height for a traditional small forward — at center. That alignment, with the addition of Andre Iguodala, gives the Warriors four long-limbed clones who are laterally quick enough and strong enough to cover almost anyone. With that defensive speed, Golden State can gamble a bit more on that end; it knows the opposing offense generally won’t be able to find mismatches, even if a switch has taken place.“At the end of the day, it’s really just another way for us to cut off the other team’s options with our versatility,” said Green, the league’s reigning defensive player of the year, who sometimes calls an audible — and moves a teammate out of the way — before a screen occurs to be in position to thwart the play.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/dray.mp4Media error: Format(s) not supported or source(s) not foundmejs.download-file: https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/dray.mp4?_=300:0000:0000:12Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Houston has also made life difficult for opponents with its versatility on defense. By and large, the Rockets have been far more successful on defense than most would have guessed, jumping to sixth in defensive efficiency this season after ranking 21st in 2015-16 and 18th in 2016-17. Adding the sticky-handed Paul certainly factored into that improvement, but plugging free-agent signings Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker into the lineup likely did even more for the defense.“Their ability to guard 1 through 5 makes it so much easier for us. That’s why we’re so much better on defense this year,” Houston guard Eric Gordon said of the duo, which sometimes shares the frontcourt despite neither standing taller than 6-foot-8. (Nonetheless, the lineup pays dividends: Houston, trailing by 14 heading into the fourth quarter at Portland in December, came back to win by 7 while using Mbah a Moute and Tucker at the 4 and 5 for the entire period.)Mbah a Moute, in particular, has become a vital piece. According to a defensive dashboard created by Nylon Calculus contributor Krishna Narsu, the wing’s versatility was highly unusual. This season, he was one of just seven players to spend at least 15 percent of his time guarding each of the following positions: point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward.Unsurprisingly, the Rockets struggled in his absence during the middle of the campaign, enduring a season-long five-game losing streak. The Rockets’ 101.2 defensive rating with Mbah a Moute on the court this season would have ranked best in the league on a team scale, while their 105.4 rating without him would have had them just slightly above average, at No. 12.Above all else, Mbah a Moute and Tucker carry so much importance because they make Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni — one of the game’s brightest offensive minds who was never really known for switching with his defenses — more comfortable utilizing this style of play.“To even have a chance against a team like Golden State, you have to make a point of not being put into rotations. They’ll kill you that way. So I’m just happy we have a roster full of guys to where it makes sense to be able to switch the way we do,” he said.To be sure: Neither team is breaking from decades of tradition with this strategy on defense, even if they are using it far more often than everyone else. On some level, this is no different from what the LeBron James-era Miami Heat did when it rode small ball to a championship in 2012. (Kerr would be the first to tell you that he never envisioned Green playing the rim-protector role when he took the Warriors job. “We didn’t know Draymond was Draymond yet,” he told me.) Beyond that, it wouldn’t be fair to gloss over how unbelievably dominant these teams are on offense, given how big a role scoring plays in their success.Yet there are reasons to think that creative, well-timed switches will heavily factor into this series as the chess match of hunting for what each team perceives to be mismatches unfolds.The Warriors have made no secret of the fact that they like to post up Kevin Durant when they spot him being guarded by Paul following a screen.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/durant.mp400:0000:0000:45Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Meanwhile, Harden and the Rockets are even less shy about attacking Stephen Curry; they’ll often run multiple pick-and-rolls until they get him on an island for a 1-on-1 matchup. In fact, they used this tactic six times in a seven-possession span during the final four minutes of the teams’ last regular-season meeting Jan. 20, a 116-108 Houston win.“We’re just gonna watch film and find ways to attack them offensively,” Harden said when I asked about that sequence. “We’ll take our shots, play unselfishly. Pretty simple.”Curry thinks this will mean isolating him in the same way this series. “I hope it’s every single play,” he told The Athletic’s Anthony Slater. “If you look at the ‘Hamptons Five’ lineup that’s out there, I would probably do the same exact thing if I was coaching against me. You’ve got Klay (Thompson), Andre, Draymond and KD out there. I embrace those opportunities to get stops and try to make it tough in those iso situations … and just do my job.”The likely MVP seeking out a former MVP for a 1-on-1 matchup, for the right to play in the NBA Finals. A pretty cool outcome, all thanks to how these juggernauts force and handle switches on defense.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
