Andrew Bynum, once considered among the top centers in the NBA, has spent the last several weeks looking for an NBA home. He finally got one over the weekend, and landing in Indianapolis could be a big deal for the Pacers, literally and figuratively.If the 7-foot-1 Bynum can regain a modicum of the form he displayed a few years ago as member of the championship Los Angeles Lakers, he would make Indiana stronger in its quest to dethrone two-time NBA champion Miami. Bynum would back up all-star center Roy Hibbard, and create more inside might against physically deficient Heat.If Bynum is more the plodding, disinterested player he showed before the Cleveland Cavaliers released him last month, then he’ll just take up a lot of space on the Pacer bench.”It really wasn’t a hard decision, I think it’s the right fit for me and, in all honesty, I think we’ve got the best chance of winning,” Bynum said in a statement. ”It will be great to back up Roy and I’ll do whatever I can to help this team.”Pacer executive Larry Bird said in a statement: ”We are obviously happy to have him join our team. He gives us added size, he is a skilled big man and he has championship experience. With the minutes he gets, he should be a valuable addition.”The concern is Bynum’s attitude. He was suspended by the Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team, reported as being “disrespectful’ to assistant coaches. The Pacers are said to have a locker room replete with players who get along, so Bynum’s presence and disposition will be under scrutiny.”We like to judge people for ourselves, and we know what he can be as a basketball player,” coach Frank Vogel said. ”We’re going to see if he can regain that form, and if he can, you have one of the best centers in the NBA. And now you add him to the mix we already have … The goal here is to insure ourselves against injury in terms of adding depth at the center position, which we needed to do. And there’s potential to add an All-Star caliber player.”After the Lakers traded Bynum to Philadelphia in 2012, he missed the entire season because of knee injuries. This season, after signing with Cleveland as a free agent, he played in only 24 games before the indefinite suspension. He was eventually dealt to Chicago, which quickly released him so it didn’t have to guarantee the remaining $6 million owed to him this season.Indiana (35-10) entered Saturday with a three-game lead over the Heat in the chase for home-court advantage and has made no secret of its desire to get the top seed in its quest to win the team’s first NBA crown.
For just a while, it seemed like maybe, just maybe, we were headed for the unthinkable.The Houston Rockets opened up a 17-point edge after one period, couldn’t miss and led the Golden State Warriors by 10 going into half of Game 6 on Saturday night, a contest Golden State had to have to keep its season alive. Based on how the last two games had gone — with Houston coming out on the winning end of two close games — it would have been fair to think that this might be it for the Warriors. Even without injured star point guard Chris Paul, Houston came out of the gate scorching, hitting 8-of-12 from distance in the opening quarter while the Warriors connected on just 1-of-7 from behind the three-point arc.But then Klay Thompson happened, and the Oracle Arena crowd came to life. Thompson and Stephen Curry caught fire and helped Golden State land yet another patented third-period haymaker — one that would daze the Rockets more than in Game 4 — en route to outscoring Houston by a ledger of 93 to 47 from the end of the first quarter to the end of the contest. And we found ourselves with a Western Conference finals series knotted at three games apiece instead.Thompson’s second-half outburst — reminiscent of his landscape-changing Game 6 showing against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West finals two years ago — lifted the Warriors to a 115-86 victory Saturday, giving the league two Game 7s this holiday weekend.And while it’s easy enough to say that the Warriors simply shot better Saturday, there was a bit more to it than just that.For starters, Golden State, in an effort to force the Rockets into defensive catch-22s, has begun leaning considerably on pick-and-pop sets in which Thompson comes over to set a screen for either Curry or Durant. In fact, that play — which the Warriors ran seven times in Saturday’s win alone — has generated far more points in these six games (42) than it did during the entire 82-game regular season that just passed, according to data from Second Spectrum and NBA Advanced Stats. All told, Golden State has had Thompson screen for either Curry or Durant in a pick-and-pop scenario 7.4 times per 100 possessions against Houston this postseason, up from less than once every 100 plays during the regular season.