Preview: No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 10 Iowa State Cyclones

 

Sam ThompsonThe Buckeyes will be hoping that Sam Thompson can repeat his dominant performance on Friday against the Cyclones.

 

The Buckeyes and Cyclones are as different as they come. Ohio State plays a defensive style of basketball, whereas Iowa State prefers to run up and down the court while taking every three-point shot they can. But both cruised to victory in the second round. Whoever wins, that will most likely not be the case in the third round of the Tournament. Without further ado, here are some matchups to watch and points of interest for today’s game, set to tip-off on CBS at 12:15.

Buckeyes offense vs. Cyclones defense:

Ohio State does not usually play an up-tempo, high-scoring type of game. But the Buckeyes showed on Friday that they can play that style of basketball and win. In an impressive 95-70 victory over Iona, the Bucks put on a show on offense. Junior forward Deshaun Thomas led the charge as usual, racking up 24 points. But the player who stole the show was Sam Thompson. The sophomore forward notched 20 points on the night, including a trio of alley-oops. If Thompson continues his stellar play, opponents ought to be afraid of him.

In looking at the box score from Friday’s game, Thomas and Thompson were nearly perfect from the charity stripe, hitting 13 of 14 attempts from the line. Junior point guard Aaron Craft didn’t put up too many points, but he dished out seven assists. Junior guard Lenzelle Smith (12 points) and senior forward Evan Ravenel (12 points) provided some secondary scoring, which will be key if the Buckeyes expect to beat the Cyclones, a team with a high-flying offensive attack.

As a whole, the offense clicked perfectly. Through the first eight minutes of Friday’s first round game, the Buckeyes were shooting 60% and had a 24-8 lead. Though the Gaels made things interesting towards the end of the first with a 12-3 run, Ohio State ousted Iona’s chances early in the second. The Gaels had no answer for Ohio State’s high-powered attack that featured a combination of treys, post plays and fast breaks.

Iowa State will have a tough time solving OSU’s offense on Sunday. Not known for defense, the Cyclones allow an average of 70.9 points per game. Barring a poor shooting outing, Ohio State should be able surpass that mark. The Cyclones have to hope that the Buckeyes have an off-day, because few teams can beat Ohio State when all cylinders are clicking on offense for the Bucks. CBS Color Analyst Clark Kellog accurately explained OSU’s current situation, “Everyone is embracing their roles and playing at a very good level.”

 

Cyclones offense vs. Buckeyes defense:

Iowa State is a dangerous team. As shown by the squad’s 76-58 drubbing of Notre Dame on Friday, the Cyclones can light it up from behind the arc. Iowa State nailed 9 of 21 shots from threeland on the night. The Cyclones have relied upon treys all season, as the team leads the nation in both three-pointers attempted and made. Notre Dame’s big forwards were forced to step outside to defend ISU’s three point shooters, such as guards Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee and Chris Babb. One the Fighting Irish were pulled out of the post, forward Georges Niang snuck in down low and gashed them for easy points. The Iowa State big man notched 19 points on the night, converting on 9 of his 13 attempts. As a team, the Cyclones shot at nearly a 70% clip in the second half. It’s hard to beat a team shooting that well. As noted by Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, “They’re very, very hard to guard. They’re really good. And with Niang in the middle kind of wheeling and all those guys spreading you out, they’re kind of a nightmare matchup. And they’re men. They’re really men.”

Ohio State will be better suited to face Iowa State’s efficient offense than Notre Dame, as the Buckeyes boast one of the best perimeter defenses in college basketball. As pointed out by Associated Press writer Joe Kay, “The Buckeyes have been very good at shutting down the perimeter during their nine-game winning streak that includes the Big Ten tournament title.” OSU also has Craft, one of the best defensive players in years to wear the Scarlet and Gray. He recorded six steals on Friday, though it seemed like more. Craft’s defensive intensity will pose a significant problem for ISU. If the Cyclones aren’t able to find any breathing room behind the arc, they are in trouble. Though the team averages 79.8 points per outing, Iowa State can be eliminated easily three-pointers aren’t falling.

