Any 2015 Buckeyes Going To Be 2016 Browns?

Growing up in the Cleveland area, I have memories of the Cleveland Browns that are quite vivid. I will passionately argue that The Fumble hurt far more than The Drive. I remember being so disgusted when the Browns traded Chip Banks and drafted Mike Junkin. And I proudly wear and own a Brian Sipe jersey, having been in the stands for Sipe’s last game as a Brown versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1983, before Sipe jumped to the USFL.

The heartaches and frustrations of the Cleveland Browns fanbase are too many to write; it is painful enough that I remember them. One of the most puzzling decisions the Browns have made since their NFL return in 1999 has been to continually ignore and neglect selecting players from Ohio State.

Yes, I know that the Browns have former Buckeyes Brian Hartline and Terrelle Pryor on the roster. Former Buckeye Simon Fraser played for the Browns as an undrafted free agent from 2005-2007. And I also remember that the Browns drafted former Buckeyes Darnell Sanders in 2002 and Brian Robiskie in 2009. But that’s it – 2 players on the current roster, with a grand total of 5 Buckeyes from 1999 through 2015.

Compare and contrast that with the Pittsburgh Steelers. From 2001, when the Steelers selected Rodney Bailey in the sixth round, the Steelers have picked a total of 8 Buckeyes. The most recent selection was in the 2015 NFL Draft, when Pittsburgh picked Doran Grant in the 4th round. Mike Adams, Doran Grant, Cameron Heyward, and Ryan Shazier are all on the Steelers roster – considering Grant grew up in Akron, and the Browns have a need at cornerback, wouldn’t it be nice to see Grant playing for Cleveland instead of Pittsburgh?

Back to my point. With so many talented Buckeyes in the 2016 NFL Draft, could the Browns wise up and improve their roster with some Buckeyes?

I will quickly add that I do not believe all of the Buckeyes would make sense for the Browns. For example, while Joey Bosa should be a tremendous pro, the Browns are running a 3-4 defense, which would transition Bosa from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. I am not sure if that would be in Bosa’s best interests as a pro. Besides, I do not believe Bosa will even be on the board for the Browns to pick.

Could Vonn Bell be in the Browns’ draft plans?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Browns selected Michael Thomas in the second round? How about Nick Vannett in the third round? On day 3 of the draft, picking Jalin Marshall late in the sixth or seventh round? Chase Farris? Tyvis Powell?

Hue Jackson is the latest Cleveland Browns head coach to try and turn around this once proud franchise. A good place to start is to add players from about two and half hours south on I-71.

A Look Back At The 2011 Recruiting Class (Part One)

“Sometimes the lights all shinin on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip its been.”
~ “Truckin”, The Grateful Dead

While highly doubtful that members of the 2011 recruiting class were/are avid fans of The Grateful Dead, I would surmise that the players who signed with Ohio State on February 2, 2011, would not disagree with the lyrics up above as they would reflect upon their experiences and careers at Ohio State. Think about it this way – the players signed at Ohio State to play for Jim Tressel, who was only weeks away from the NCAA violations that would result in his resignation as Ohio State’s head coach. Luke Fickell would serve as the head coach during their freshman season in 2011, only to be replaced by Urban Meyer on November 28, 2011. Three head coaches, in less than one calendar year.

The twenty-three players of the 2011 recruiting class who would eventually spend time as Buckeyes have all had varying levels of successes and challenges, as all recruiting classes do. For years, I have reviewed Ohio State’s recruiting classes, and I have always subscribed to the “Rule Of Thirds”.

“The Rule Of Thirds” is pretty simple – within any class, there will be approximately a third who will develop into starters as the coaching staff hoped and recruited, a third will be contributors in some fashion, and a third will not work out, leaving due to transfer, injuries, or possibly disciplinary reasons.