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/klayscreens.mp400:0000:0001:43Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Utilizing this play more than a handful of times presents a significant shift in two key ways. First off, the Warriors — with their against-the-grain style — don’t really run all that many pick-and-roll sets to begin with, instead orchestrating a beautiful, yet chaotic web of off-ball screens that works to free up the team’s historic stable of sharpshooters. Beyond that, even when Golden State does use more traditional screen-and-roll sets, it usually does so with Draymond Green, who makes use of all the attention shown to Curry to operate with downhill, 4-on-3 advantages.Being able to go to that play — and averaging 1.45 points per time they use it — has helped unclog what, at times, has become a stagnant offense during this series. Back during Game 5, a miked-up Steve Kerr was shown imploring Durant to move the ball earlier and more often to stop the switchy Houston defense from clamping down. The two-man game with Thompson helps facilitate that, as it forces defenders to either seal off Durant or Curry’s driving path, or to fan out toward Thompson — who has by far the NBA’s quickest jumpshot release — at the arc.Beyond Thompson’s breakout showing for 35 points, a couple of other things stood out. Among them: Houston’s 21 turnovers. The turnovers might merely be a problematic one-game blip, but they may be cause for concern in light of likely NBA MVP James Harden — who ran out of gas down the stretch of the Rockets’ playoff run in 2017 — being asked to carry the load again. If Paul can’t play through his hamstring injury in Game 7, Harden will need a ton of support to close the series out.It’s unclear whether he can expect any of that help to come from officials. Harden, the NBA’s perennial leader in free-throw attempts, didn’t get to the line at all after halftime despite some plays that looked as if they’d draw a whistle because of the apparent contact that’d taken place. This sequence, with the Warriors up by 7 points with about 10 minutes to play, stood out in particular.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/nofoul.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.But at this stage of the game, with Houston being this close to taking down the reigning champs, Harden and the Rockets seemingly have to know that no one is going to hand them anything.Instead, they’ll have to go in and take what they perceive to be their rightful place on the NBA throne. And that may very well take everything they have Monday night, especially now that Golden State appears to have found its groove on the offensive end of the floor.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
San Francisco-0.3733.320 Arizona-0.7133.314 Rush-pass-pass-0.0834.025 Detroit+0.0050.014 Pass-rush-rush+0.5688.9%5% Rush-rush-pass wasn’t effective for SeattleThe Seattle Seahawks’ three-play sequences in 2018 by frequency, expected points added and success rate Cincinnati-0.2647.410 Cleveland+0.3746.715 Carolina-0.1440.912 Green Bay-0.1040.010 Dallas+0.1546.413 Rush-rush-rush+0.3152.013 Pittsburgh+0.7061.514 Pass-pass-pass-0.3921.110 Oakland-0.7233.316 Seattle+0.1741.2%26% New Orleans+0.0441.714 Miami-0.5022.618 Atlanta+0.3751.714 sequenceepasuccessfrequency N.Y. Jets+0.1950.013 Frequencies do not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.Sources: NFL, Elias Sports Bureau Rush-rush-pass+0.1741.226 L.A. Chargers-0.1341.220 Rush-pass-rush-0.1538.57 Washington-0.3234.812 Indianapolis-0.0345.516 L.A. Rams+0.2860.016 New England+0.0339.112 Minnesota-0.2841.916 N.Y. Giants+0.2351.516 Play-calling patterns that end in a pass on third down have a negative expected value across the board. If we look at each sequence in terms of EPA per play, we see that the only positive EPA values on third down are on running plays. This makes sense: If you are passing on third down, it strongly implies that the first two plays in the sequence did not end well, and you likely have a third-and-long situation.Meanwhile, the opposite outcome is true on first and second down. There are no positive EPA rushing nodes, and all passing plays return positive expected value. These results hold generally across the league as well. Pass-rush-rush is the most successful three-play sequence, followed by pass-pass-rush and rush-pass-rush.On first down, passing will net you at least 5 yards (enough to make the play a success) 47 percent of the time, while running the ball will get you the same result just 32.8 percent of the time, 14.2 percentage points less often. On second down, the gap closes to about a 7 percentage-point advantage for passing. Baltimore+0.3244.412 Kansas City+1.1953.39 Jacksonville+0.0540.016 Throughout the 2018 regular season, the Seattle Seahawks made a conscious effort to establish the threat of the running game in the minds of their opponents. In the face of record offensive production across the NFL — driven in large part by prolific passing offenses — head coach Pete Carroll