NFL Playoff Implications, our weekly guide to what games matter and to whom, returns for Week 11 of the NFL season. For an explanation of the methodology, see here. UPDATE (Nov. 15, 11:46 a.m.): The interactive tables above have been updated to include the result of Thursday night’s BUF-MIA match-up, and that game has been removed (the text of the article has not been updated).In our article on Week 9’s playoff implications, we focused on the game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, and the impact it had on the race for the AFC’s top seed. The Broncos were blown out in that game, 43-21, leaving that No. 1 seed up for grabs (although Denver is still a 56 percent favorite to claim it).This Sunday night, the Patriots visit the Indianapolis Colts in a game with similarly significant implications for the top two AFC seeds. The first and second seeds in each conference receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs, and as we pointed out last week, this is a significant advantage and greatly increases a team’s chances of reaching the Super Bowl.1Last week’s column featured a side-by-side comparison of the importance of playoff seeding in the NFL and the NBA, and there appears to have been some confusion as to what those numbers represented. To clarify, the seed probabilities shown in the table represent the impact of seeding only, and in both calculations, all teams are considered evenly matched. In practice, of course, teams are not evenly matched, and the superior teams are far more likely to be concentrated among the top seeds. As a result, the actual Super Bowl/Finals frequencies by playoff seed will skew much more heavily toward the top seeds. The intent of the table was to show the advantages conferred to each team due to seeding alone.For Indianapolis, the playoff race is all over but the seeding. Much like the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South, the Colts are division winners by default, with no significant competition from the Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans or Jacksonville Jaguars. And of the Colts’ remaining games, none looks to have a bigger effect on their playoff seeding than this week’s matchup against the Patriots. For both teams, the chances of securing a first-round bye swing by more than 50 percentage points depending on the game’s outcome. With a loss to the Patriots, the Colts may find themselves with very little to play for in Weeks 12-17. Their playoff outlook would largely be confined to those third and fourth divisional seeds.A victory for New England would push its first-round bye probability to 75 percent, and keep the pressure on Denver for the top seed. Because of head-to-head tiebreakers, Denver, having beaten the Colts and having lost to the Patriots, would much prefer a Colts victory.New England, while still the favorite to win its division, is not as secure in that position as Indianapolis is. Unlike the Colts, the Patriots have two division rivals that are keeping them honest: The Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins.Those two teams square off Thursday night in Miami. While both have identical win-loss records, the general consensus appears to be that the Dolphins are the superior team. The market clearly thinks so (and, by extension, the rankings at the bottom of this post think so, too); the Dolphins are favored by 5 points at home — and only half of that is due to home-field advantage. The various stat-based rankings agree as well, with Elo, DVOA, SRS and Advanced Football Analytics all placing the Dolphins above the Bills. A win by Miami would boost its playoff chances to 50 percent, and Buffalo’s would drop to just 4 percent. But a Bills upset would give them a slight advantage over the Dolphins and keep the AFC playoff race more interesting.Which brings us to the AFC North, where all four teams are within a half-game of each other and the Baltimore Ravens’ 6-4 record puts them in last place. As one would expect, the division title probabilities are spread rather evenly. To assess how wide open the AFC North is right now, we calculated Gini coefficients for divisional title probabilities for each division in the NFL. (The Gini coefficient is most commonly used to measure income inequality — a lower coefficient means more equality, and a higher coefficient means more variation.2The Gini coefficient scales from 0 to 1, with 0.0 signifying complete equality, and 1.0 complete inequality.) Going into Week 11, the AFC North has a positively Danish Gini coefficient of 0.24. The remaining seven divisions have coefficients ranging from 0.70 (the NFC North) to 0.98 (the AFC South).Before we move on to the NFC, the table below shows the total impact of each game on the playoff, division, first-round and top-seed races. For example, 12 teams’ playoff chances are significantly affected by the result of Cincinnati at New Orleans this week, and the cumulative swings for these teams add up to 66 percentage points.The playoff implications chart looks surprisingly bare for the NFC this week. In recent weeks, the NFC postseason picture has come into clearer focus. At this point, most of the playoff probability is concentrated among just eight teams. But there is still plenty of uncertainty in how the seeding will play out, particularly for the top two seeds.Based on current records, those top two seeds would be the Arizona Cardinals and the Detroit Lions, who just happen to play each other this Sunday. With a victory over the Lions, the Cardinals would have a better-than-even shot at winning the top NFC seed. The Cardinals lost starting quarterback Carson Palmer last week to injury, but that’s not necessarily a reason for them to panic. The betting market seems to agree, as the Cardinals’ ranking remained relatively unchanged from last week (they actually moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11).The other key NFC matchup this week features the Philadelphia Eagles visiting the Green Bay Packers. While the Cardinals and the Lions occupy the top seeds by virtue of win-loss records, both the Packers and the Eagles top them in our market-based power rankings. Going into Week 11, both teams have nearly identical probabilities of getting a first-round bye. The Eagles are a game up on the Packers, but the market clearly views the Packers as the superior team, with Green Bay favored by 6 points at home.And finally, there’s the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs, which will affect the playoff outlook of 20 NFL teams across both conferences. Allegiances break down as one would expect, with NFC teams hoping for a Chiefs victory and the AFC rooting for the Seahawks.Here are the team rankings based on point spreads. Generic Points Favored is what one would expect a team to be favored by against a league-average opponent on a neutral field.
