Saints Bounty Program Anthony Hargrove Denies Its His Voice

Former New Orleans defensive end Anthony Hargrove says it’s not his voice saying ”Give me the money” in a video used by the NFL as evidence in its investigation of the Saints’ bounty program.A day after Hargrove and three of his ex-teammates made appeals of their suspensions at NFL headquarters, he returned to the sidewalk outside the league offices Tuesday for an informal news conference. As curious passers-by huddled around, Hargrove read a 13-minute statement, making references to Bill Clinton and the Mona Lisa and often sounding like a colorful defense attorney giving a closing argument.”I’ve never offered nor received money to intentionally hurt a player,” Hargrove said.This week, the NFL showed reporters a clip from the 2010 NFC championship game in which Hargrove purportedly made the ”money” comment about injuring then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. Hargrove insisted it was someone else uttering those words, though he said he didn’t know who.Hargrove was flagged and subsequently fined $5,000 for a flagrant hit on Favre, who returned to the game.”This happens,” Hargrove said, looking into the TV cameras. ”Brett, I’m truly sorry.”Hargrove, now with Green Bay, has been suspended for eight games.NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: ”We stand by the findings of our investigation.”On Monday, Hargrove, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Jonathan Vilma attended appeals hearings with Commissioner Roger Goodell. After the sessions, the NFL presented the same evidence it showed the players to reporters. The Hargrove clip was part of that. read more

Read More →

Beside The Points For Thursday Oct 5 2017

All newsletters We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆  Join the squad. Subscribe See more MLB predictions See more NFL predictions Things That Caught My EyeUnpatriotic defenseThe Patriots offense has been great, as usual, but their defense is on pace to be the worst NFL defense since 2006. Looking at expected points added (EPA) per game, the Patriots have been coughing up 12.2 points per game and allowing an average 116.5 passer rating. [FiveThirtyEight]Lynx v. Sparks, Part II: Revenge of the LynxPrior to Wednesday, both the Lynx and Sparks scored exactly 908 points in their past 12 games — going back to the start of last year’s finals. The Lynx had won five and the Sparks seven, including last year’s title. But Minnesota won the latest round of this intense rivalry with a 85-76 victory over Los Angeles to win the Game 5 championship of the WNBA finals and seal their fourth title in seven years. [ESPN]Hockey has started!Dom Luszczyszyn over at The Athletic ran a massive fan poll to determine what NHL fans thought about the forthcoming season. Based on the wisdom of the crowds, Pittsburgh’s favored by 16 percent of respondents to repeat, followed by the Nashville Predators (11 percent chance to win), Washington Capitals (10 percent) and Tampa Bay Lightning (10 percent). [The Athletic]Dak could use a raiseCowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who is still on his rookie contract, is making $540,000 in 2017. For prospective, Matthew Stafford of the Lions makes Dak’s entire salary in 10 game minutes, Mike Glennon of the Bears’ bench made it in 32 minutes of game, and Jay Cutler of Miami took only about 52 minutes of game time to make Dakbucks. [ESPN]Bring your child to work day gets a little too real in CalgaryJaromir Jagr, the 45-year-old who’s the second all-time point scorer in NHL history, signed a one-year contract with the Calgary Flames for $1 million and another million in bonuses. Jagr will be playing alongside the son of a player he was drafted alongside in 1990, and 10 team members were not born when Jagr won the Stanley Cup in 1991. [SportsNet Canada]Cleveland has hope again, ughThe MLB postseason is underway, with the Yankees defeating the Twins and the Diamondbacks defeating the Rockies in the wild card games. Cleveland is most favored to win the World Series — we give them a 26 percent chance of doing so — followed by the Dodgers, Astros and Nationals. [FiveThirtyEight]Big Number6 NBA ChimerasOnly six teams in the past 25 seasons have had three players with at least 25 percent usage over the course of the season: the 2016-17 Warriors, 2016-17 Cavaliers, 2008-09 Mavericks, 2007-08 Spurs, 2001-02 Bucks and 1999-2000 Bucks. This year between Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the Minnesota Timberwolves may very well join that club. [FiveThirtyEight]Leaks from Slackwalt:Want that 400 word Post about my Jets Browns bet for Friday? Can file tomorrowgfoster:Yeah for sure. Does the Jets being half decent screw it up? I guess not…walt:Nahwalt:They’re also half not decentPredictions MLB Oh, and don’t forgetWatch the most delightful man in New York — with correct feelings about the Eagles — crush it at Jeopardy NFL read more