 

Prediction: Though Iowa State could make the game close should its shooters find space from behind the arc, Ohio State has a very stingy defense. The Buckeyes have also been hot offensively, a deadly combination for the Cyclones. Though the Bucks will walk away with the victory, in this writer’s opinion, Iowa State will hang around and keep OSU fans nervous for much of the game.

Score: Buckeyes- 77 Cyclones- 69

What do you think about the game? Let us know in the comments section below!

 

Information from ESPN.com, the Associated Press, and Eleven Warriors was used in this article. 

Jim Tressel: “I Haven’t Thought Too Much About Coaching”

Jim Tressel's coaching career appears to be over.

Jim Tressel spoke with Joe Ginley today following a seminar at John Carroll University.

Few Buckeye fans will forget the Jim Tressel era. The 2002 National Championship. A record against Michigan of 9-1. Tresselball. Six Big Ten Championships. A total of 14 NFL first-round draft choices. Players such as Craig Krenzel, Troy Smith, A.J. Hawk, Ted Ginn Jr., Beanie Wells and James Laurinitis. Ohio State faithful will always hold a special place in their hearts for Jim Tressel. Today he shared his thoughts about coaching and about his new job, providing an interesting perspective for Buckeye fans.

Since the hiring of Urban Meyer and an undefeated 2012 campaign, the Tatoo-gate scandal has faded. Bring up the topic in front of a Buckeye, though, and bad memories immediately come to mind. The departures of Terrelle Pryor and the beloved Tressell, as well as the suspensions of DeVier Posey, Boom Herron and others, still sting. The 2011 season was not an easy one for Ohio State fans to endure. Surely, it still lingers in the mind of Jim Tressel. But he has since moved on.

Akron University hired Tressel as Vice President of Strategic Engagement in February of 2012. Since beginning the job in April of that same year, Tressel has had a blast. Working with students, alumni, college administrators and local business leaders to make the Akron experience phenomenal, Tressel has poured his heart and soul into his work.

His job brought him to University Heights, Ohio to the campus of John Carroll University today for the Cleveland College Consortium. He was the keynote speaker for the seminar, addressing college administrators and local business leaders in an attempt to form partnerships between the groups. This reporter had a chance to interview Tressel for a few minutes, discussing a variety of topics. The most of interest to Buckeye fans would be Tressel’s reply to the question: “Do you ever think about coaching or possibly doing it again?”

Tressel answered by stating: “I feel like I coach every day, it’s just in different ways. I probably had my most excitement and fun watching young people develop, not just on the field, but off. I feel like I’m getting to do that every day, so I really haven’t thought too much about coaching.”

From both Tressel’s demeanor and the way he replied to the query, Tressel is happy in his current position at Akron. He loves what he does, which primarily involves interacting with students. At one point of the interview, when asked if Tressel has had any time to relax lately, he said: “Well, I haven’t had any time off, but I’ve been enjoying my time. My wife told me the other day that she thinks I’m working more hours than I did [as a coach], and I tell her that I used have 100 guys and now I have 28,000. It takes more time.”

Spring Storylines: Defensive Line

Joey Bosa is one of the numerous talented freshman looking to make an impact in 2013.

Joey Bosa is one of the numerous talented freshman looking to make an impact in 2013.

Key Losses: John Simon, Jonathan Hankins, Nathan Williams, Garrett Goebel

Returning Starters: None

Projected Starters: Noah Spence, Michael Bennett, Joel Hale, Adolphus Washington

 

Often when a team loses all four of its defensive linemen starters over the offseason, chaos ensues. But such is not the case for the Buckeyes this season. Thanks to the efforts of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and Co., the Buckeyes boast a defensive line depth chart oozing with talent that has the potential to achieve greatness.

John Simon and Jonathan Hankins anchored the Ohio State defensive line like few have before. These two beasts caused havoc for opposing offensive lines, breaking through blockers while attacking quarterbacks and ball carriers. Nathan Williams and Garrett Goebel were also solid players who provided reliable play, and will also be missed. Regardless, the potential among Ohio State’s up-and-coming defensive linemen is amazing.

