Nightmare in Waiting?
I tend to get tired of the endless articles speculating on what may happen in an upcoming season with a particular unit, player, or scheme. I understand why different outlets do these articles; they have to fill space each day. But, when a bit of news caught my eye late last week, the wheels of speculation started to turn in my head.
So, what exactly is the news that got my mind working? Sophomore tight end Jeremy Ruckert getting some time at H-back this spring. I know what you’re thinking, “Wow Mr. Blog Writer, that sure is some earth-shattering news there!”, as you roll your eyes. Let’s keep something in mind. Ruckert is 6’5”, and up to 251 pounds now. In high school he played far more wide receiver than tight end, so the move to the slot isn’t going to be something totally foreign to him. If the offensive coaching staff can figure out ways to force defenses to cover him with a linebacker or safety, it will be a matchup nightmare for the opposition.
If you need further evidence of why this excites me, think one name: Rob Gronkowski. Now do you see why I like the idea of Ruckert playing more of a wide receiver role at times? Gronk was a matchup nightmare for most of his career. It wasn’t just his size. All tight ends are big. But, not all tight ends could run like Gronk before injuries slowed him down. He was too fast for linebackers, and too big for safeties. Ruckert isn’t quite as big as Gronkowski (an inch shorter, and about 17 pounds lighter), and his 40 time is just a shade slower. But, Ruckert will be matching up with college players, not NFL guys. He could create the same type of issues for opposing defenses that Gronk caused.
Follow along on my thinking on this. Let’s say it is 2nd and 3 for the Buckeyes, and they send Ruckert into the game to replace K.J. Hill. The opposing defensive coaches see two tight ends on the field now. If they stay in their base defense, and Ruckert lines up in in the slot, the Buckeyes now have a mismatch they can exploit by throwing because of who will be forced to cover him (a linebacker or safety). If the opposing defensive coaches substitute a cornerback for a linebacker, the Buckeyes are now in a situation where they can run the ball against a defense with five defensive backs on the field. See where I’m going with my thinking? If this experiment works out during spring practice, the mismatches created by Ruckert during the regular season will be a nightmare for Buckeye opponents to deal with.
All of this is just conjecture on my part. Off-season musings of a guy who has a 30-minute trip to and from work each day. Co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said they are trying to figure out ways to get more than two tight ends on the field at once, and this is one of the ways they are looking at. K.J. Hill is a play maker, so I don’t see Ruckert lining up in the slot all that much. But, I really don’t think I’m off-base with him being able to create mismatches in the same mold as Gronkowski.
Oh Happy Day
When he met with the media after Monday’s practice, Buckeye head coach Ryan Day said he’s happy with his team so far in spring practice. In turn, that makes me happy to hear him say that. When you have a coaching change, lots of new assistants, and are replacing a good deal of starters you want to hear the head coach say progress is being made in spring practice.
One of the more encouraging things Day spoke of is the development of Justin Fields. The sophomore transfer had his black stripe removed recently, and Day said he is able to run the offense after just a few practices, “He’s only been in the offense here for eight or nine practices. He has picked it up very quickly.” Day went on to say Fields has a good understanding of what it takes to be a good quarterback when it comes to preparation. These are the things you want to hear from the head coach about your new quarterback. I’ve said it before, and I can not stress it enough how important it is for your quarterback to understand how the offense works, and be a good decision maker. Fields appears to be doing both quite well.
Another area we’re all concerned with is the defense. Day said he’s pleased with the installation process of the new schemes, and the unit is about where they thought they’d be. Making correct calls, communicating, and building confidence are areas of focus. Offensively he said they’ve been explosive, but need to me more consistent. Day isn’t worried because he said it takes time with so many new players at positions. He said the run game is similar to what we’ve seen, but passing is different because of the spacing, and how everything fits together.
Day said they’re still looking to see who will step forward, and be team leaders. He also said he thought the team’s great players were great at times last year, but the feeling right now is, “Who will take that next step as we go through spring and into the preseason.”
Offensive tackle Nicholas Petite-Frere is on an 8,000 calorie per day diet. You read that correctly. 8,000 calories PER DAY. He was only 268 pounds when he arrived on campus in August as the nation’s top-rated offensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class, and he lost weight during fall practices. Coaches and teammates alike were after him to eat all the time. He’s now at 295 pounds, and competing for a starting job on the right side.
Redshirt senior Jashon Cornell has moved inside to defensive tackle, and is loving it. He spent last year at end because the team needed depth. But, he and position coach Larry Johnson mutually agreed a move inside would be beneficial to Cornell. He’s competing with Haskell Garrett and Taron Vincent for time at the 3-technique spot vacated by Dre’Mont Jones. Cornell had a sack, and two tackles for loss last season.