doggedly maintained that sticking with running the ball gave the Seahawks the best chance to win. Though they attempted the fewest passes in the NFL, the Seahawks went 10-6 and earned a playoff berth.But that reliance on the run may have been Seattle’s undoing in its 24-22 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC wild-card game. In the first half the Seahawks’ running backs rushed nine times for an anemic 2.1 yards per carry. Most of those runs came in a particular sequence: rush-rush-pass. All but three of Seattle’s first-half rushing attempts originated from the rush-rush-pass play sequence. And despite the lack of success using that pattern of plays against the Dallas defensive front, Seattle opened its first possession of the second half by calling it again. The result was a punt.The notion of establishing the run is deeply ingrained in NFL culture. Coaches and play-callers laud the approach for its ability to keep a team “on schedule” and “ahead of the chains,” both of which are football shorthand for picking up enough yards on first and second down that you stand a good chance to extend a drive. True believers think that if you abandon the run too early, you make your team one-dimensional and forfeit an important edge in toughness. You’re no longer imposing your will on a defense, and this will manifest itself in worse results overall. But is this true? Does running help a team convert more first downs and extend drives? And does the order in which you call pass and run plays matter?To answer these questions, I looked at every play called in the NFL regular season from 2009 to 20181Using data from the NFL and Elias Sports Bureau. and compared the result of each of the possible permutations of run and pass play sequencing2Excluded plays involving a penalty. using expected points added and success rate.3Expected points added adjusts for things like down, distance and field position, and it includes positive plays like touchdowns as well as negative plays like sacks and interceptions. Success rate is the percentage of plays that are positive in EPA, and it maps fairly closely to how coaches think about play success in the NFL. Success rate is analogous to picking up 5 or more yards on first down, 4 or more yards on second down and converting to a new set of downs on third down. I calculated EPA and success rate for every first-down play; then I looked at every sequence that did not absorb into a first down and extended to second down and then third down, calculating the EPA and success rate for each call.Leaguewide, rushing is the preferred play call on first down, after which passing takes over as the dominant play type, especially on third down. Tampa Bay+0.4447.814 Kansas City, the most dominant passing team in the league, was successful 53.3 percent of the time with rush-rush-pass. But the Chiefs ran the sequence just 15 times all season for a total share of 9 percent of all plays — 7 percentage points below league average — and they were mostly unsuccessful with the first two plays in the chain. When the Chiefs called back-to-back runs on first and second down, the second run was successful just 47.7 percent of the time. This suggests that the success of their third-down passes owes itself more to the strength of the Chiefs passing game and quarterback Patrick Mahomes than to the running plays that led up to them.The story is similar in Los Angeles. Sixty percent of rush-rush-pass play sequences ended in success, and the Rams used the pattern at exactly the league-average frequency. Again, however, when the Rams called back-to-back runs to begin a sequence, the second run was successful just 46.1 percent of the time, leaving them 5.8 yards left to gain for a first-down conversion on average. The success the Rams enjoyed on third-down passing attempts appears to be independent of the rushing plays that preceded them.While the precise order in which passes and runs are called may not matter so much — several combinations are roughly equivalent to one another according to success rate — some trends are clear. Passes are more effective when called on early downs, and runs are more effective on third down. Running on first down, while often a mistake, can be salvaged with a pass on second down. And if you’re going to rush on back-to-back plays to open a series, you should do so sparingly because it will leave your team in an obvious passing situation more often than not. Your passing attack — and QB especially — will need to be well above average to consistently convert in those high-leverage spots where all deception is gone and defenders can be confident that they know what’s coming. Buffalo-0.2643.921 Over the course of the 2018 season, there was no three-play sequence that Seattle favored more than rush-rush-pass. The Seahawks called rush-rush-pass 26 percent of the time, a rate 10 percentage points higher than league average. Yet despite the high frequency with which Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer used the pattern, they were not successful with it. Just 41.2 percent of their rush-rush-pass sequences ended in success. Meanwhile, on three-play sequences where the Seahawks started with a pass and mixed in a run afterward, they were successful 88.9 percent of the time (pass-rush-rush), 71.4 percent of the time (pass-pass-rush) and 50 percent (pass-rush-pass) of the time. Tennessee-0.2341.324 Chicago-0.0941.415 How each team uses rush-rush-passThe frequency — and effectiveness — with which every NFL team called rush-rush-pass in a three-play sequence Houston-0.3238.918 teamepasuccessfrequency Sources: NFL, Elias Sports Bureau Pass-pass-rush+0.5071.44 This result is the exact opposite of what we would expect to find if establishing the run via play sequences like rush-rush-pass were winning strategies. Instead of making a team less predictable, establishing the run on first and second down creates a game state that is often quite predictable for the defense. The opposing team is expecting a pass on third down because the first two plays were unsuccessful.Surprisingly, two of the top three teams in net yards per passing attempt in 2018, the Rams and the Chiefs, actually do have success with the rush-rush-pass play sequence. Philadelphia+0.6650.09 Pass-rush-pass+0.3450.012 Check out our latest NFL predictions. Denver-0.4732.417
OSU freshman forward Mason Jobst (26) celebrates with the bench in a game against Michigan on Jan. 15 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU won in a shootout. Credit: Kevin Stankiewicz | Asst. Sports EditorIt’s 9:31 p.m. on Friday and the Ohio State men’s hockey team is in overtime with Big Ten rival and 14th-ranked Penn State at the Schottenstein Center. Buckeye freshman forward Mason Jobst has just blocked a slapshot with his left leg with 2:42 remaining and is visibly in pain.In stereotypical hockey player fashion, Jobst doesn’t stay down. Although slow to get up, he musters all the strength he has left in him and frantically tries to help his teammates clear the puck out of the zone so he can get off of the ice.Fourteen seconds after blocking that shot, just as Jobst returns to the action, Penn State freshman forward Alec Marsh ends the game with his sixth goal of the season.Questions are immediately raised as to whether the leading scorer in the Buckeyes’ nine-man freshman class would return for Game 2 of the series the next night.Twenty-four hours later, Jobst dekes Nittany Lions’ junior goaltender Eamon McAdam out of his jockstrap on a breakaway and buries the fourth of his team’s five goals on the night in a 5-1 OSU win.For Jobst, the Big Ten’s second-leading freshman scorer with six goals and 14 assists, the path to success this season has come through the patience of sitting out most of his final year of junior hockey.The former captain of the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League, the top junior hockey league in the country, Jobst, who had already had both of his shoulders repaired, heard an all-too-familiar pop during a home game in October 2014.“I had a good summer working out and I was hoping to have a good year,” Jobst said. “I can’t really describe how deflating it was mentally that I had been through a full year of rehab and trying to take care of my body and for it to pop out again was devastating.”After speaking with his future coaches in Columbus, he determined that it was best to shut it down, have yet another surgery, and hope for an elusive healthy season next fall.However, the true captain and determined player that he is, Jobst battled back through rehab to rejoin his team for the Clark Cup Finals, where he contributed a goal and two assists, but his Lumberjacks were swept in three games by current teammate and classmate Dakota Joshua’s Sioux Falls Stampede.Jobst’s journey then continued to Ohio’s capital city to join coach Steve Rohlik’s Buckeyes.For Rohlik, he was not worried one bit about his somewhat injury-prone center. His recruitment of Jobst told him all that he needed to know about not just the type of player he was getting, but the type of person he is too.“First and foremost, I saw his competitiveness. Everybody would look at him and say that he’s not a very big kid in stature,” Rohlik said. “What we saw is a kid that competes all over the ice. He wants the puck. He’s not afraid to have the puck. He’s not afraid to go in tough areas. Sometimes guys get to the next level and they are afraid to make mistakes. Mason’s made mistakes, but he’s not afraid. Everyone that has coached him said, ‘Wow, you are going to get a heck of a player here.’”Jobst, who stands at 5-foot-7 and 159 pounds, has been exactly that through 22 games this season. Not only is he producing on the stat sheet, but in the faceoff circle as well, where he has emerged as the Buckeyes’ top faceoff man, winning 52.5 percent of his draws.His play has more than impressed the veteran leaders on the team.