Adolphus Washington could be the most promising lineman for the Buckeyes. Standing at 6’3, 290 pounds, the redshirt freshman has an immense amount of talent. A Rivals five-star recruit, the imposing player out of Cincinnati Taft High School racked up an incredible 23.5 sacks, 90 tackles and three forced fumbles in his senior season. Washington is a no-brainer choice to start at defensive tackle, where he saw some time in 2012. His task will be translating his dominance at the high school level to success in grueling Big Ten play.

Another one of Meyer’s gems from the 2012 class, Noah Spence looks to be a lock for a defensive end spot. Another Rivals five-star recruit, he was the top-ranked player in Pennsylvania. In his junior and senior years at Bishop McDevitt High School, Spence notched 204 tackles, 35.5 sacks and 50 tackles for loss. He appeared in a few games last season for the Bucks and gave fans a glimpse of his potential. Just like Washington, Noah Spence has loads of talent that he must transform into success at the college level.

The third probable starter is the most experienced of the bunch. Junior Michael Bennett has been the primary backup to studs such as John Simon and Nathan Williams for a couple of seasons. Bennett played in all of OSU’s 13 games in 2011, tallying 17 tackles, five sacks and seven tackles for loss. The defensive tackle only played in eight games last year due to injury, but still looked solid in his limited playing time, recording 11 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Listed as a defensive tackle in 2012, Bennett will most likely line up at defensive end, opening the door for a couple of young prospects at the tackle spot opposite Washington.

Joel Hale looks to be the frontrunner to earn the last starting spot on the defensive line. The 6’4, 310 pound junior will most likely occupy the nose tackle position after backing up Goebel last season. Hale appeared in seven games in 2012, attaining six tackles. He also saw significant action in Fickell’s one year stint as head coach, as Hale recorded four tackles in eight games. He will be relied upon to bring stability to a young defensive line. As two of the oldest and most experienced players at the position, Hale and Bennett need to step up and lead the youngsters this season.

Leading Ohio State’s backups is Tommy Schutt. The redshirt freshman was part of Urban Meyer’s outstanding class of 2012. Schutt was a five-star Rivals recruit and the top-ranked player in Illinois. He could not be contained during his senior year at Glenbard West High School, racking up 73 tackles, 14.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. The young defensive tackle could threaten for a starting role depending on his play during spring practice. Many are talking about this young prospect, as Rivals compares him to current Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji. The Ohio State coaching staff would certainly be overjoyed to see Schutt emerge, as Raji did at Boston College, as an anchor of the defensive line.

On the same level as Schutt is junior J.T. Moore. Called on at times to replace Williams or Simon when one of them needed a break, Moore has the size (6’3, 262 pounds) to play either end or tackle. He enters his fourth season as a Buckeye and looks to earn more playing time after appearing in just four games as a sophomore. Offseason rumors indicated that while Moore was upset he did not play more, he did not choose to transfer. Some of his disappointment was justified, as Moore performed well during his freshman year after Williams suffered a season-ending injury in early October of 2011. Moore played in all 13 games, recording nine tackles and a tackle for loss. Though Moore isn’t as bright a star as some of the other players on this defensive line, if Moore can become a reliable contributor, the Buckeyes will be much better off.

Also seeking more playing time will be the massive Chris Carter. Weighing in at 340 pounds (and standing at 6’4), the sophomore can play on both sides of the ball. He started off as an offensive lineman as a true freshman, but was switched over to the other side of the ball midway through spring drills in 2012. The big man projects as a nose tackle, as he can certainly occupy a lot of space. Carter’s size will help him in cementing his role as the man in the middle, but may hinder Carter in earning Urban’s favor. As Meyer’s track record at Florida shows, the Bucks’ ball coach prefers quicker linemen to big, slow defenders. Carter could still earn playing time, but he will most likely be behind Schutt and Moore on the depth chart.

