MotSaG Look at Special Teams Part 2 – Returners

Last Year’s Performance:

One place on the field that the 2013 Buckeyes can drastically improve from last year is in the return game, especially kick-off returns. Last year, the Buckeyes ranked 84th nationally in kickoff return yardage with an average of 19.9 yards. Coaches are looking for more consistency and explosiveness on kickoff returns this year. The punt returners were more consistent last year led by Philly Brown. He averaged a very respectable 12.28 yards per return last year with 2 TD’s.

Key Losses:

None of note. Every player that contributed in the return game is back this year.

Expectations for 2013:

With the infusion of young speed, the potential for impact plays in the return game is looking up. Coach Coombs expressed his enthusiastic optimism about the versatility and options in the return game to the Columbus Dispatch.

“We have got a ton of guys this year”

“We’ve got specialists in abundance”

In the same article Coach Coombs names five guys being considered for kickoff return duty. Jordan Hall, Rod Smith, Dontre Wilson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Bradley Roby. I like that mix of players. It is a good mix of speed and reliability, experience and young excitement, and players looking to make a mark on the team.

My expectation is that we will see the “experienced” players fielding kicks early in the year sprinkled with the freshman. Once the coaching staff is comfortable with Dontre and Ezekiel’s ability to avoid mistakes, I would expect them to see the lion-share of the returns as the season progresses.

As for the punt returns, Philly Brown will look to duplicate his excellent 2012. Of course, he will be pushed by the youngsters, but again, I expect the coaches to rely on a proven commodity. Based on these two returns, that is not a bad choice.

Early in camp Urban Meyer told the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

“I’d be disappointed if our return game isn’t really good this year”

Given the talent and speed at his disposal, I expect his assessment has not changed as camp has gone along. I have the same expectation. The return game should be much improved with the plethora (Meyer’s term) of returners with the ability to impact the game.

MotSaG Look at Special Teams Part 1 – Kickers

OSU Football

“LONESOME KICKER” from Greg Kohs on Vimeo.

“Who cares about the kicker?” The truth is we all do at some point during the season when the game is on the line and out onto the field trots the lonesome kicker. People will remember your name for one of two things. A shank to lose a game or hitting the game winning field goal as time expires. The fact is a kicker is under intense scrutiny and pressure. The same can be said for the punter. They are back there on an island. A lot i.e. field position is riding on the punter’s foot. So let’s take a look at who will have the pressure on their shoulders this year by handling the kicking duties for OSU.

BTW – for those interested in a throwback version of The Lonesome Kicker check out this performance on Conan O’Brien. I remember watching this as it aired. I guess I am getting old!

Who the Buckeyes lost from last years team…

Ben Buchanan – Ben was a three year starter for the Buckeyes. He averaged 41.2 yards for his career. That was only good enough for 7th in the Big Ten last year. Ben was a solid performer during his career, but there is room for improvement this year. That being said, Ben is an all-around good dude. He was a finalist for the Jesse Owens Medal of Honor. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

2013 Starters…

Cameron Johnston – is a 21 year old freshman. He is a former Australian rules football player. He has a sweet accent. Most importantly, he is the starting punter for the 2013 Buckeyes (an hopefully the next four years).

Cameron was brought in to be a starter from day one. After to listening to him, he seems like he will handle the pressure well. I am looking forward to his contributions to the team. If he lives up to the hype, OSU has themselves a great punter for the next four years. If you have six minutes to kill feel free to watch Cameron punt.

Drew Basil – Drew is our version of Andre Kristacovitchlalinski, Jr. Drew is entering his senior year and third year as a starter. He has made his field goals at a 75% rate during his career. I expect another solid season from Drew. He has been there and understands the pressure we discussed. I have confidence that he will be up to the task if given the opportunity to kick a winning field goal, but let’s be honest hopefully a game never comes down to that!

Who are the Backups…

Hopefully we never have to find out.

How they will fare…

Extra points a plenty and an impressive debut by the Aussie.

MotSaG Look at the Linebackers

OSU Football

After thinking back to the start of last season, I have some of the same reservations about this year’s linebacker group. With the exception of Ryan Shazier, the unit is very inexperienced. There are plenty of players that need to step up and make a big impact on defense this year. Let’s take a look at some of the names vying to add their name to the great tradition of Buckeye linebackers.

