Say It Ain't So, Joe
This week’s This and That: decision time for a not-so-average Joe, Urbz gets real with things, finally doing what’s right, the Buckeye family loses another.
Burrow To Transfer
After months of endless speculation, quarterback Joe Burrow has announced his intention to transfer. The talk of him leaving the OSU program began almost as soon as the Michigan Stadium scoreboard clock hit 0:00 as Dwayne Haskins’ led the Buckeyes to a come-from-behind win over the Wolverines. Burrow said he wanted to stay, but he, also, made it clear he wants to play. He, along with Haskins and Tate Martell, was involved in a three-way battle for the starting quarterback job throughout spring practice. It appeared Burrow and Haskins ended the fifteen practice sessions and spring game in a virtual dead heat. Since then, Urban Meyer and his offensive staff have been going over their performances with a high-powered microscope trying to figure out which is best suited to run the offense. Although Meyer has not officially named Haskins the starter, my guess is he’s either had conversations with Burrow or he’s privately sent clear signals of his intentions. Because Burrow graduated over the weekend, he is considered a graduate transfer and will be able to play immediately; he has two years of eligibility remaining.
Burrow has not said just where he will be transferring, but he is without question the hottest transfer commodity in college football. Cincinnati is an obvious place. His dad is the defensive coordinator there and the younger Burrow has a relationship Bearcat head coach Luke Fickell, who was a longtime Buckeye assistant. A lot of noise has been made about new Nebraska head coach Scott Frost coveting Burrow. It’s no secret the Huskers are very happy with a true freshman, who looked very good in spring practice, but I think they’d still love to have a guy with Burrow’s experience. The Florida Gators most certainly need quarterback help, but if I have to pick, it would be Texas. Not only did head coach Tom Herman recruit Burrow to Ohio State, but offensive coordinator Tim Beck did as well (yes, I cringe at that name also). I like Joe Burrow and hope he takes his time picking the right situation for him.
UPDATE****-According to Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, Cincinnati and LSU have been granted permission to talk to Burrow.
While I’m disappointed to see Burrow leave Ohio State, I do think it makes a potentially sticky
situation better. Haskins (or Martell) will be able to play relaxed and not be looking over their shoulder every time they make a mistake. Fans will not be screaming for the starter to be replaced, if he has a bad game. What I don’t like is the Buckeyes now have only three scholarship quarterbacks, and one of those is early enrollee Matthew Baldwin, who missed spring practice rehabbing a knee injury. I don’t see Meyer adding a quarterback just to have another scholarship quarterback on the roster. The Buckeyes now sit at 86 scholarships; that’s one over the NCAA limit. They recently awarded popular receiver C.J. Saunders a scholarship for his senior season.
Tackling Real Life
When he was coaching at the University of Florida, Urban Meyer came under heavy criticism for the off the field issues of too many of his players. Since arriving in Columbus, Meyer's Buckeyes have had about one tenth the problems as the Gators did during his time there. Part of this is because he is recruiting low risk players from better backgrounds. But, Meyer has, also, become very conscience of the mental health of his players and other off-field issues. A recent article by Bruce Feldman in Sports Illustrated details this; I highly recommend taking the time to read it.
Feldman details the things which keep Meyer awake at night and the emergence of "Real Life Wednesdays" as one of the most important components of the Ohio State program. Opiod use, sexual assault and the aforementioned mental health of his players are a few of the things Meyer and his staff have become very conscious in monitoring.
This is one of the more eye-opening articles I've seen in a long time. Do yourself a favor and read it.
Doing The Right Thing
The NCAA has ruled quarterback Shea Patterson is eligible to play for Michigan this year after granting his request to not have to sit out the year as transfers normally do. The Toledo native (yeah, some of those people up there, much like many on the Ohio-side of the river where I live, have a hard time figuring out which state they live in) decided to transfer from Mississippi, after the Rebel program was sanctioned by the NCAA. He threw for over 3,100 yards in 2017 before a knee injury ended his season after ten games. The NCAA, for once, actually did the right thing. Usually investigations are for violations, which happened before a school's current players ever joined the program. Not allowing these kids to transfer and play immediately is wrong because they should not have to suffer for the wrongdoings of others.
As expected, Wolverine fans and "experts" immediately declared the team a national championship contender with the addition of Patterson. He does give them what many feel the program has been missing; a highly efficient quarterback. But, let's keep in mind this team was 8-5 last season and was hardly one player away. The Wolverines are good on defense and Patterson will make Harbaugh's offense better, but let's not get carried away. Since Jimmy Wolverine arrived, we've seen the hype time and again. Notre Dame, Wisconsin, a quietly good Northwestern team and an improved Nebraska are on the schedule, in addition to Big Ten East rivals Michigan State, Penn State and the Buckeyes. Dealing with Wisconsin and Michigan State in consecutive weeks will not be easy considering what a thorn in the side Sparty has been to their in-state rivals in recent years. So, let's not get carried away with thoughts of 12-0 or even a 10-2. Even with a much improved quarterback, I still think it will be the usual 3-4 losses for Harbaugh.
Doing The Right Thing Part II
The NCAA has implemented a new rule in hopes of reducing the amount of injuries which occur on kickoffs. Beginning with the upcoming 2018 season, if a receiving team player signals for a fair catch inside the 25-yard line, the ball will be placed at the 25. Kickoffs make up only a small amount of plays in any given game, but the amount of injuries which occur are staggering. Even more staggering is the statistic, from one study, which shows 33% of injuries on kickoffs are considered severe.
Players have gotten bigger, stronger and, most of all, faster. When you have ten crazy people (most kickers are trying to not get themselves flattened) running downfield as fast as they can to deliver a big hit and impress their coaches, bad things can happen and do. How do most underclassmen earn their way into regular playing time for Urban Meyer? Play well on special teams is how they do it. So, as much as I enjoy seeing those true and redshirt freshman try to make a name for themselves, I do agree it is time to do something. Making the game more safe is a good thing. We'll all get used to this new rule and, eventually, we'll get used to kickoffs going away altogether. Trust me, it's coming. After a few years of this rule, the NCAA will take a look at data and see guys are still getting hurt, and there will be another change.
Another Sad Loss
On the heels of the passing of legendary head coach Earle Bruce, the Buckeye football family lost another recently with the passing of Jeff Ellis. The former tight end lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 50. Ellis played for the Buckeyes from 1987 through '91; he caught 70 passes for 863 yards and five touchdowns. After a 40-catch season in 1988, he would suffer a knee injury early in the '89 season and was never the same. Jeff is the son of former boxer Jimmy Ellis, who held the WBA heavyweight championship from April of 1968 until February of 1970 when he was defeated by Joe Frazier.
Please assign someone the job of keeping sharp objects away from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman; I’m sure he’s a little sad right now. Enjoy the nice weather. Spring has finally arrived in the Great State of Ohio.