“He has the right to be confident out there,” said junior captain Nick Schilkey, who also plays at a height disadvantage at 5-foot-10. “Things are going the right way because he’s playing hard and he is a relentless forward out there and that is what we have to be as smaller guys. You have to pretend that you’re not 5-foot-8 and play like you’re six feet tall. The bounces are going his way and rightfully so.”After an 0-7 start and a 3-11 record heading into the winter break, Jobst and the Scarlet and Gray are starting to put things together.OSU is 4-2-2 since the second half started on Dec. 28, and three of those wins have come over top-15 ranked opponents. Jobst had seven points (three goals, four assists) in the 14 games he played in the first half of the season. In the seven games he has played in during the second half, his play mirrors that of his team’s, as he has 13 points (three goals, 10 assists). He also recently garnered the Big Ten’s Third Star of the Week after a seven-point weekend against rival and sixth-ranked Michigan. “When we went down to Florida and had those two big wins (over then-No. 4 Boston College and then-No. 9 Cornell), I think that was a huge confidence booster for all of us,” Jobst said. “In the locker room, the whole attitude is just like, ‘Wow, we do have it.’”Time will tell if Jobst and the Buckeyes still “have it” this upcoming weekend as they get set to host Michigan State for a two-game series. Puck drop on Friday is slated for 6:30 p.m., while Saturday’s matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Ritika Shah / Assistant photo editorRedshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton throws a pass during a game against San Diego State Sept. 7, at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 42-7.When a team loses its starting quarterback, particularly when he’s a Heisman trophy candidate, things don’t typically go well.Someone forgot to tell that to the 2-0 Ohio State squad.Buckeye starting quarterback, junior Braxton Miller, left OSU’s 42-7 victory 2:58 into the game after spraining his MCL and did not return.In came redshirt-senior Kenny Guiton, with the hopes of the Buckeye faithful on his shoulders.“I actually wasn’t that nervous today. I know that I prepared all week like a starter. I don’t think I got nervous at all,” Guiton said. “Once I got in, I took my first hit, had my first throw and after that it was just ‘let’s go.’”On the day Guiton finished 19 of 28 passing for 152 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 83 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown.“I think I started off pretty good, we started off and we went up on the scoreboard pretty good. I think we responded well from the interception, too, but I think the second half I could have played a lot better,” Guiton said. “We protected good, the receivers played a good game. I just have to get them the ball quicker and more often.”OSU coach Urban Meyer said he was impressed by how well his backup signal caller replaced Miller.“The old right hander (Guiton) steps in again and does a nice job. He’s too slow, not a strong enough arm, but all he does is lead manage and distribute and has an incredible knowledge of the game,” Meyer said.Guiton was named a captain for the 2013 season, despite not being a starter, and has been under the spotlight before. Against Purdue in 2012 Guiton replaced the injured Miller and led the Buckeyes to a comeback 29-22 victory in overtime to preserve OSU’s undefeated season.Senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown said when Guiton comes in for Miller, no one on the team stresses about it.“Kenny’s one of the leaders on our team, he’s one of the captains and everybody respects him,” Brown said. “Everybody knows what he brings the table, a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger. He’s a real vocal quarterback, so when Kenny’s out there, nobody’s worried at all.”Brown was the recipient of both of Guiton’s touchdown passes, and after the game, he complimented Guiton on his ability to place the ball in the right spot.“Kenny threw a perfect throw and we had the perfect play called, the corner was really close up, man pressed all day. It was an easy catch and harder throw,” Brown said.Upon coming into the game, Guiton said he didn’t want to think about the pressure of the situation. He just wanted to score.“I really try not to think about that when I hit the field. I just try to think about first down, first down, explosive play until we’re in the endzone,” Guition said. “That’s one thing I always tell the offense and that’s one thing I just always live by.”Guiton’s first drive culminated in a seven-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Dontre Wilson. Wilson said any drop off when Guiton enters the game for Miller is not noticeable.