Redshirt Freshman Amanda Huang preforms on beam against Iowa in St. John Arena on Jan. 21. Credit: Megan Russell | Lantern reporterNow sitting at No. 22 in the country after falling to the Iowa Hawkeyes in a close meet last Saturday, the Ohio State women’s gymnastics team plans to make several lineup changes for their meet on the road at Minnesota.The Buckeyes added an extra practice this week to focus on floor, an event that has seen lower average scores in the last two consecutive meets. Coach Carey Fagan is using the extra practices from this week to determine potential lineup changes in the coming meet in Minneapolis this Saturday.“We need to get better on floor,” Fagan said. “That’s really the event we’ve struggled on. We’re going to get three days of floor in before we leave for Minnesota.”Among the athletes being considered to compete for the Buckeyes on floor on Saturday is junior Taylor Harrison, who has been absent from the lineup due to a hip injury.“I think if she has a solid week of practice, we may put her in the floor lineup in Minnesota,” Fagan said. “She had a good practice this last week, and I’d like to give her a couple more days, but if she’s ready, that will be exciting. She’s historically a 9.85 every time she goes on an event, so that’s going to be a big boost.”The lineup for bars might also be altered against Minnesota. Freshman Amanda Huang has performed in the exhibition slot for the bar event in the last two meets and might be stepping up to the performance lineup.Even vault, an event where the Buckeyes have excelled in the last two meets, might be changed to improve the already strong lineup. Senior Tenille Funches might make an appearance after also performing in the exhibition slot in the last meet. Although no lineup is set in stone, Fagan said a meet on the road is the best time to implement them.“Each week we have a six-person lineup, and depending on who is prepared that week, they go in and compete for the team,” junior Alexis Mattern said.With 12 available athletes competing for limited spots, the Buckeye have more athletes to choose from for each different event.“I think that probably for the next four or five weeks, you’ll see some things mixing up,” Fagan said. “As we get towards senior meet, it will be pretty solid, and barring any injuries or illnesses, it will probably be set from that point on.”
The five juniors suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season pledged to return for their senior seasons, coach Jim Tressel told the media Thursday. Tressel said he required each player to commit to staying a Buckeye for one more year before granting them permission to travel with the team. The NCAA suspended quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas last week after learning the players had violated NCAA rules by selling gear, apparel and memorabilia to the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor in 2009. The players must also repay between $1,000 and $2,500 each. Freshman linebacker Jordan Whiting was suspended one game and ordered to repay $150. NCAA rules prohibit athletes from receiving benefits or discounts based on their status. The suspensions, however, were pushed back until the start of next season after the NCAA decided the rules education offered by the OSU compliance department was not up to NCAA standards at the time the players sold the merchandise. “They are in the family, they are on the trip, they want to be Buckeyes in 2011,” Tressel said. “They are very remorseful for judgments they have made and they are anxious to have a great experience at the Allstate Sugar Bowl as all of us are.” Posey announced his intention to stay for his senior year during a press conference Tuesday in which the five apologized to Buckeye Nation. Should any of the five forgo his senior season, he would escape NCAA punishment. “If indeed they wanted to stay a part of our family and make the trip and have a chance to participate in one of the greatest games of all time, the Sugar Bowl, they would have to make any decisions based upon their future NFL [career] prior to us going to the bowl game,” Tressel said. “We didn’t think it would be fair to the NCAA or fair to the other people involved in the process that if someone were able to participate and have no consequences down the road. “Those decisions were made by our young people and I am excited to say that all the guys that were involved, knowing that they had options, like playing in this game and leaving, in their minds that could have been an option but it wasn’t.” The players sold Big Ten championship rings, jerseys and gold pants charms they received after beating Michigan. Disappointed that his players would relinquish such significant memorabilia, Tressel sent the group to the home of former Buckeye and two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin. “They said, ‘Coach, how can we let the former players know that we feel terrible about what we did?’” Tressel said. “And I said, ‘Gosh, I don’t know. Archie Griffin is the head of our alumni association, the CEO, and his office is across the street. Go see if he’ll take a visit.’ He wasn’t in the office that day, but he said, ‘You know what, come out to my house.’ He said, ‘The kids might get a different perspective when they look at my basement and see how important some of those things are to me.’”