Read More →

The Falcons Are In Trouble But The Saints Might Be Back

TEN68TEN74TEN 12, CLE 9+1.2– NE68NE60ATL 7, NE 23-8.8– RKTEAMSEASONPOINTS PER GAMESEASONPOINTS PER GAMEDIFF.YEAR 2 RECORD The Falcons’ offensive decline is on track to be historicLargest changes in points per game between seasons, since 1970 * Through first six gamesSource: ESPN STATS & INFO IND55JAX58JAX 27, IND 0+10.8– ARI53LAR55ARI 0, LAR 33+5.1– PHI69PHI69WSH 24, PHI 34-2.9– 2Buffalo197530.0197617.5-12.52-12 According to ESPN Stats & Info, only one team has suffered a worse offensive drop-off — another version of the Falcons, back in 1973 — and only two other teams have undergone a similar decline in offensive potency in the past 40 years: the 2015 Dallas Cowboys and the 2011 Indianapolis Colts, both of which scored a dozen fewer points per game than they had the year prior. Those two teams had something in common: The Colts (2-14) lost franchise quarterback Peyton Manning for the entire year when he was forced to have (another) neck surgery prior to the start of season. Likewise, the 2015 Cowboys (4-12) suffered their worst season since 1989, mostly due to multiple severe injuries to their signal caller, Tony Romo, who started just four games. But while those teams spent the majority of the year toiling under the likes of Curtis Painter and Brandon Weeden, the Falcons have no such excuse. (It should be noted that the 2011 Colts would earn the right to draft Andrew Luck No.1, while the poor showing of the 2015 Cowboys paved the way to the team picking Ezekiel Elliott — but the Falcons aren’t in that much trouble yet.)The NFL is unforgiving, and every team’s misfortune creates an opportunity for someone else. Atlanta and Carolina’s inconsistencies this year have allowed a familiar division foe to become relevant again: the New Orleans Saints. After a spell of mediocrity that saw the Saints finish with a 7-9 record in each of the past three seasons, Sean Payton’s team appear to be on the rise, for now. The Saints have climbed to sixth in our NFL Rankings, with an Elo rating of 1589.1Elo is a metric that estimates each team’s skill level using only the final scores and locations of each game. An Elo rating of roughly 1500 is considered average. At 4-2 and atop the NFC South, the Saints now have a 73 percent chance of making the playoffs and a 56 percent chance of winning the division — both of which are the best chances New Orleans has seen this season.We wrote at the start of the season that the Saints’ lack of success was not the fault of quarterback Drew Brees; if he benefited from even average defense — New Orleans ranked 28th, 32nd and 31st in points allowed per game from 2014 through 2016 — the team could likely get back to winning games. And lo and behold, that appears to be exactly what’s happening so far this season. New Orleans’ defense is hardly one of the best, but because it has improved to being simply OK — it ranks 16th in points allowed per game this year — Brees and the offense have had more room to breathe.FiveThirtyEight vs. the readersThough the readers registered a net loss of 14.2 points in Week 7 of our NFL prediction game — in which we invite readers to try to outsmart our Elo algorithm — they tied for their most successful week to date this season. The biggest net win of the week for readers, which also happens to be readers’ biggest net win of the season so far, came in the Saints’ 26-17 win on the road over the Packers. The readers took advantage of Elo’s inability to account for teams’ injuries in its predictions and selected a surging Saints team over an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers team, gaining 20.4 points over Elo on that game.The other double-digit net win for the readers came in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ shutout victory over the Indianapolis Colts. That means the Jaguars continued to haunt Elo for another week: Our algorithm now has a 1-6 record when predicting the outcome of games involving the Jags (that’ll teach us for joking about Jacksonville every week).It’s not too late to try your luck against Elo, so make sure you make your Week 8 predictions. DEN55DEN58DEN 0, LAC 21-5.7– SEA54SEA64SEA 24, NYG 7+6.1– CAR61CAR67CAR 3, CHI 17-9.7– MIA65MIA57NYJ 28, MIA 31-9.0– MIN68MIN66BAL 16, MIN 24-3.6– 2Atlanta*201633.8201721.3-12.5? 4Indianapolis201027.2201115.2-12.02-14 PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.RESULTREADERS’ NET PTS 1Atlanta197322.719747.9-14.83-11 KC67KC70KC 30, OAK 31-6.7– GB63%NO60%NO 26, GB 17+20.4– PIT72PIT70CIN 14, PIT 29-3.4– DAL73DAL74DAL 40, SF 10-1.7– BUF67BUF61TB 27, BUF 30-6.3– 4Dallas201429.2201517.2-12.04-12 Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 7Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 7 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION The NFC South has sent a team to each of the past two Super Bowls, making it one of the NFL’s most successful divisions by this metric. The Carolina Panthers — who lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 — followed up by winning just six games the next season and falling well short of making the playoffs. After losing in historic fashion to the New England Patriots in last year’s Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons are in danger of turning in a similarly lackluster post-Super Bowl season. The Falcons now have a 47 percent chance of making the playoffs, the lowest that number has been so far this season, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL Predictions.It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what has gone wrong for the Falcons this season. While Atlanta’s defense has improved from last year — 22 points allowed per game through six games this season compared with 25.4 points per game for the whole of last season — someone needs to issue an APB for the team’s offense. Because Matt Ryan’s MVP season last year was so good — the Falcons ranked in the top two on offense last year for points and total yards — anything short of another spectacular offensive season would be a setback. Part of the problem has been Ryan’s inability to connect with his receivers on deep throws: In 2016, Ryan completed an NFL-best 57 percent of throws that went 15+ yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group, but that has dropped to 37 percent in 2017. This year’s offense still ranks seventh in total yards per game, but the drop-off in points per game has been historic. read more