“Kenny is one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football right now, it’s great to have him as a backup,” Wilson said. “We didn’t really lose a lot, Braxton is a Heisman candidate, but Kenny is a great thrower.”Senior offensive lineman Andrew Norwell said the biggest thing Guiton adds to the game is energy.“He brings the juice, he brings the energy. Everybody respects him in the locker room. He’s just a great dude to be around,” Norwell said. “He leads by example. He doesn’t really play a lot because he’s behind Braxton, he’s the backup. When his number’s called he’s got to be ready, and obviously he was ready today.”Although Miller did not return for the rest of the game, some teammates felt he would have been able to play if he was needed. Guiton said when he saw Miller down on the field, he didn’t know what was wrong but was ready to take the field.“I really wasn’t sure at all. I did see that his helmet was off and the guy hit him in the face. I wasn’t sure how bad it was at first or anything. I just tried to prepare and make sure I was ready,” Guiton said.Brown said he thinks Miller will be healthy for OSU’s road trip to California next weekend.“We’re not too worried. We know Braxton’s going to do a good job of rehabbing this week and he’ll be back for this next game,” Brown said. “But even if he’s not everyone on the team has enough confidence in Kenny (Guiton) that he can get it done.”Meyer said he “(thinks) there’s a chance (Miller will) be ready for next week.”Guiton said confidence was a key factor in his performance.“Just getting extended time in a game like that, I think that built my confidence a lot. It’s one thing to practice all the time and become good but it’s different when you’re actually in there doing it,” Guiton said.OSU is set to hit the road to take on California (1-1) Saturday at 7 p.m.
Left: Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett scores a touchdown during a game against Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 at Ohio Stadium. OSU lost, 35-21.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorRight:Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel celebrates during a game against Toledo on Sept. 12 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The Bearcats won, 58-34.Credit: Courtesy of MCTThe matchup everyone seems to be talking about heading into Ohio State’s game against Cincinnati is the Bearcat pass offense against the revamped Buckeye defense.And while the Buckeye offense has briefly been discussed, it has been the high-flying aerial assault of the Bearcats and Cincinnati redshirt-sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel getting the attention.Kiel, who was the No. 3-rated quarterback by ESPN coming out of high school, has the Cincinnati offense ranked ninth in the country in pass offense.Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville classified his wide receiving corps as the best he has ever coached.But OSU coach Urban Meyer said Wednesday that any quarterback is can succeed with talented teammates.“You put a great offensive line and good receivers and a quarterback becomes great,” Meyer said. “You put that same quarterback with a makeshift offense line and some struggling receivers, and there’s a really bad quarterback, so a quarterback is the product of those around him.”Kiel has been exceptional in his first two games, averaging 344.5 pass yards per game to go along with 10 passing scores. Not only has he tossed 10 touchdowns, but he’s spread those passes out to seven different receivers.In that respect, Kiel has out-distributed “the distributor,” OSU redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who was given the nickname by his coaches earlier in the season. Just five different Buckeyes have been on the receiving end of Barrett’s nine passing touchdowns.One of the receivers on the end of Barrett’s passes has been redshirt-freshman H-back Jalin Marshall, who said Wednesday that he, along with the rest of the Buckeye offense, is capable of producing more for Barrett.“Of course we want to do more,” Marshall said Wednesday. “Being a playmaker, you always want to make plays for the team. I feel like we have practiced hard this last bye week and this week. I feel like we have more opportunity to make plays this week.”Marshall, who scored his first collegiate touchdown against Kent State on Sept. 13, said he was recruited by the Bearcats to play quarterback, a position he excelled at in high school.“I was recruited by Cincinnati, Tennessee and UCLA, schools like that but that kind of dropped off as I committed here to play receiver,” Marshall said. “I was looking at the bigger picture, it (OSU) is a great university.”Marshall even alluded to the possibility that Buckeye fans could see him take snaps at the quarterback position on Saturday in Ohio Stadium.