Last month I mentioned how five-star center recruit Harry Miller is able to have classroom-like sessions online with offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. Rutgers transfer Jonah Jackson is also benefitting from these sessions. Right now the Buckeyes have just ten healthy lineman going through spring practice, so those two will be needed in a hurry once fall practice begins. The more they understand about the offense when camp begins, the faster they’ll be able to contribute. Jackson is expected to battle either Gavin Cupp at left guard or Josh Myers at center for a starting spot. Cupp is having an excellent spring, and is making the most of his chance to impress the coaching staff.
J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones caused a stir recently when they were photographed with their former position coach, Tim Beck, while wearing Texas Longhorns hoodies; Beck is now on the staff there. C’mon folks. Really? I’m sorry, but this is nothing to get upset over. The two former Buckeye quarterbacks were simply supporting their former coach. Let’s all calm down.
The OSU Spring Game is next Saturday (the 13th). It will be carried live at noon on the Big Ten Network.
Former Buckeye defensive lineman Michael Hill was arrested in Wood County, West Virginia (Parkersburg area) over the weekend. He was charged with possession of meth with intent to distribute. Hill started all 13 games in 2016, but was suspended for the first six games of 2017.
Have you heard the latest March Madness controversy? This is a biggie, folks. The NCAA is mad because players keep taking the rugs with the NCAA logo from the locker rooms as a memento from the tournament. Wow. They make a bazillion and seven dollars from this tournament, but are worried about a rug that probably costs them about ten bucks.
Well, the AAF was nice while it lasted. Unfortunately it lasted just eight weeks. Why did the league cease operations? That’s a good question, and there doesn’t appear to be a straight answer. Here is the best I can give for right now. Tom Dundon, who owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, and pumped a ton of money into the league after the first week when it looked like the players wouldn’t get paid, wants it shut down. Last week he claimed the league couldn’t survive as a developmental league without the NFLPA allowing practice squad players to participate. The NFLPA was hesitant, and had a lot of questions, but according to CBS Sports, talks between the two were going well. According to other reports, many in the front offices of the various teams have no idea what is going on. It seems like the only one who knows what’s going on is Dundon, and he isn’t saying anything. When you come right down to it, the people who originally ran the league gave Dundon too much authority when he invested all of that money. This is his call, and his alone. From what I’ve seen there is a small chance the league could return next year, but I really don’t expect to see them again.
Former Buckeyes Jalin Marshall, Tracy Sprinkle, Doran Grant, Chase Farris, and Marcus Baugh are all out of jobs, and will look to sign with an NFL team. I think there is a good chance you’ll see four of the five on opening day NFL rosters this season (I think Farris could catch on as a practice squad player). It was fun being able to watch these guys play again, and see them improve each week. Baugh and Sprinkle showed as much improvement as any player in the league from week one to week eight.
The XFL begins again next spring. This time no gimmicks, or WWE garbage mixed in. But, I hope they take a look at implementing some of the rules the AAF utilized. They were popular with fans, and actually worked.
If Only They Were All Like This
I’ve made it clear I think college basketball is a poorly officiated three-point shooting contest. I haven’t really watched much of the NCAA basketball tournament since 2011 when the officials allowed Kentucky to bludgeon J.J. Sullinger, called the Buckeyes for blocking fouls numerous times in the final five minutes, and then swallowed their whistles when a Wildcat player flattened a Buckeye defender, who was OBVIOUSLY stationary before the Kentucky player left his feet, on his way to scoring a key bucket in the final minute. The Buckeyes lost by two. That was it for me. I’ve barely watched since.
But, every now and then a game catches my attention. Texas Tech and Gonzaga last Saturday did just that. Why? It’s very simple. Both teams continually pushed the ball up the floor, and attacked the basket. None of this stand around the three-point arc, and bomb away. Those two teams actually drove to the hoop every chance they got, and it was glorious to watch. The officiating? They got out of the way, let the teams play, and most importantly they were consistent with their calls. When the game is played this way, it is fun to watch.
Because of the shot clock I know three-pointers give teams with less talent a chance to compete against a more talented opponent, but the game was better without it. Sorry, but watching teams run a half court offense, and continually shoot from long range is boring. Don’t believe me? If you’re able, go back and watch the Trotwood-Madison vs. Columbus South Division II state final. These two teams continually pushed the ball up the floor, and attacked the basket. Then watch one of the other games where both teams used half court offenses, and shot a bunch of three’s. When you’re finished, tell me which was more fun to watch.
I discovered Sirius/XM radio has a Big Ten channel. I’ll be listening often in the fall. The satellite radio provider is also great for introducing you to music you may not have heard before. Light On by Maggie Rogers, Smith & Thell’s Forgive Me Friend, and Harmony Hall by Vampire Weekend are a few I’ve been introduced to lately that I’m really enjoying. Speaking of enjoying, enjoy your weekend everyone.