Using this very unscientific approach to a very inexact recruiting process, how did Ohio State’s Class of 2011 stack up with “The Rule Of Thirds”? Let’s see how it all turned out…

I. The Starters (39%)

1. Michael Bennett, DL: Bennett committed to Ohio State on 05/16/2010, and was rated a four-star recruit by 247sports.com, rivals.com, and scout.com. Projected as a possible first round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Bennett has realized his recruiting accolades as a three year varsity letterman. Bennett is also in line for a captain position this coming season for the Buckeyes.

2. Curtis Grant, LB: Grant signed with Ohio State on Signing Day in 2011, ranking as the highest-rated incoming recruit in the 2011 class. While rated a five-star recruit, it could be argued that Grant’s biggest play as a Buckeye took place as a freshman versus Wisconsin in 2011, when Grant recovered a blocked punt by classmate Ryan Shazier in a 33-29 Buckeye victory. Grant will be pushed by incoming freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan for the starting middle linebacker position this season.

3. Doran Grant, CB: Grant earned playing time as a backup in 2011 and 2012, emerging as a starter in 2013. The biggest play made by Grant in 2013 took place as Ohio State was trailing Northwestern in the fourth quarter, and Grant intercepted a pass that helped spark the Buckeyes to eventual victory. Coach Meyer has high expectations for Grant as he heads into his senior season to emerge as one of the best defensive backs in The Big Ten.

4. Bryce Haynes, LS: A late commitment to the 2011 recruiting class (01/28/2011), Haynes was viewed as somewhat of a surprise scholarship offer as a long-snapper. Redshirted in 2011, Haynes lettered in both 2012 and 2013. Haynes will have an additional year of eligibility for the 2015 season.

5. Jeff Heuerman, TE: Heuerman is a probable captain for his final season of eligibility in 2014. While only catching one pass in 2011, Heuerman’s importance and role has expanded in 2012 and 2013. Heuerman has been described by Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti as “the the “ringleader of what we want in terms of work ethic”.

6. Braxton Miller, QB: Arguably the most important player on the team, Miller’s role has exponentially grown since he arrived in 2011. Originally intending to back-up Terrelle Pryor in 2011, Miller was thrust into the starting role as a true freshman. With the arrival of Coach Meyer, Miller has emerged as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in 2014, and should be a captain again for the Buckeyes, having served in that role in 2013.

7. Ryan Shazier, LB: A later commitment to the recruiting class (12/17/2010), Shazier originally intended to sign with Florida to play for Coach Meyer. When Coach Meyer resigned his position, Ohio State was fortunate to land Shazier. While Shazier only played three seasons, Shazier was arguably the most dominant defensive player for the Buckeyes from 2011-2013. Shazier left Ohio State for the NFL after the 2013 season, being selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

8. Devin Smith, WR: Smith lettered 2011-2013, often delivering clutch plays for the Buckeyes at the most crucial moments. Of these clutch plays, none will loom larger than catching the desperation pass by classmate Braxton Miller versus Wisconsin that allowed Ohio State to defeat the Badgers, 33-29. Smith is a dependable deep threat for the Buckeyes, but it remains to be seen if Smith can develop his receiving skills beyond this area in his final season of eligibility.

9. Evan Spencer, WR: Lauded by the coaching staff for his prowess as a blocker, Spencer enters his final season of eligibility. While not a burner, Spencer is a dependable and reliable possession receiver for the Buckeyes. Spencer’s most memorable reception took place in his first game versus Akron in 2011, with a one-handed reception from classmate Braxton Miller.

While these players above have emerged as starters for Ohio State, part two of this series will review the players from the class who have either become occasional contributors for Ohio State, or departed the program altogether.

2014 OSU Spring Football – Questions To Answer (Part 2)

Part one of this series dealt with questions and challenges that I perceive as important, but lower priority, for Ohio State to address this spring. On any college football team, there will always be issues with players unhappy about playing time. Any coach will want to see more production from any position group. Below are the top five pressing issues, as I see them, for Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer to focus upon between March 4th and the date of the April 12th Ohio State Spring Game.