One prospect Ohio State will have to do without is Se’Von Pittman. The four-star Rivals recruit, who decommitted from Michigan State soon after Meyer was hired, was granted a release from his scholarship by Ohio State just over a week ago. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Pittman asked for his release due to an “off-the-field issue” and is “looking for a fresh start.” Buckeye fans need not worry, though, as a number of other exciting prospects are eager to take his place in the depth chart.

Meyer again focused on fortifying the defensive line in his 2013 recruiting class. Six of his 24 incoming recruits are defensive linemen. All possess remarkable ability and promise. The one garnering the most attention is Joey Bosa. A defensive end from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the young man was ranked as the ninth best recruit in the state and the 46th best in the nation. As his high school coach, Rocco Casullo, told ESPN.com, “I think Joey is one of the more complete defensive linemen to ever come out of here [St. Thomas Aquinas HS] as far as size, strength and his work ethic. He’s pretty special.” Keep in mind that St. Thomas Aquinas is the Alma Mater of current Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Bosa might not receive extensive time at first, but he could see increased playing time as the season wears on. His potential may be too great for the OSU coaching staff to ignore.

Yet another recruit who has defensive line coach Mike Vrabel salivating is Michael Hill. Also a four-star Rivals recruit, Hill was ranked as the best prospect from South Carolina for the 2013 recruiting class. The defensive tackle chose Ohio State over eight SEC schools that offered him a scholarship, including Alabama, Florida and LSU, that offered him a scholarship. Also destined for Columbus is Tyquan Lewis. The Tarboro, North Carolina native received offers from a host of schools, including numerous ACC schools and a few SEC programs. The incoming freshman plays weakside defensive end and will look to advance his way up the depth chart come August.

One player who has already made the trip to Columbus is Tracy Sprinkle. The Elyria (OH) Pioneer enrolled early and looks to make an impact during spring practice. Another highly-touted Ohio recruit to choose the Buckeyes is Billy Price. A four-star Rivals defensive tackle out of Austintown Fitch, Price can plow over offensive linemen as he pleases. He often did the same to defensive linemen while playing on offense during his time as a Falcon. And don’t forget about Donovan Munger. The defensive tackle from Shaker Heights originally committed to play at Florida State, but was swayed to be a Buckeye by OSU running backs coach Stan Drayton and Vrabel. Even beyond all of these exciting freshmen, juniors John Holman and Rashad Frazier will provide deep depth at the position. There is certainly no shortage of defensive linemen this year.

To say that now is an exciting time for Ohio State football would be an understatement. Urban Meyer has lifted a program that was in shambles to a spot in the upper echelon of the Big Ten. His focus on recruiting defensive linemen has certainly helped, as the position is stocked with talent for years to come. Though it may take some time for the young players at the position to become consistent, eventually Ohio State’s defensive line will become the Buckeyes’ backbone, allowing the defense to dominate for years to come.

 

Information from Land-GrantHolyLand.com, ESPN.com, CBSSports.com and The Plain Dealer was used in this article.

Stout Defense Spells Upset Victory for OSU over Indiana

Defense wins championships, as the old adage goes in football. The way Ohio State played on defense against Indiana tonight, the saying could be true in basketball too.

In a late-season matchup of top Big Ten conference foes, a battle between Indiana’s high-powered defense and Ohio State’s stingy defense, the Buckeyes prevailed, 67-58. National Player of the Year candidate Victor Oladipo was a non-factor most of the night, as the Hoosiers sputtered at home on Senior Night. The Buckeyes (22-7, 12-5 Big Ten) displayed outstanding defense while utilizing an all-around offensive effort to upset #2 Indiana (25-5, 13-4 Big Ten).

Though Indiana big man Cody Zeller notched 17 points on the night, Oladipo only managed seven after racking up 26 the last time the two teams faced off. Ohio State didn’t allow many open looks for the junior guard, as Oladipo only took six shots on the night. Foul trouble affected the playmaker early, as he collected two fouls in the first that forced him to sit on the bench for much of the first stanza. He did not record a point in the first half. The duo of Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft was much more successful. Thomas tallied 18 points to lead OSU in scoring, though the junior only shot 6 for 17 on the night. Craft controlled the game, especially in the second. The OSU point guard paced the Bucks with 15 points, shooting 7 of 10 from the field. Down the stretch, Craft’s big buckets ensured that the Hoosiers would not come back from a late 11-point deficit.