“We have done a little bit of it,” Marshall said in regards to him playing quarterback in practice. “Hopefully on Saturday we can start some of it.”While Marshall teased the idea of taking the snaps from center, Barrett seems to have control of the Buckeye offense. He is averaging 252.3 passing yards per game and has been, for the most part, consistent in replacing senior Braxton Miller, who is out for the season after tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder during fall camp.Junior offensive lineman Jacoby Boren said Wednesday that he believes Barrett has played well since taking over for Miller.“J.T. is a great quarterback. He stepped up big time, I think, since week one. Everybody has their bumps in the road but he is a great quarterback,” Boren said. “(He has) great leadership. He is an awesome leader on this team. He is a really smart guy.”Despite Barrett and Kiel being relatively inexperienced, Meyer stood firm on his belief that a quarterback’s play hinges on his surrounding teammates.“I think it is all relative. Who’s the best quarterback usually has the best players around him,” he said.Which quarterback has the best supporting cast remains to be seen Saturday, as the Buckeyes and Bearcats are scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes take the field prior to the game against Rutgers in High Point Solutions Stadium on Sep. 30. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorOhio State moved up one spot to No. 10 in Week 6 of the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, following Saturday night’s 56-0 road win at Rutgers.The Buckeyes are one of four Big Ten teams in the top 25, all of which are ranked in the top 10. Penn State remained at No. 4 after dispatching Indiana at home, 45-14. Wisconsin is slotted at No. 9 following a 33-24 home win against Northwestern. Michigan moved up to No. 7 coming off its bye week.Georgia replaced USC at No. 5 after the Trojans lost at then-No. 16 Washington State. No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Oklahoma round out the top five.The Buckeyes play Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) Saturday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus 4 p.m on FOX.AP Top 25Alabama (44) Clemson (17) Oklahoma Penn State Georgia Washington Michigan TCU Wisconsin Ohio State Washington State Auburn Miami (FL) USC Oklahoma State Virginia Tech Louisville South Florida San Diego State Utah Notre Dame Florida West Virginia North Carolina State UCF
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann leading a team practice on Oct. 4, 2017 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Jacob Myers | Managing Editor for ContentChris Holtmann watched his four commits in the 2018 recruiting class officially sign their letters of intent Wednesday, marking the passing of his first signing day as Ohio State’s head coach. The class features two four-stars — shooting guard Luther Muhammad and small forward Jaedon LeDee — as well as three-star prospects small forward Justin Ahrens and point guard Duane Washington. Wednesday was the first day of college basketball’s early signing period which ends Nov. 15. The regular signing period begins April 11 and ends May 16.Holtmann said it was an exciting moment to see the four players sign on the dotted lines and make their commitments to the Buckeyes official. “We feel like is these four guys bring a level of a skillset that’s important, some skills that we were looking for improving in some areas, shooting being one of the them and ball-handling and obviously guard play,” Holtmann said.The class is regarded as the 17th-best nationally and the sixth-best in the Big Ten.While none of the four have set foot on the court in an Ohio State jersey just yet, Holtmann has begun to see where each player fits in on the team. He said he can see each of the four players occupying multiple positions, and believes no one in the class is limited to just one position.In Washington and Muhammad, Holtmann sees a pair of players who could best be described as “playmaking guards” rather than being limited to either a shooting or point guard. He said the duo both bring unique skillsets to the table, and that he envisions them complementing one another and playing together well on the court. “Duane is a prolific shooter, he is a very capable shooter. He’s high level when it comes to that and he can make plays with the ball in his hands and he can facilitate for others,” Holtmann said. “Luther can as well. Luther is a paint-touch guy, but he can also make 3s and he brings an edge and a competitiveness in how he plays on both ends. I really think they’re going to complement each other well.”As for LeDee, the highest-rated forward in the class, Holtmann believes he could step up and be one of the better offensive forwards on the team. He said LeDee can play both as a small and power forward offensively, but admitted the recruit needs to improve on his defensive ability.