Ever since Thad Matta took over as coach for the Ohio State men’s basketball team, the program hasn’t been accustomed to losing. Over the past two seasons, the Buckeyes have compiled a 48-5 record with every loss coming against a ranked opponent. One of those five losses came Friday when OSU blew a double-digit lead and fell at Indiana. The loss didn’t sit well with the players and coaches, and conjured up some memories of the team’s Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky in last year’s NCAA tournament. Like the Kentucky loss, the game ended with a missed 3-pointer by William Buford that would have won the game. “We gave up that game against Indiana,” said sophomore forward Jared Sullinger. “Not taking anything away from Indiana, but there was a couple possessions when we watched film and realized that that’s not us.” Matta hopes his team uses the loss as a lesson for the rest of the season. “I think that nobody likes to lose more than we do,” Matta said. “It’s like I told our guys last year, I think we learned a great lesson in the Kentucky game, but the season was over. We have the ability to learn a lesson here at the end of December and continue to move forward.” Matta is known for being a players’ coach and normally doesn’t employ an in-your-face style of coaching. But according to the players, the Indiana loss particularly rubbed Matta the wrong way and he was a little more animated than normal. “(Matta) wasn’t very polite,” Sullinger said. “But that’s what we needed. We needed someone to put a fire under us. After that tough loss it was only right that he had to do that.” Matta described Monday’s practice as “challenging” and “tough,” and said he really harped on the focus of the team. “We’ve probably practiced this team harder than most teams we’ve had,” Matta said. “A lot of that has to do with the youthfulness and immaturity of the team and not quite understanding the level they must compete at. One of the messages yesterday was competing and a mindset carries over to the game. There was a couple moments where I had to refocus them a couple times, but for the most part I thought they did a pretty good job.” The team responded Tuesday, beating a battered Nebraska team, 71-40, at the Schottenstein Center. The Buckeyes committed 19 turnovers against the Cornhuskers, but Matta and his players felt they came out ready to play. “Last week at Indiana we was careless with the ball and we didn’t value every possession,” Buford said. “For the most part I think we did that today.” With the win against Nebraska, OSU raised its record to 14-2 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten conference. At about the midpoint in the season, the team made it clear that while the team wasn’t going to dwell on the loss, they weren’t going to forget it. “It was a life lesson as far as the game period,” Sullinger said. “We gave up 17 layups against Indiana. They got whatever shot they wanted in the second half. As you can see, we turned up our defensive intensity in this game. We were just ready to play basketball.”