But while Craft was magnificent, Ohio State’s all-around offensive production was the key to earning the victory. Sam Thompson contributed nine points, and was especially effective in the first half. Evan Ravenel came off the bench in relief of Amir Williams and scored eight in 20 minutes of playing time. Ravenel also looked stellar on defense as the game wore on, preventing the Hoosiers from collecting easy buckets as they are prone to do. Shannon Scott had an eight point evening and also recorded four of the team’s eight steals. His efforts helped the Buckeyes hold the Hoosiers scoreless for a period of over five minutes towards the end of the second half.

The signs of a possible upset became apparent right from the start. Indiana could not find the groove on offense early, while Ohio State showed great composure even as the fans at Assembly Hall roared at the visitors. Outstanding defense forced the Hoosiers to play OSU’s favorite type of game: a low-scoring, duke-it-out affair, especially early on. Indiana shot a mere 34.5% from the field in the first, resulting in a slight 28-25 OSU lead heading into the break.

Tonight’s victory not only gives the Buckeyes momentum heading into the regular season finale against Illinois. Ohio State’s road win over #2 Indiana gives the Bucks sole possession of the number two spot in the conference standings. With a Michigan win over Indiana on Sunday, the Buckeyes will claim a portion of the regular season conference title. But if the Hoosiers manage a win over the Wolverines on the road, Indiana would earn sole ownership of the league title. No matter what the outcome of that affair, Ohio State captured a huge road victory tonight. When allowed to play a defensive game, the Buckeyes can hang around with anybody. Add in all-around offensive contribution, and the Bucks are a team to fear as Tournament season quickly approaches.

Indiana Preview

March has arrived. Two huge tournaments loom for the Buckeyes as the Madness draws near. Indiana poses a major challenge for the Buckeyes today, and will be a preview of what to expect come Tourney time. Ohio State needs to step up to the challenge in order to gain ground in the conference standings, but also to boost confidence heading into the last game of the regular season.

Tonight’s 9 p.m. matchup is the second-last regular season contest for each of the two contenders before the Big Ten Tournament begins on March 14. Both teams could use some momentum heading into the postseason, especially the Buckeyes. #2 Indiana (25-4, 13-3 Big Ten) needs a win to assert its dominance and prove that the Hoosiers are the top dog of the league. Following an upset loss on the road to Illinois on February 26, Indiana looked a bit vulnerable. Though the Hoosiers easily handled Iowa a few days later, Indiana would love to have some positive energy heading into the team’s season finale with Michigan and then the Big Ten Tourney. Still, #14 Ohio State needs the “W” even more.

The Buckeyes (21-7, 11-5 Big Ten) have won their last three matches, snagging victories over tough opponents Minnesota, Michigan State and Northwestern. But the Bucks lack a significant, defining road win this season. Against ranked opponents on the road, OSU owns an unappealing 0-5 record. The most recent road game against a ranked opponent resulted in an embarrassing 71-49 loss to Wisconsin on February 17. For OSU, picking up its first big victory away from the Schottenstein Center will not be a simple task. Assembly Hall is not an easy venue to play in as the road team. As OSU’s Deshaun Thomas told The Lantern, “It’s one of the loudest places I’ve been at, besides Kansas.” Head coach Thad Matta agreed: “It’s proven over time it’s one of the toughest places to play in.” Indiana boasts a 17-1 record on its home court this season, with the lone loss coming against Wisconsin in mid-January.

But if Ohio State wants to claw its way to the top of the pack past Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin, all tied with OSU for the second spot, the Bucks need to find a way to win tonight. The key to doing so is defending Indiana’s top scorers better than last time and coming up with secondary scoring. The last time the squads paired off on February 10, the Hoosiers trounced Ohio State, 81-68. Indiana playmakers Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo ran rampant. OSU’s defense could not stop the dangerous pair, as Zeller finished with 24 points and eight rebounds, while Oladipo collected a career-high 26 points and eight boards.