Who the Buckeyes lost from last years team…

Zach Boren – Has a starting fullback ever changed to starting linebacker halfway through the season (making the change in one week) and instantly become the team’s second best linebacker? If you ask me, that is exactly what happened last year when Zach Boren moved to starting MLB. He was a difference maker down the stretch and solidified the otherwise turbulent position. Zach is continuing his pursuit of playing football. He signed a free agent contract with the Houston Texans.

Etienne Sabino – Etienne is another guy who suffered through injuries at OSU. He was a solid player that often went unnoticed. I believe sometimes “senior leadership” is overrated, but given the buckeyes have struggled with continuity over the last couple of years at linebacker, Etienne’s experience will be missed. Etienne also was undrafted. He signed a free agent contract with the New York Giants. There have been some promising reports coming from Giants camp. It appears Etienne has a decent shot of making the roster.

Other losses – Storm Klein and Conner Crowell Best of luck to all!

Who will replace them…

Before we look at some of the new projected starters this year, a linebacker preview is not complete without mentioning Ryan Shazier. Ryan is the clear leader of the Buckeye linebackers. He has proven himself. He will be a beast. The preseason All-American selection is well deserving of the accolades coming his way. Below are a few comments from Ryan after practice this weekend courtesy of

Let’s take a look at a few players that need to step up and contribute (in a big way!). They are inexperienced and young. The talent is there. We are waiting for it to burst onto the field.

Curtis Grant – Curtis is the current projected starter at MLB. The ups and downs (mostly downs) of Grant’s young career as a buckeye have been well documented. He was a consensus 5-star recruit coming out of high school. Rivals rated him as the 2nd overall prospect, not linebacker, 2nd overall player. The expectation was enormous, but Curtis has yet to live up to the hype he received coming out of high school. Reports this preseason say Curtis is a “changed man”; ready for the big time. He is saying all of the right things…

“It’s more than determination,” he said. “A lot of things have changed in my life that has made me a lot hungrier about the game and things I needed to do. I tell my mom every day, ‘We’re going to make it.’ That’s my promise to her, and I’m determined to make it for her.”

Time will tell if this is the year he finally breaks out and becomes the player we have been waiting for. Grant was in the same position last year as the starting MLB, but was only able to hold the spot for 3 games. That has to change this year. Grant’s limited contribution to date still makes him the second most seasoned linebacker behind Shazier. Hopefully Grant can quickly recover from the concussion he suffered early in camp.

Joshua Perry – I will be the first to admit that Josh is a bit of an enigma to me. He was a member of the Rivals top 150 coming out of high school. It is quite possible his ability is being overlooked. He played sparingly as a freshman, mostly on special teams. Often times, players without high expectations and out of the spotlight are the unsung heroes of a team. I am hopeful that Josh can mold himself into that type of player. I need to see Josh play more to make a better assessment of what he brings to the team. He will have his chance this year as he steps into a starting role. If the spotlight has been dim until now, that is all about to change. I am looking forward to see what Josh brings to the table. Again courtesy of the, here are some comments from Josh after practice this weekend.

Who are the Backups…

That is a good question! You tell me. A pair of highly touted recruits are making a strong case to contribute this year – Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson. Given the lack of depth at linebacker, I would be surprised if either of those player red-shirt this year. Both Mike and Trey are big time talents as you can see from their highlights and high school stats. From what I have seen and read thus far, I believe the Mike and Trey will be required to contribute early and often especially on special teams. I would also not be surprised if one or both push for playing time at the linebacker spot as the season moves along.

As I looked down the roster for other players expected to contribute, the same theme holds true – NO EXPERIENCE! The Buckeyes need to avoid injury at the linebacker spot this year. Since there are no fullbacks to pull from this year, let’s all hope the young guys can continue to develop. The Buckeye defense is really lacking depth at this position.

Player who could surprise…

Mike Mitchell – For me the obvious choice here is Mike Mitchell. The uncertainty surrounding Curtis Grant may provide an amazing opportunity for the true freshman. Can’t wait to see how this plays out. Has the season started yet?

How they will fare…

Let me continue to beat a dead horse…Shazier will be a beast! The rest of the group is a crap-shoot. Your guess is as good as mine. One thing last year’s linebackers had going for them was an experienced defensive line. This year, that is not the case. The development of the young linebacker group will be largely connected to the development of the front four. Ultimately, the Buckeyes have a long tradition of great linebackers. The players will develop. The play will be solid. That doesn’t change the fact that the Buckeyes start the 2013 season with one linebacker with experience, period. The other players need to step up early! How will they fare? … ????????????? … Time will tell.