Read More →

Sorry Man City — The Premier League Title Is Liverpools To Lose

Before City went into a slump, what made the team such a dominant title contender? And what happened to drop its chances so dramatically?Through October and into November, Manchester City’s underlying statistics were otherworldly good — they had analysts wondering whether this might be the best team in Premier League history. The Soccer Power Index projections are based on precisely these underlying numbers, and they reacted proportionately. The expected goals differential — the difference between expected goals for and against — shows Manchester City more than plus-2.5 per match in October and solidly more than plus-2.0 right until mid-December, based on data from analytics firm Opta Sports. This slowdown appears to be driven by two related factors: a decline in performance by the team’s aging midfield stars and injuries to key players.During Manchester City’s record-breaking title season in 2017-18, the team’s preferred midfield used Fernandinho as the defensive midfielder at the base and David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne as “free eights,” more advanced midfielders with the freedom to make runs in and around the penalty area but who are ready to lead the press should possession be turned over. The trio played together for more than 50 percent of City’s minutes in the league, and at least two were featured in more than 90 percent of the team’s minutes.De Bruyne has been unavailable most of the year because of two successive knee injuries. He has not fully recovered, missing the Southampton match this weekend. With the Belgian playmaker out, Man City has been able to play its first-choice midfield for only 35 total minutes this season, compared with more than 1,800 last season. And Silva and Fernandinho, as important as they are to City’s chances, are 32 and 33 years old respectively. Both have needed rest, and both suffered muscle injuries in late December. In Man City’s losses against Crystal Palace and Leicester City, neither Silva nor Fernandinho made the starting lineup.Man City’s biggest problems, then, seem to boil down to personnel. The heavy workload already had strained Fernandinho in his difficult role as the lone defensive midfielder, and then injuries left Guardiola with almost none of his preferred midfielders. Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva are good players, but they have not been able to properly replace Fernandinho and David Silva.This is good news for City fans: Fernandinho and David Silva are back, and they dominated Southampton en route to a 3-1 win. De Bruyne may even be ready to join them Thursday. We should expect a Manchester City with a fit midfield to be more than good enough to win a home match against Liverpool and keep the title race going.At the same time, Man City fans still have cause for concern. Given the ages of David Silva and Fernandinho, another slowdown or injury is hardly unlikely. And with City looking at a deep run in the Champions League,2The Soccer Power Index still makes City the favorites to lift that trophy. the team’s performance level cannot be expected, on average, to remain in its early season stratosphere. Expected goals differential still shows City as the best team in the league, but the margin of its advantage over Liverpool from October is unlikely to return.This gives Liverpool every chance at its first league title in decades. And the Reds are here because they have become the smartest-run team in England. Liverpool lost a key creative midfielder, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, to a serious knee injury at the end of last season. But high-level replacements were already lined up. The club had reached an agreement with RB Leipzig the previous summer for the transfer of creative dynamo Naby Keita, and over the summer Liverpool added another creator in Xherdan Shaqiri as well as Fabinho for defensive midfield depth. Keita has struggled with his fitness; for a player who was clearly the best dribbler in Germany, his 0.2 progressive runs per 90 minutes show that Liverpool still hasn’t seen his best. But the Reds’ clever business strategy means they could weather a slow start. Shaqiri has been revelatory — with six goals, two assists and a team-leading 4.1 progressive passes per 90 minutes — and Fabinho has settled in solidly at defensive midfielder.Liverpool has made steady improvements as the season has gone on. The Reds continued a trend I noticed last year, in which the team has gradually pulled back on its high press while improving defensively. This year, while the team’s mere eight goals conceded reflects some good fortune, its average of 0.81 expected goals conceded per match (about 16 expected goals allowed total) is the best of manager Jurgen Klopp’s tenure. And Liverpool has done it with its least aggressive midfield press of the last four seasons, breaking up less than 49 percent of new opposition open-play possessions within three passes. Klopp has acknowledged this somewhat more pragmatic style as a tactical choice to get the most out of his team over a full season. Against Manchester City away, coming off a full slate of holiday fixtures, Liverpool will need to draw on this newfound defensive pragmatism. City should look to dominate possession, but Klopp’s tactical developments at Liverpool have helped build a team that can control matches without the ball. And if City’s aging midfield makes a misstep or if Fernandinho finds himself isolated or out of position, Liverpool’s devastating forward three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah will make him pay. The quality of Liverpool’s attack, especially in the open field on the counter, is such that even a fully recovered Manchester City could be caught out and defeated.City is favored on Thursday for good reason. But over the full season, City looks more fragile than Liverpool, which has been built into a deep and tactically variable unit with smart analytics and coaching. If Man City can maintain the fitness of its 30-something midfield stars, it has the advantage, but that’s a big “if.” With just more than four months remaining in the season, another dip in form or fitness from City’s midfield is likely, and that plus a lead of at least 4 points would probably be enough for the Reds. Klopp’s side could put the title to bed Thursday, but even if City gets the win, Liverpool should still be favorites to lift the trophy.Check out our latest soccer predictions. The Premier League season is barely halfway over, but the title basically could be decided this week. Right now, Liverpool has a 7-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the table.1With Tottenham Hotspur up by 1 point on City. The two teams face off Thursday at Etihad Stadium in Manchester, and a Liverpool victory would result in a likely insurmountable 10-point gap.Only two weeks ago, Liverpool’s lead was just 1 point, 45 to 44. And at the beginning of December, it was Manchester City in front, with a 2-point cushion. But the holidays were a nightmare for City. Manager Pep Guardiola saw his team lose easily winnable matches at home to Crystal Palace and away to Leicester City, while Liverpool swept its holiday fixtures. If you had watched these events from the perch of FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index projections, you would have experienced severe whiplash. Not only did Liverpool open up a lead out of nowhere, but the projections remained extremely bullish on City’s chances right until the bottom fell out. read more