Ohio State has improved since it suffered a beating to Indiana. The Buckeyes have drawn more fouls and seen more scoring from Lenzelle Smith Jr. The junior guard led the team in scoring in OSU’s last game on February 28, putting up 24 in a 63-53 triumph over Northwestern. The defense has also looked stellar as of late, limiting opponents to 60 or fewer points in four of the past five games. Indiana head coach Tom Crean agrees that this is a much-improved OSU team. “They’re better from when we played them the last time, because they are getting fouled a lot more,” Crean said. “In the last five games, they’ve made more free throws than their opponents have taken. Deshaun Thomas is way up in his free throw shooting; Lenzelle Smith is shooting the ball at a high rate. They are rebounding the ball well, they’re getting fouled, they’re winning games and they’re really good. There’s no doubt in our mind that it’s going to be an incredible battle.”

For it to be an “incredible battle,” Ohio State has to keep the score low. The Buckeyes excel in low-scoring affairs but often falter when games require the winner to score more than 70 points. Four of the team’s five conference losses occurred when opponents posted over 70 points. The Bucks have simply lacked the secondary scoring needed to keep up with high-flying offenses. Aaron Craft and DeShaun Thomas can only carry the team so far. Though Smith, Sam Thompson and Evan Ravenal often provide some support, it is not enough to consistently score 70 points a night in the Big Ten. Thus OSU has to rely on its defense to help carry the team.

Against Indiana, that starts with defending a National Player of the Year candidate in Oladipo and an ever-dangerous playmaker in Zeller. But stopping Christian Watford must also be a focus for Ohio State. The senior forward hurt the Bucks for 20 points in the last meeting, connecting on four of five shots from behind the arc. You can’t forget Jordan Hulls either, as the senior averages 10.7 points per game and likes to shoot from deep. Overall, Indiana averages a whopping 81.9 points per night. Facing the Hoosiers offense compares to Luke Fickell’s defense taking on AJ McCarron, Eddie Lacy and the Alabama offense of last year. Thad Matta’s defense will have a tough time tonight. His team is known for playing stout D, but Indiana’s offense is a whole different beast. The Buckeyes need to turn up the knob another notch if this game is going to be close.

On offense, Thomas obviously needs to have a big night. The junior forward (19.9 ppg) is the heart of the offense, and without him to lead it, the unit sputters. Craft also plays a critical role, as he is the quarterback of the offense and the soul of the team. The junior point guard must show his well-known tenacity and aggressiveness if the rest of the team is to follow suit. Smith, Ravenal, Thompson and others must also put up significant figures. Coming off the bench, look closely at LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott and Amir Williams. If one or more of these three men can step up and give the team quality minutes, as well as some points off the bench, the Bucks will be in much better position.

As a whole, the OSU offense needs more explosiveness than it has shown in the past five games, when the team has shot just 41.9 percent. The Buckeyes need to shoot the ball better than that tonight. Defense will only take you so far against the Hoosiers. Defense may keep the game close, but to put away the troublesome Hoosiers, you need to have the hot hand down the stretch.

Indiana is no easy foe to face on the road, especially on an emotional Senior Night for three Hoosiers. There is a reason Ohio State has not taken down a ranked Indiana team in Assembly Hall since 2000. But the Bucks do have a chance to topple the giants of the Big Ten. Though the odds are stacked against OSU, with a combination of stellar defense and secondary scoring, the Buckeyes can capture a crucial road victory heading into Tournament season.

Breaking Down the 2013 Ohio State Draft Class

Ohio State has a long-standing tradition of producing quality NFL talent. Since 2000, the program has produced more NFL draft picks than any other school, as 83 Buckeyes have had their names called by NFL teams since the new millennium. Though the program is not graduating any players who will be drafted in the top ten, a number of Buckeyes might be receiving phone calls before the name of Mr. Irrelevant is called on Saturday, April 27.