The title says it all. LaQuinton Ross had a huge offensive surge down the stretch including the game winning three pointer leading the Buckeyes over Arizona 73-70. The Buckeyes overcame a significant first half defecit to make it to the Elite 8 for the second straight year.

Jae C. Hong | Associated Press

Jae C. Hong | Associated Press

Ross has come up huge in last two wins with 17 points in each game. We have been waiting all year for the secondary scoring punch. Ross has stepped up and provided it in a big way. I know he is not alone. The rest of the team has also played well, but I have been very impressed with Ross and feel he is turning the corner. His ability to score and complement Craft and Thomas will be crucial if the Buckeyes are going to make some noise even deeper in the NCAA tournament.

Basketball Week Preview

The Buckeyes enter this week with two important games at home. Let’s hope the blow out loss at Wisconsin is a distant memory.

The loss at Wisconsin is a microcosm of the entire season. Teams have stuck to the formula of allowing Thomas to get his 20-25 points (which he has had to work for) and making the “supporting cast” beat them. The problem is the “supporting cast” has been wildly inconsistent offensively. We have been asking for weeks who is going to step up and be the consistent 2nd and 3rd scorers. I believe we have our answer for this year, no one, consistently. Sunday’s game at Wisconsin was the first time I really questioned the team’s future (specifically next year). It will basically be the same team minus Thomas. I am not one to have a doomsday outlook or focus on the negative, but there are questions that will abound about next year’s team. In my opinion, it is too late in the season to get those questions answered this year, but hopefully I will be proven wrong.

The questions about next season will have to wait for another post for another day. The Buckeyes still have a chance to capitalize on a good seed in this year’s NCAA tournament. In order for that to happen, we need some W’s starting with the two games this week.

2/20/2013 @ 7 PM (BTN) Minnesota (6-7 Big Ten) vs Ohio State (8-5 Big Ten)

As with many teams in conference this year, the Gopher’s season has been up and down. They beat Wisconsin and got blown out by Iowa last week. That being said, no game should be taken lightly this year in conference. This is the only meeting between the Buckeyes and Gophers this regular season. I look for Minnesota to be hungry after getting embarrassed by Iowa. The Buckeyes will need to need to match the intensity, which by all accounts has been questionable over the last few weeks. The main question I want answered in this game is where is the fire and passion. Will the buckeyes be ready to play? I anticipate Matta will have the team ready after the debacle in Madison. I see the Buckeyes winning by 10.

2/24/2013 @ 4 PM (CBS) Michigan State (11-3 Big Ten) vs Ohio State (8-5 Big Ten)

The Buckeyes will be facing another strong test on Sunday. The Buckeyes are 2-4 against the top 4 teams in conference. The Spartans will enter the game coming off an emotional tight loss to Indiana. This seems to be happening over and over where the Buckeyes are facing a hungry team coming off a loss. Provided that the effort is there, I think the Buckeyes can edge out a very close win against the Spartans. A second win this week will go a long way in boosting the confidence of this team.

Basketball Week In Review/Preview

Coming off a disappointing loss to Michigan State, this week the Buckeyes faced two of the bottom three teams in the B1G. Just what the doctor ordered.

Week in Review

1/22/2013: Ohio State 72 – Iowa 63 (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten)

The buckeyes throughly dominating the Hawkeyes until the last few minutes of the game. I hate to focus on the negative in a win, but the team did not handle the full court pressure well. It led to a very sloppy second half. It is an old cliché, but the team appeared to lose focus with such a large lead. I think the entire team fell victim to this trap and were not able to regain the mental edge that led to the 24 point lead. That being said, the Buckeyes were able to hold off Iowa for a much-needed win.

1/26/2013: Ohio State 65 – Penn State 51 (15-4, 5-2 Big Ten)

The Buckeyes controlled this game from beginning to end. They were never in danger. A few spurts of poor shooting, specifically from DT (4-13 for the game) led to a below average score. All in all, a result you would expect against a win less (in B1G) opponent. The Buckeyes are still searching (isn’t it getting a little late in the season) for consistent 2nd and 3rd scorers. Sam Thompson filled that void against the Nittany Lions. He played an excellent game with 16 points on 6-7 shooting. Let’s hope Sam and the rest of the supporting cast can continue to improve their consistency. It will be sorely needed in the loaded back-end of the B1G schedule. Games the rest of the season include Indiana x2, Wisconsin x2, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State.