The Ohio State men’s basketball team looks to rebound against the Minnesota Golden Gophers following a brutal 71-49 loss at Wisconsin Sunday. Similarly, the Gophers are also looking to respond after a devastating 21-point loss to unranked Iowa Sunday. That loss dropped Minnesota to seventh place in the Big Ten, three games behind OSU. With both teams trying to get back on track, sophomore forward Sam Thompson said he’s ready for a battle. “We’re expecting a war,” Thompson said. “We need a win, they need a win, and tomorrow I think that’s going to show on the court.” Several Buckeyes have said the team is bothered by the way the team played against Wisconsin. “Sunday afternoon we were an embarrassment,” Thompson said. “We have to correct that.” The Gophers (18-8, 6-7 Big Ten), which have been ranked as high as No. 8 in the nation this season, are coming into the game looking to turn their season around. After starting off with a 15-1 record and a 3-0 mark in conference play, Minnesota has gone 3-7 in its last 10 games. All of those games were against Big Ten opponents. While the No. 18-ranked Buckeyes (18-7, 8-5 Big Ten) have lost three of their last four conference games, those defeats all came at the hands of ranked opponents. “We’re playing some great basketball teams,” coach Thad Matta said. While both teams are likely to be playing with a chip on their shoulder, the loss in Madison has a number of Buckeyes fired up. “I think I can speak for the team, we are embarrassed,” junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said at a Tuesday press conference. “We not only embarrassed ourselves, we embarrassed our coaching staff, our university, our school president and our fans. We embarrassed everybody. We didn’t answer the call. We didn’t do anything we’re known to do. We kind of abandoned everything: our principles, offensively and defensively.” Matta, Thompson and Smith Jr. all stressed the need for the team to play better defense if it wants to be successful moving forward and also improve on the season-low 49 points the team scored against the Badgers. Thompson said the team has met several times since the loss to address their shortcomings. “We understand that what happened on Sunday is unacceptable and we’re working to change that,” Thompson said. “When we all come to play defensively, we’re a heck of a defensive team.” However, getting everyone to “come to play” has been a challenge at times for the Buckeyes this season. Both Thompson and Smith Jr. spoke about the need to focus more consistently. “It’s almost getting close to March,” Smith Jr. said. “It’s time that we turn the page and become that team that we know we’re capable of being.” Their first opportunity to become that team is Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones (12) waits to have the ball snapped to him during a game against Michigan on Nov. 29 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 42-28.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorIn his six seasons as the head coach at Florida, Urban Meyer started just three quarterbacks.In what is now his third season in Columbus, Meyer is getting set to start his fourth quarterback at Ohio State.Cardale Jones, a redshirt-sophomore quarterback from Cleveland, is set to make his first career start in the Big Ten Championship Game, and Meyer doesn’t seem to be worried.“Cardale, it’s going to be his first start. Obviously a really good environment against a very tough defense,” Meyer said Monday. “But it’s not like he’s not taking snaps with the one offense or understands the concepts. So he has a very good understanding (of the offense).”Jones is set to take over for redshirt-freshman J.T. Barrett, who fractured his ankle in the fourth quarter of a 42-28 win over Michigan on Saturday. Jones has appeared in seven of OSU’s 12 games this season, accounting for 324 total yards and two touchdowns.The Glenville High School product was named the backup to senior Braxton Miller in the spring before being passed by Barrett just days before Miller tore his right labrum, ending Miller’s season before it started.The demotion was something Jones’ position coach and co-offensive coordinator Tom Herman said was not easy for the quarterback to handle.“I think that was tough for him. But him and I spoke at great length and great detail on numerous occasions about how to handle it,” Herman said Monday. “He has done nothing but be a great example of how to handle that. He stayed engaged in every game plan. He has taken that role very seriously and I am proud of him for it.”Being demoted from the second-string spot in the fall wasn’t the only time Jones has had to face adversity in his Buckeye career, as a now-infamous tweet describing his dislike for college classes earned him a one-game suspension in 2012.Redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman Pat Elflein has continued to make fun of the tweet on social media of his own, and even with the media.“Not playing class today?” Elflein asked the media as they gathered around him on Monday.Elflein said with a smile that he and some of his teammates continue to joke about the tweet.“Oh yeah, all the time,” he said.On the field, the Buckeyes are preparing to take on a Wisconsin defense that ranks second in the country.Meyer said after Saturday’s win over Michigan, though, that he does not anticipate the game plan changing much with Jones in the lineup. But Herman said he does see some differences in the style of each quarterback.“(Jones is) a big dude. Probably doesn’t have the same short range change of direction that J.T. has, but (he has) long-range speed and the ability to open it up in stride. He is pretty fast,” Herman said. “I am excited to see what he can do. I think he has got a chance to be pretty effective.”While Jones might be effective, both Herman and Meyer acknowledged that they have discussed limiting his carries against Wisconsin.“We’ve had a mini conversation about that already,” Meyer said. “That will be continued throughout the week. We have to win this game. We’re not saving him for next week or the week after. We’re not saving anything.”Herman agreed, adding that the quarterback run is an important part of setting up the Buckeye offense.“In order to run the football, I don’t think you can ever take out the way we do our business,” Herman said. “You can never take out the QB read element of it. The called and designed quarterback runs, we will probably take a few of those out.”Herman stressed that the members of the OSU team should not expect Barrett-like numbers from Jones, but should expect that he will manage the game well.“The guy (Barrett) has accounted for 45 touchdowns in 12 games. So I think what our team needs to understand is, is Cardale going to come in and account for seven touchdowns in this game? Probably not, and doesn’t need to,” Herman said. “He shouldn’t have that weight put on him. To expect that as a teammate, I think would be a little bit false.”While Herman doesn’t want too much pressure put on Jones, he characterized Jones’ arm strength by rating it as “eleventy-billion.”Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott said Monday that he agrees with his coaches in that he doesn’t believe the offense will change, but added there will be a lack of familiarity with Jones at the helm.“I think it is definitely a big transition just because it’s the magnitude of the game we are about to have this weekend,” Elliott said. “I don’t think the game plan will change much from last week to this week.“It’s his time, so J.T. went out, it’s the ‘next man up’ mentality. We are upset for losing J.T. but we got to keep it moving.”The OSU offense will look to do just that Saturday at 8:17 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis against Wisconsin.