Below is a rundown of the ten Buckeyes who have a legitimate shot to be drafted or signed as a free agent soon after. Each player saw significant playing time at Ohio State, and has a chance to make an impact, to varying degrees, in the NFL.

Jonathan Hankins: Leading this year’s Ohio State draft class is Jonathan Hankins. The defensive tackle decided in December that the grass was greener in the NFL and bypassed his senior year for a chance to play in the pros. According to Dane Bugler of CBSSports.com, Hankins is a lineman with a “rare combination” of size, foot speed and strength. Hankins had a stellar junior year. In his second year as a starter, Hankins racked up 55 tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack. Big Hank was versatile at the position, demonstrating that he can fit into either a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme in the NFL. He defends the run well and possesses good awareness and instincts. He will most likely be picked towards the end of the first round or at the start of the second. Hankins is not the best defensive tackle in this year’s draft class, but will make a nice prize for the team that chooses him.

John Simon: Few fans of the Scarlet and Gray can forget John Simon. The dedicated Buckeye who plays with passion and drive, Simon made a reputation for himself in Columbus. He was a consistent playmaker at OSU who could be relied upon for energy and big plays. Despite all of Simon’s positive qualities, he faces a challenge in the NFL. Too small to play defensive line and too big to play linebacker, he has already been deemed a “tweener.” In spite of this, Simon is an intriguing prospect for NFL scouts. Simply looking at his stats during his senior season could give a quarterback a case of the jitters. Simon totaled 44 tackles, nine sacks (first in the Big Ten), and 14.5 tackles for loss. He garnered the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year and the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year awards for his efforts. The intense lineman also earned All-Big Ten and 3rd team AP All-American honors. Over the course of his career, he started 37 consecutive games over three seasons before suffering a minor knee injury in the week prior to the Michigan game.
Known for his non-stop motor, Simon is a great tackler with “excellent recognition skills.” A relentless player, Simon is dedicated on and off the football field. Head coach Urban Meyer compared the talented athlete’s work ethic to that of the coach’s well-known quarterback at Florida– Tim Tebow. But as stated before, Simon is too small to play defensive line as he did as a Buckeye. This will hurt his draft stock. He will get used to sitting back in coverage and running one-on-one with backs and tight ends. This will be a major adjustment. In Pro Bowl practice, he looked like a “fish out of water,” according to Bugler. Simon doesn’t yet have the footwork needed to succeed at linebacker. He will need coaching to become a mainstay at the position. Regardless, Simon’s remarkable work ethic and motor will likely earn him a spot on an NFL roster. He is currently projected as a third rounder.

Etienne Sabino- Many thought when Sabino chose the Bucks that he would join a long line of great Ohio State linebackers. But the five star recruit out of high school never seemed to put it all together in college. Not to say that Sabino didn’t have a solid career, but he didn’t become the all-star he was projected to be. He also missed much of his senior year with a broken fibula. Sabino did manage 45 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and two interceptions in eight games, though. There are many NFL greats who didn’t shine in college. Sabino has the raw athletic ability to succeed in the pros. The linebacker “flies all over the field” and blitzes well downhill. Though he has to improve at processing information and taking good angles, Sabino will likely be taken around the fifth round.

Reid Fragel- The most memorable characteristic of Reid Fragel is his height. Standing at 6’8 and 310 pounds, Fragel is an imposing figure. A converted tight end, the Grosse Point Farms (MI) native played offensive tackle during Meyer’s inaugural season at Ohio State. Fragel recognized that tight ends don’t usually play a large role in Meyer’s offensive scheme, so Fragel made the transition to offensive tackle. He added 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, bulking up while keeping his quickness. The switch was ultimately successful, as he provided a solid senior presence on the offensive line. Fragel performed well this season, never relenting his starting role. But going into the NFL, he is at a bit of a disadvantage. As one would imagine, his technique at the offensive tackle position is not refined to a professional level. But with time, Fragel can develop into a solid offensive tackle. One potential worry is an undisclosed injury that held him out of the Senior Bowl, but Fragel probabaly will still go off the board around the fifth or sixth round.