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5. Placekicker – While Coach Meyer is always wanting touchdowns from his offense, it is sometimes required to have a placekicker on the roster who can come through with a clutch field goal at the end of the game. Reliable Drew Basil has exhausted his eligibility, opening the door for true freshman Sean Nuernberger to claim the position. Nuernberger enrolled early at Ohio State, allowing him the opportunity to seize the job this spring. Competition for the placekicker position may come from Kyle Clinton, a walk-on who saw game action during the 2012 season. This position could rise in importance by the conclusion of spring games, based upon Nuernberger’s performance this spring.

4. Backup Quarterback – Senior quarterback Braxton Miller made the decision to come back to Ohio State for his fourth and final year of eligibility, pleasing Ohio State coaches and fans alike. With Miller’s recent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, Ohio State will use the spring practices to determine who the primary backup quarterback is to Miller – Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, or newly-signed Stephen Collier.

Based upon Ohio State Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Tom Herman’s comments, Jones will begin spring practice as the primary backup…

Jones played sparingly in 2013, appearing in three games. Most of Jones’ game appearances were as a result of both Miller and departing backup Kenny Guiton having Ohio State in front by a considerable margin; Jones usually would hand the ball off, or run himself. Throwing only three passes, it would be fair to say that Jones will certainly be given more opportunities as a passer this spring.

Barrett was the primary quarterback recruit targeted by Coach Herman for the 2013 recruiting class. Barrett redshirted in 2013, using the time to recover from a serious knee injury that wiped out most of Barrett’s senior high school season. Barrett’s leadership qualities have been raved about by the Ohio State coaching staff; will these qualities allow him to leapfrog Jones for the backup spot by the end of spring practice?

Lastly, Stephen Collier. The wild card of this group, Collier enrolled early and will participate in spring drills. Described by Coach Meyer as a “development guy”, Collier will battle for the backup position, but it would be highly surprising if Collier could overtake both Jones and Barrett for the primary backup quarterback spot.

Yes, Braxton Miller will/should be under center, when the season begins on the road at Navy on August 30th. As Ohio State fans have witnessed over the past two seasons, having a dependable backup quarterback behind Miller has often made all of the difference between winning and losing. This battle could also have repercussions for the 2015 season, after Miller has left Ohio State.

3. Linebacker – On National Letter Of Intent Day for 2014, Coach Meyer stated, “That’s far too many mistakes have been made in either lack of development or whatever and it’s just not where we need to be” in reference to the Ohio State linebackers. When that statement was made, this is how I interpreted it, along with many others…

Compounding the challenges for this position group are the losses of Ryan Shazier (to the NFL) and Mike Mitchell (transfer). With Curtis Grant and Josh Perry returning, Trey Johnson would seem likely to have an opportunity to claim Shazier’s starting spot. Based upon Grant’s concussion history, as well as Perry’s injuries, it is not improbable that Ohio State will have a completely overhauled linebacker corps for the season opener against Navy on August 30th. The biggest name for fans to be focused upon this spring? Incoming freshman Raekwon McMillan, who enrolled early. Others in the mix may be walk-on Joe Burger, Camren Williams, and redshirt freshman Darron Lee.

2. Defensive Back – After being torched through the air by Michigan State in The B1G Championship Game, then by Clemson in The 2014 Orange Bowl, changes were necessary for the Buckeyes across the board, both in coaching and in personnel. Coaching changes bring new Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach Chris Ash, to replace Everett Withers, who left for the head coaching position at James Madison. Kerry Coombs remains on staff, but Ohio State fans believe Coach Ash will be in charge of rebuilding the Ohio State secondary. From National Letter Of Intent Day 2014, Coach Meyer stated on Ash, “And then Chris Ash is charged with he’s got a serious responsibility. That’s to improve our pass defense. He’ll be in charge of the entire back end of our defense. He’s going to coach safety. He’s going to continue to coach corners. However we’re going to have one voice back there, it’s his responsibility to improve our pass defense… And obviously it’s more than just a secondary. It’s linebackers and everything. But you’re going to see some significant changes in the way we approach our business back there.”.