Read More →

Topranked Penn State awaits Ohio State wrestling on Friday

OSU redshirt senior Johnni DiJulius (left) sizes up his opponent during a match against Arizona State on Nov. 20 at St. John Arena. OSU won 28-9.Credit: Mason Swires | Lantern reporterAfter emerging with wins in its last four dual-meet appearances, the Ohio State wrestling team will now face its toughest test yet this season.No. 7 OSU (9-2, 6-1) will be traveling to State College, Pennsylvania, to take on the No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions (12-0, 7-0).The match is expected to contain intense action and immensely important showdowns in terms of rankings, since eight bouts with both competitors ranked nationally within the top 25 are projected to commence.The Buckeyes earned an impressive 22-15 victory in their meet with Penn State last year, propelling them forward to the program’s first team national championship.Before last season, however, the Nittany Lions topped OSU three straight times when the two teams faced off. In the all-time series, Penn State leads 17-12.Even with the tall task ahead for his wrestlers against the nation’s top team, OSU coach Tom Ryan is confident in how OSU will handle its upcoming opponents.“The focus for us is that we are not the underdog,” Ryan said. “We’ve got enough firepower and committed people to go in there and be successful.”With a match that features such high-caliber talent, there has been an obvious increase in demand for tickets. Such an increase has resulted in a sold-out Bryce Jordan Center, which seats around 16,000 people.This sellout will mark the third time all available tickets have been purchased in four home meets at the arena.A turnout as large as this comes as no surprise to Ryan, who is well aware of the passion for wrestling that is seen in that region of the country.“The state of Pennsylvania is rabid for the sport,” Ryan said. “The state of Ohio is just crazy for the sport.”Even with a sizeable supporting cast backing Penn State, there is no lack of confidence from the wrestlers of the Scarlet and Gray.“My favorite time to wrestle is in front of a big crowd,” sophomore Kyle Snyder said. “I like when the crowd’s against us, so I’m very excited to compete.”The Buckeyes are no strangers to hostile environments. Six of their matches have occurred away from St. John Arena, with OSU posting a 5-1 record in those events.Penn State is coming off a big win against Michigan, in which the Nittany Lions crushed the Wolverines 35-7.On the year, Penn State has outscored its opponents heavily, putting up 426 dual points against just 88 by other teams.OSU is coming off of a weekend in which the team earned two dual-meet road wins against Indiana and Purdue. The Buckeyes struggled against the Boilermakers, needing a last-match decision by redshirt junior Nick Tavanello to gain an edge.“In general it looked like we were wrestling tight,” Ryan said. “We just need to be who we are.”The identity of the Buckeyes has been scoring fast and scoring early. In over 60 percent of their matches, the Scarlet and Gray are the first team to score, while also putting up nearly twice the score of their opponents in the first period.OSU has also posted stout takedown numbers, more than doubling the number put up by its opponents this season.Although the team will be anticipating the arrival of the NCAA championships in the coming month, the Buckeyes are still focused on the next challenge they face.