Zach Boren- Another player who flip-flopped positions his senior year, Zach Boren established himself as a leader at linebacker as the season wore on. Originally a fullback, Boren transitioned to linebacker early in the 2012 campaign, as Meyer’s offense doesn’t typically call for a bruising back. Since Boren played linebacker in high school, he soon readjusted to the position. He became a mainstay of OSU’s talented defense, growing into a fearless inside linebacker. Boren showed good awareness and agility at the position, posting impressive stats. He racked up 50 tackles, a sack and five tackles for loss en route to being named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year. Due to his late switch, it is unlikely that Boren will be drafted until the later rounds. At the very least, Boren should get a chance with an NFL squad as a special teams player, thanks to his tenacity and drive.

Jake Stoneburner- Though he did flirt with other positions, Jake Stoneburner was mostly used as a tight end at OSU. A tall, athletic player talented at catching and blocking, Stoneburner saw time as a tight end, H-back, fullback and wide receiver at Ohio State. While he didn’t rack up monumental stats his senior year (16 catches for 269 yards and four touchdowns), Stoneburner displayed a number of good qualities, such as “smooth” footwork, “tenacity” as a blocker and “excellent” body control. He had a good enough career as a Buckeye to at least earn a chance with an NFL team as a late-round flier. But repeated holding penalties and limited stats will hinder his draft stock. Right now, he is projected as a sixth to seventh round pick.

Travis Howard- A cornerback with some definite talent but some significant shortcomings, Travis Howard is a player who has the talent to play in the NFL but needs some work. Howard enjoyed a solid career with the Bucks, especially during his senior season. He recorded 40 tackles, six passes defensed and a Big Ten best four interceptions, earning him Honorable All-Big Ten honors. As he displayed in 2012, Howard has good ball skills and foot quickness. Though a bit lean for a cornerback at 6’1 and 198 pounds, Howard makes good reads and is aggressive in run support. But the playmaker has to work on his timing, positioning and discipline. He has the potential to be a contributor in the NFL, but must fix these areas of his game. Howard looks to be a third day pick, as he will likely go in the seventh round.

Nathan Williams- A defensive line/linebacker hybrid, Nathan Williams is, in a way, a lesser-known version John Simon. Williams is a physical tackler who plays with a lot of energy just like Simon, though Williams struggled with a knee injury during his time at Ohio State. He missed the 2011 season because of his knee, but worked his way back into the lineup in 2012. By the end of his senior campaign, Williams looked fully healthy. He certainly played like it, notching 40 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss on the year. Scouts may doubt about his ability to stay healthy, but Williams could improve his draft stock with a good Combine. As of now, he is projected to either be picked in the seventh round or go undrafted.

Orhian Johnson- A versatile safety who had to fight for playing time at Ohio State, Orhian Johnson is an intriguing prospect. During his career as a Buckeye, he not only played both safety positions, but also spent time at outside linebacker and cornerback. Though he often had to battle for playing time with higher-ranked recruits, Johnson always found a way onto the field. His size and athleticism certainly had something to do with that. With the talent he displayed at OSU, he could be a solid special teams player in the pros. But Johnson has some obstacles to overcome if he expects to play on defense. He needs to add some muscle, eliminate the “dumb” penalties he has been known to incur and also take better angles in run support. Still, Johnson should earn a spot on an NFL roster, whether he is taken very late in the draft or signed as an undrafted free agent.
Garrett Goebel- As a defensive tackle for the Bucks, Garrett Goebel posted impressive stats. During his senior season, he compiled 86 tackles, two sacks, 12 tackles for loss, two passes defensed and one fumble recovery. Goebel flew under the radar, though, as he was not well-known as a Buckeye. He has not been noticed too much by scouts, either. Though he started every game of his junior and senior seasons, Goebel will most likely not be drafted. He still has a shot to be picked up by a team via free agency, though. Goebel will have to establish himself on special teams or on the practice squad before he gets a major opportunity with an NFL team.

Information from CBSSports.com, OhioStateBuckeyes.com and NFL.com was used in this article. Phrases in quotation marks are words used by Dan Bugler of CBSSports.com.