OSU redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) looks down field during the Spring Game on April 15. Scarlet beat Gray 38-31. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorFootball returned to Ohio Stadium on Saturday when the Buckeyes played the annual spring game in front of over 80,000 scarlet and gray-clad fans. Team Scarlet, led by redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett, took to Team Gray 38-31.Here are five takeaways from the 2017 LiFE Sports Spring Game.Backup quarterback battle far from overNeither redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow nor redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins gave an inch in the contentious fight to be named OSU backup quarterback.“I know it is very close,” OSU coach Urban Meyer said. “But I’m not prepared to say who is 2, who is 3, et cetera, yet.”Burrow, the starter for Team Gray, completed 14-of-22 passes for 262 yards. All three of his touchdown passes came within five minutes of each other. His 44-yard connection with redshirt junior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon in the corner of the end zone on the first play of the second quarter, might have been the prettiest throw-and-catch by a quarterback-receiver duo of the afternoon.Haskins — who personified the casual nature of spring games by playing for both teams — passed 37 times, completing 26 of those passes for 293 yards. He twice dropped dimes for touchdowns, which were a couple of the highlights of the afternoon. First, he hit Dixon on a fade route. Then, he hit redshirt junior wideout Terry McLaurin running at full speed in the back of the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown. Given the nature of how well each quarterback played and how important winning the backup spot might be to potentially being named start next season, the potential for jealousy or bad feelings exists. But Burrow emphasizes the strength of the quarterbacks’ bond.“Everything we focus on at Ohio State is power of the unit, power of wide receivers, quarterbacks, offensive line, defensive line, all on an individual level. We focus on having a great relationship within the unit,” Burrow said.Haskins agreed, saying he doesn’t feel like the quarterbacks room is overcrowded.“I even told the guys like ‘I love each and every one of you.’ It’s a competition, but I’m not competing with people,’” Haskins said.Having lost H-back Curtis Samuel and receivers Noah Brown and Dontre Wilson to the NFL, redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett must be counted on to lead the Buckeye offense as much as ever before in his time in Columbus. But having two backup options battle into the fall to prepare for a worst-case scenario has to make make Meyer breathe easier.Matthew Burrell taking over as right guardWhen OSU released the spring game rosters on Friday, we were offered a hint that redshirt sophomore Matthew Burrell would start at right guard.Engaged in a battle for the starting spot with redshirt junior Demetrius Knox and redshirt junior Malcolm Pridgeon, Burrell was only one of the three linemen playing for Team Gray with redshirt senior center Billy Price and the rest of the starting offensive linemen.Burrell’s escalation from backup to leading candidate to start has been quick, yet decisive. Against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, when freshman left guard Michael Jordan went down with an ankle injury, Knox, not Burrell, was the backup to replace him.A little over a month ago, redshirt senior center Billy Price noted Burrell might be indulging in the potentially negative aspects of college.“I told him, ‘You’ve got to close your circle and tighten your circle down because people want to hurt you, people want to take you down. People want to see you mess up and put you on the news,’” Price said.But after the spring game, it was clear that something had changed. Price noted no one has grown more than Burrell.“Matt is a younger brother to me,” Price said. “Being able to see him grow before my eyes is something that I really was really, really proud of.”Nothing is set in stone as Burrell must make further strides to keep the starting spot as Knox and Pridgeon. Barrett’s single interception was caused when redshirt junior defensive end Sam Hubbard pushed Burrell into the quarterback. But optimism is high regarding Burrell.