Personnel changes are needed not only due to poor performance, but also for players who have exhausted their eligibility, such as Bradley Roby (NFL Draft early departure), C.J. Barnett, Christian Bryant, and Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown. Doran Grant is the only returning starter, and after the 2013 season by the defensive backfield, Grant may not have a lock on a starting position. Armani Reeves, Eli Apple, Cam Burrows, Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell, Gareon Conley, Christopher Worley, Jayme Thompson, and Ron Tanner will all be battling for starting positions and the prestige of their new position coach this spring.

1. Offensive Line – This was a close call, between the revamped secondary or the offensive line, for the most important area of concern for Ohio State to work upon this spring. While the secondary loses three starters, the offensive line loses four starters, plus flips starting right tackle Taylor Decker to the left side. Ohio State did very well with its recruiting class for offensive linemen, securing five players; two freshmen, Marcelys Jones and Kyle Trout, have already enrolled and will participate in spring practice.

If Decker can switch over from right tackle to left tackle with minimal issues, that will be very reassuring for the Ohio State coaching staff and fans. Jacoby Boren seems likely to have the inside track to the center position, as Boren filled in admirably for departing senior Corey Linsley. Likewise, Pat Elflein would seem to have a shot at the right guard position, after filling in for departing senior Marcus Hall. “Darryl Baldwin is penciled in at right tackle”, based on Coach Meyer’s comments from National Letter Of Intent Day 2014. Keeping my eyes and ears open for news about the performance of the offensive line will be paramount this spring, as this unit will largely determine the strength or the challenges of Ohio State’s offense for the 2014 season.

As always, looking forward to all of your commentary and critiques. Most of all, I am just happy to have football to focus upon, even if it is just from March 4th through April 12th.

Heading Into 2014, Ohio State Has Every Reason To Be Defensive

Congratulations to the Clemson Tigers for their 40-35 victory over Ohio State in the 2014 Orange Bowl. Clemson’s offensive performance, as well as physical defensive play, were the difference.

Before heading into the gist of this article, I believe @TomOrr4 summarized my feelings on the 2013 Ohio State season very well…

Another excellent thought from @Kirk_Barton. Barton not only was a standout for Ohio State along the offensive line, but may have a future in prognostication…

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As Mr. Barton pointed out, the sun did come out this morning. Living in northeastern Ohio, especially during the winter months, that is not necessarily something I take for granted. With the benefit of a decent night’s sleep (yes, I did toss and turn over this game, but I eventually fell asleep), a good breakfast, coffee nearby, a sunny morning, and some hindsight, here are some thoughts for Ohio State fans to contemplate heading into the 2014 season…

The Defense Will Be, And Must Be, The Focus All Offseason ~ The “#FireFickell” chants have grown from a steady murmur to an incessant shout. Regardless of Luke Fickell being on Ohio State’s coaching staff in 2014, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer realizes the Ohio State defense has been the weak spot of his tenure. Changing coaches and/or coordinators may soothe the feelings of angry fans, but the root symptoms are much deeper.

With a deep defensive line heading into 2014, has Ohio State truly embraced the concept of rotating multiple defensive linemen throughout the game? Highly-touted players fill the roster, and others are on the way with the next recruiting class. The Orange Bowl performance of redshirt freshman Jamal Marcus is a clear example of someone deserving of playing time. Can Ohio State Defensive Line Coach Mike Vrabel come up with a rotation that will keep all the players fresh and opposing offenses uneasy?

The linebacker corps has been a weak spot since Coach Meyer was hired in November 2011. Transfers, career-ending injuries, and graduations have depleted a position area that is arguably the proudest in Ohio State’s football history. Ryan Shazier has contemplated an early departure to the NFL; this area could only be weakened by such a move. The inexperience of this group will be concerning heading into 2014, especially with an opening game at Navy and a vaunted triple option attack that is difficult to simulate and prepare for in summer camp.

Lastly, the secondary. Bradley Roby departs for the NFL, and Ohio State fans may not necessarily believe that is a bad thing, based on tweets that were sent and seen throughout the evening.