Week in Preview

1/29/2013 @ 7 PM (ESPN) Wisconsin (5-2 Big Ten) vs Ohio State (5-2 Big Ten)

The pesky Badgers led by Bo Ryan always play the Buckeyes tough. This is an important game as the winner will remain near the top fo the B1G race.

2/2/2013 @ 7 PM (BTN) Nebraska (2-6 Big Ten) vs Ohio State (5-2 Big Ten)

The real question about this game is how does Nebraska have 2 wins in the B1G? They looked awful against the Buckeyes in the B1G opener. Should be an easy win.

In other news…

We cannot review this weeks’ happenings without a mention of Matta’s contract revision. Details of the contract restructure can be found here and here. Well documented by Bob Baptist of the Dispatch.

I know there are varying opinions out there about Matta’s tenure at OSU. As far as I am concerned, he can stay as long as he wants.

Basketball Week (Kansas) In Review/Preview

Kansas Review

12/22/2012: Ohio State 66 – Kansas 74 (8-2, 0-0 Big Ten)

Here we sit on the eve of conference play which the Buckeyes will begin without a “signature” win. The Buckeyes fell to Kansas yesterday in a game that was similar to the ebb and flow of the Duke game. The Buckeyes were strong in the first half, but Kansas took control in the second half and the Buckeyes could not recover. It is the third loss to Kansas in the last 12 months. It is apparent that this year’s team still needs to figure out how to close out games. Deshaun Thomas did not have the stand out game that I was anticipating. While hed led the Buckeyes in scoring, he took three shots in the last 14 minutes and missed all of them. That is not a recipe for success. Still waiting for Deshaun to breakout with a performance similar to what we saw in last year’s NCAA tournament.

Like I said in the preview, this one loss is not a make or break. That being said, it clearly demonstrates that there is work to do if this team wants to compete for a B1G championship. I know we all hate to look for moral victories, but can we agree that it is easier to find them in basketball (especillay in non-conference games)? There were a couple positive outcomes of the game. Coach Matta was pleased with the effort:

“I thought we battled. I thought we played with an element of toughness and tenacity we needed to,”

Then, he quickly summed up the loss in one sentence:

“But a lot of it just comes down to you’ve got to put the ball in the basket in a game like this, and we couldn’t do it, and it became contagious throughout.”

The buckeyes shot 30% from the field. Simply not going to get it done against an opponent like Kansas.

12-12-22-MB-0102-thumb From a players standpoint, the best performance was turned in by Shannon Scott. Scott’s stat line – 15 pts, 6 reb, 4 asst, 2 stls. He continues to improve and IMO is quickly becoming the best point guard on the team. His play is making it difficult for Matta to keep him on the bench. If you ask me, that is bad news for Smith, Jr. and Ross because I think Matta is beginning to favor the back court duo of Scott and Craft. It will be interesting to see how this continues to develop as conference play begins. Matta has built the reputation of shortening his bench in conference games. He has stated that he feels more comfortable with his depth this year, but it remains to be seen if he will use 8 to 10 players or the typical 7 that we have been used to in the past.

Week in Preview

12/29/2012 @ 4:30 PM (BTN) Chicago State (3-11, 0-0) vs Ohio State (8-2, 0-0)

The Buckeyes will take the week off (from games) for Christmas. The Buckeyes play Chicago State next Saturday in the final scrimmage before B1G games begin on January 2nd.

Kansas Preview

12/22/2012 @ 4 PM (CBS) Kansas (9-1, 0-0) vs Ohio State (8-1, 0-0)

Many people trash the NCAA regualr season because “it doesn’t mean anything”. Maybe, but one thing is for certain, the NCAA tournament makes it so top caliber teams square off during non-conference play. Sure, a win or loss in a non-conference game against a top ten opponenet will not make or break a season, but it provides teams a glimpse of the competition that potentially awaits late in the tournament. The regualr season may be undervalued in the media and the minds of some fans, but for the coaches and players I am certain that is not the case.