“I think he played pretty well today, we’ll see on film,” Price said. “You start seeing strides and you start seeing confidence built within a kid and that’s something that — again, for those of you who are parents, to see your child develop and to see your kid grow before your eyes is something I’ve been told is very incredible.”Deep ball: Progressing The lack of tackling on the opening drive overshadowed Team Scarlet’s methodical drive down the field. Only a single incompletion and a stuffed rush up the middle from redshirt sophomore running back Mike Weber at the 1-yard line sullied Barrett’s team’s 65-yard touchdown drive.On the fourth play of the game, Barrett hit Campbell for a 17-yard completion, longer than all but two passes in the Buckeyes’ previous two games. Though Barrett’s only touchdown pass came from the 1-yard line, he sees progress in connecting with receivers down the field.“It went very well. Before, we were just shooting them. We weren’t necessarily making them at first,” Barrett said. “But then, with coach (Zach) Smith and coach (Ryan) Day, just really finding landmarks for those throws, to the field and to the boundaries.”OSU quarterbacks threw six touchdown passes 18 yards or longer. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson noted the deep ball was a point of emphasis, but was less charitable in his praise.“We’ve gotten in the ballpark where we’ve got catchable balls,” Wilson said.He says he understands that further progress will come during the summer when the Buckeyes take off the pads and focus more on the passing game than the running game which has been the focus of the spring.Vying for the touches available after former OSU H-back Curtis Samuel, receiver Dontre Wilson and wideout Noah Brown moved to the NFL, 16 players caught passes for 10 or more yards.But remember, former OSU receiver Torrance Gibson caught six passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns at last season’s spring game and now he’s playing quarterback at Cincinnati for former OSU defensive coordinator, and current Bearcats coach, Luke Fickell. So, temper your expectations on Dixon and the rest of the spring game standouts.Questions in the defensive backfieldOSU’s offense combined to complete 50-of-74 passes for 654 yards and seven touchdowns with 10-minute quarters and a running clock in the second half. Looking at those numbers from the perspective of the offense, co-offensive coordinators Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day should be ecstatic. But defensive coordinator Greg Schiano might be less than pleased. A bevy of receivers from each team was running open seemingly every time one of the four quarterbacks dropped back to pass. Five-star freshmen cornerbacks Shaun Wade and Jeffrey Okudah along with redshirt sophomore cornerback Kendall Sheffield, a junior college transfer, will be counted on to make plays. “It was good to see the young corners kind of rebound — talking about Wade, Okudah, (Marcus) Williamson and Kendall Sheffield,” Meyer said. “They kind of started a little slow, but — I have to go back and watch the video — but I thought they finished the game pretty good.”Meyer noted, after the game, that the team has to work on certain areas.“Couple areas we’ve got to shore up, and I don’t think we’re nine strong, but I think we’re seven strong right now. And that’s pretty good in April to be that,” Meyer said.He declined to name the two units that need to improve, though it’s fair to assume the defensive backs, specifically the relatively inexperienced cornerbacks, must improve before OSU heads to Bloomington, Indiana on Aug. 31 for the Buckeyes’ season opener.No injuries, no problemIt’s impossible for a team to lose in the spring game on the scoreboard. But it is possible to lose a player to the spring game.The Buckeyes avoided this, suffering no major injuries Saturday afternoon. But they helped facilitate it in an unexpected way. The coaching staff decided to prevent players from tackling for the first five series.After the game, Meyer said OSU did this once before, in 2014, when the team was full of veterans.“It’s either you don’t play some guys or you kind of restrict the tackling and keep guys up. And I wanted them to experience the crowd and play and finish a good spring,” Meyer said.Prior to kickoff, players from each team gathered at the 50-yard line for the annual “circle drill” at midfield. Ramping up the intensity for that, then tampering it down for “thud tempo” — what Meyer called the two-hand touch period. To some players, it was a bit odd.“I’m ready to go play ball. Strap it up, let’s go to town,” Price said.