Armani Reeves and Doran Grant return, but other defensive backs on the roster need to step up in preparation for the 2014 season. Vonn Bell played well after a rocky start in the Orange Bowl, and Tyvis Powell also returns.

The key to the secondary will be improvement all across the board – coverage, turning for the ball, tackling. Every area is room for improvement. As Everett Withers leaves Ohio State for James Madison’s head coaching position, a new coach can come into this position group and make an immediate impact.

All across the defense, fundamental improvement is necessary. Tackling drills, taking proper angles to the ball carrier, etc. – all should be covered extensively and exhaustively heading into spring drills and summer camp.

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My Dad used to say that anyone can be a fan when a team is winning. Being a true fan means wearing the team’s stuff after a tough loss, when things are not so easy. As Mr. Barton stated, the sun did come out, and I have Ohio State garb on today, as I write this post.

24-2 over the last two seasons, yet it feels lacking, a la 1995. Wear Ohio State garb proudly today. Prepare for a strong finish to the incoming recruiting class over the next few weeks, and anticipate Ohio State being very defensive heading into the 2014 season.

2013 Ohio State @ Purdue: Exercise, & Exorcism, Are Buckeye Goals

Congratulations to Ohio State on winning its twentieth straight game, against a well-coached Penn State team, 63-14. I believed Ohio State would win, but I certainly did not expect such a dominating victory. For a team in need of an impressive victory in the eyes of the voters, Ohio State delivered with a strong statement to the national television audience. On a side note – as someone who watched with complete dismay in 1994 as Penn State dismantled Ohio State 63-14, I found this to be deliciously delayed payback, as Ohio State put 63 points on Penn State.

Up next for Ohio State? A trip to West Lafayette, Indiana, and a 12pm EST kickoff against the Purdue Boilermakers, televised by Big Ten Network. While a casual Ohio State fan may look at Purdue and chalk this game up as an easy win, it will not take long for Coach Urban Meyer to get the Buckeyes focused upon what lies ahead.

Ohio State fans certainly can recall how the Buckeyes have lost the last two trips to West Lafayette, in 2011 and in 2009. As a matter of fact, Ohio State lost at Purdue in 2004, as the Troy Smith era was just beginning, and who can forget how Ohio State pulled out this victory in 2002 to keep its national championship dreams alive?

To put it in perspective, Ohio State’s last victory at Purdue was this 23-7 victory in 2007. I am guessing Coach Meyer and the coaching staff will gladly take a comparable victory over Purdue.

Considering Halloween takes place a few days before, and how Ohio State has struggled in West Lafayette over the past several visits, an exorcism might be on the Ohio State coaching wish list. Other items I will be watching?

Can Ohio State Come Out Strong Two Weeks In A Row? – Ohio State attacked Penn State at the onset of the game, taking a 28-0 lead before Penn State even knew what hit them. Conversely, Ohio State struggled out of the game against Iowa the week before. Can Ohio State maintain its aggressive style of play at Purdue?

Play The Backups Considerably – Holding a dominant lead in the third quarter allowed Coach Meyer and the coaching staff to play backups such as Kenny Guiton, Jordan Hall, and Ezekiel Elliott. Above all else, I would hope to see the backup offensive line play the entire second half, if possible. In 2014, Ohio State loses four starters along the offensive line; the Purdue game could be an excellent opportunity to get these players valuable game-time experience.

Rest The Starters For The Stretch Run – Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, Devin Smith, Noah Spence, Ryan Shazier, etc., are all playing well. Once and if a commanding lead has been established, I am hoping the coaching staff gets the starters out of the game. Not only am I concerned about getting the backups valuable game-time experience, I want to see the starters fresh for the remaining games @ Illinois, Indiana, and @ That Team Up North. Avoiding injuries are key this time of the season, as Ohio State gears up for the final conference contests.

Ohio State has won twenty straight games. To win twenty-one, exercising its starters and backups may allow the Ohio State coaching staff to exorcise the demons of games past at Purdue.