Coming off a poor performance against Winthrop, the buckeyes look to bounce back against #9 Kansas today in the Schott. In the most recent weekly review, we discussed the improvement of Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, and Amir Williams. I think it goes without saying that their continued maturation is paramount to getting a win against Kansas. That being said, I am looking for Deshaun Thomas to have a statement game today. He has been steady this year, but he needs to step up on the big stage. Similar to what we saw last March in the NCAA tournament.

What are other MotSaGers saying…


Kansas is a must win IMO….. They need to establish themselves as an elite team and a team that can beat a squad with lots of big men. This game will make their case to the National Media that they are a top 4 team which is something many are questioning.

el Kaiser

That Kansas game is going to set the tone for my weekend and subsequently my holiday. No pressure, Buckeyes.

I agree with them both. This is a huge statement game. What better way to start off the holiday week than with a win against an upper echelon opponent. I see the buckeyes doing just that.

Ohio State 74 – Kansas 69

Basketball Week In Review/Preview

Over the last 10 days the buckeyes have played four non-conference games against teams that have given little resistance (except for tonight – more on that later). While for the most part the games have been one-sided, they have provided an opportunity for some questions to begin to be answered. I am speaking about questions concerning the sophomore class.

Week in Review

12/08/2012: Ohio State 89 – Long Beach State 55 (5-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

LaQuinton Ross followed up a career high of 22 with another solid outing against LBSU, scoring 16 points. Ross really stood out in the two game stretch vs N. Kentucky and Long Beach State. We have been asking for a while where is his scoring punch. He is slowly settling in and providing production off the bench. Sam Thompson also dazzled with more highlight reel dunks. That is becoming something to be said about every game. Stay tuned for video evidence…

12/12/2012: Ohio State 85 – Savannah State 45 (6-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

Nothing really sticks out for this game. Another dominating performance. I have not mentioned much of the “experienced” guys in this post. I have been more interested in how the “young guys” have performed, but Deshaun and crew have been steady performers. This game was no different; Deshaun dropped 21 in the first half against Savannah State.

12/15/2012: Ohio State 90 – UNC Asheville 72 (7-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

As I watched the UNC Asheville game, I felt it was the most complete offensive performance of the season. I realize it is not against top flight competition, but there were positive takeaways. Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson stood out in this game for me. I have been really impressed Scott’s passing ability. He ended up with 9 assists on the night in 21 minutes. Sam Thompson had a break out night with a career high 18 points. As promised, Sam Thompson doing his thing to cap his stellar performance.

12/18/2012: Ohio State 65 – Winthrop 55 (8-1, 0-0 Big Ten)

OK, so multiple cliches could be attributed to this game e.g. The buckeyes were looking ahead to the big game against Kansas, The buckeyes played down to the level of competition, etc. I could go on. Who knows what the case was last night, but I am not going overreact. It was an ugly game, especially offensively. Give some credit to Winthrop and let’s move on to the next game. One positive takeaway was Amir Williams’ performance in the second half. He showed some flashes, but he is still not playing at a high level on a consistent basis. His progress is important to track as we get closer to conference play.

Week in Preview

12/22/2012 @ 4 PM (CBS) Kansas (9-1, 0-0) vs Ohio State (8-1, 0-0)

Another early top ten match-up that will be a great measuring stick. Stay tuned later in the week for an in depth preview.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff

As college basketball fans, it can be difficult to keep up with the slew of early season tournaments. Let’s face it, unless your team is involved, no one cares about them. That being said, they can provide an opportunity to get important wins that will mean something come tournament selection time in March. The basketball buckeyes are in the midst of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament. The bulk of the tournament takes place this weekend at the Mohegan Sun Area in Connecticut.

The opponents this weekend are not upper echelon teams (not even close) and it is too early to tell if potential wins will be considered quality (not looking likely) come March, but nonetheless the buckeyes will be playing two games against opponents from decent basketball conferences.

First up is Rhode Island tomorrow @ 5pm EST. The game should start at about halftime of the football game against Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the game will be shown on ESPN3 so your DVR will not be much help. Rhode Island has been picked to finish near the bottom of the A10 conference. I have no reason to believe this game will be anything but a “W” for the buckeyes. On Sunday, the buckeyes will play the winner of Washington (who just lost to Albany – yes the same team that the buckeyes smoked 82-60) and Seton Hall. Sunday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN2 @ 4:30pm EST.

These two games will be important tune-ups for impending games against Duke and Kansas. The game against Marquette would have been a great measuring stick, but Thad will have to work the hand that has been dealt.