“He’s a prolific rebounder, but I think he’s going to have to continue to grow in the area of being versatile defensively,” Holtmann said. “And that’s what’s I’m continuing to challenge him with. But I do think offensively he can play multiple positions and when we play two forwards and we don’t necessarily play a tradition post because that’ll happen at times.”Having just joined the Buckeyes in June, Holtmann did not have a lot of time to scramble together a recruiting class for the 2018 season. Before he had a chance to get out and recruit prospects, he said he first needed to finish compiling his staff and get his bearings. Given the minimized time window to bring in recruits, Holtmann said there was a sense of urgency on his staff to make up for lost time.“There’s no question there was an urgency to it,” Holtmann said. “That took a couple weeks really to figure out where our roster was, where it was going to be potentially moving forward. What our needs were without really, you know I hadn’t watched us play. So I didn’t have a great familiarity.”Though the staff got off to a late start on the recruiting trail, the urgency by the coaches paid off towards the end of September. All four recruits committed to the Buckeyes during the same week, with LeDee committing on Sept. 19, Washington on Sept. 20, Muhammad on Sept. 22 and Ahrens on Sept. 24.Holtmann said the ability to lock down all four players over such a short timespan was the result of a staff conducting official visits and having already established relationships with some of the recruits while the staff was at Butler helped the commitments roll in quickly.“Obviously you don’t anticipate a week like that, but as I said back a couple weeks ago and as I told my staff, let’s just keep doing what we’re doing and eventually there’s going to be dividends that are going to pay off because, as we were hearing things from families based on their visits or how they felt about us, I knew it was just a matter of time,” Holtmann said.For Ahrens, the process went a little bit slower than most of the other recruits. Ahrens had originally been an Ohio State commit under former head coach Thad Matta, but decommitted following Matta’s departure. But Holtmann and his staff had previously attempted to recruit Justin’s brother, Kyle, while Holtmann was at Butler and thus had established relationships with the Ahrens family. This, combined with Justin’s previously established interest in attending Ohio State, helped Holtmann re-secure the commitment.“Once I realized that his process was going to be a little bit slower, we said that’s great because it’ll give us a chance to understand why he committed and then looked to open it up and we got a great feel for that,” Holtmann said. “I always told him, ‘We should have a trophy up in my office for the head coach that saw you play the most in July. I would get it for sure.’”Holtmann still has one open scholarship available for the 2018 class. However, the new head coach is not yet rushing out to add anyone just yet. Just like Holtmann said each of the four he has already added were high priority targets, he wants to make sure anyone else the Buckeyes offer that spot to is going to be exactly the right guy for the team.“We will be aggressive and maybe add one more freshman, but we may not, too,” Holtmann said. “Right now … we’re recruiting a couple, but we want to be patient and we want to make sure it’s the right one.”
Ohio State defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones walks back to the line of scrimmage in the second quarter of the 2017 Cotton Bowl against University of Southern California on Dec. 29 in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Ohio State won 24-7. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorDespite ending the season considered one of the highest-regarded defensive tackles in the nation, redshirt sophomore Dre’Mont Jones will return to Ohio State for his fourth year, he announced on Twitter. He was the No. 4 defensive tackle, according to ESPN’s Todd McShay.Jones was recognized as a third-team All-Big Ten player after the end of the regular season. He emerged as the Buckeyes’ best interior defensive lineman, and finished the year with 20 tackles — 10 solo and 10 assisted — with five tackles for loss and a sack. He missed two games with an injury he suffered the Wednesday before the team’s game against Rutgers, in which he cut his leg on a locker and required surgery. He also was ejected for targeting against Michigan State.Rejoining the Buckeyes, Jones figures to slide right into the starting defensive tackle position alongside redshirt sophomore Robert Landers. The pair will be backed up by redshirt freshman Malik Barrow, freshmen Haskell Garrett and Jerron Cage and redshirt sophomores Davon Hamilton and Jashon Cornell.My life long dream is to play in the NFL. In order to best achieve this goal, I have decided to forgo my draft eligibility and remain in school. OSU is providing me with a strong and solid foundation which will continue to make achieving my career possible. Go Bucks!— Dre’Mont Jones (@TheOfficial_80) January 11, 2018