“This dual-meet matters,” Snyder said. “I believe we are going to wrestle well.”Key matchupMost of the bouts featured in the upcoming meet will be highly anticipated, but none will grab the attention of spectators more than the potential first matchup of the day at 125 pounds.Redshirt sophomore Nate Tomasello will be facing senior Nico Megaludis of Penn State.Tomasello is ranked No. 1 in the country, and Megaludis is ranked fourth.“The 125-pound match is critical (and) Nate knows it,” Ryan said. “I don’t think it adds any extra stress that that is a critical match.”Starting off in a hostile environment of over 16,000 people with a good outing by Tomasello could provide OSU with the momentum it needs to challenge a team like Penn State.Tomasello currently owns the longest win streak among 125-pound wrestlers, with 33 straight victories.Jordan is Big Ten Wrestler of the WeekRedshirt sophomore Bo Jordan earned Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors after two major-decision victories over the last week.Jordan shutout Chad Welch from Purdue, and outscored his opponents 27-5 over the weekend.Jordan is the third Buckeye to receive the honor, along with Tomasello and his younger brother, redshirt freshman Micah Jordan.Moving aheadAfter the trip to the Penn State, the Buckeyes are scheduled to return home to St. John Arena to face Wisconsin.The Badgers are 1-5 on the year and have yet to win a conference dual-meet this season.The match is set to take place at 7 p.m. on Feb. 12. read more

Read More →

Ohio State hockeys Ryan Dzingel tabbed to AllBig Ten First Team

Junior forward Ryan Dzingel (18) prepares to shoot the puck during a game against Michigan State Jan. 11 at the Schottenstein Center. The teams tied, 1-1.Credit: Kelly Roderick / For The LanternWhen the Ohio State men’s hockey team takes the ice at the Big Ten Tournament Thursday as the No. 4 seed it will be with one of the top three forwards in the conference.Junior forward Ryan Dzingel has been named All-Big Ten First Team, as voted on by the conference’s coaches and a media panel, according to an OSU press release.Leading the Buckeyes to a 16-13-5 record, the Wheaton, Ill., native’s stats puts him among the best scorers in the country, finishing the regular season tied for ninth in the NCAA with 1.26 points per game and ninth in the NCAA with .59 goals per outing.Dzingel is first in the Big Ten in points (43), points during Big Ten play (23) and points per game. He is tied for first in the Big Ten in goals (20) and goals per outing and tied for third in assists (12).In 34 games this season Dzingel had points in 23 of them, including 12 multiple points games, earning him Big Ten Star of the Week honors on three different occasions. He is also the first OSU player since RJ Umberger in 2003 to reach 100 career points and the seventh player since 1998-99 to get 40 points in a season.The Big Ten conference also announced Monday that defenseman Drew Brevig, goalie Christian Frey and forward Nick Schilkey earned Big Ten all-freshman honors.Brevig wrapped up the regular season with 14 points, including 12 assists, which ties him for first in scoring among Big Ten freshman defensemen and 10th nationally. Frey joined OSU prior to the second half of the season, long enough to go 7-3-3 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, ranking eighth in the NCAA and third in the league in save percentage. Schilkey had 13 points and six goals to tie for second in the league in both categories.The Buckeyes first game in the Big Ten Tournament is set for Thursday when they take on No. 5 seed Michigan State at 8 p.m. in Saint Paul, Minn. read more

Read More →

Womens volleyball opens Big Ten play against No 17 Minnesota

Members of the OSU women’s volleyball team huddle up before a match against Florida Gulf Coast on Sept. 5 at St. John Arena. OSU won, 3-1.Credit: Emily Yarcusko / For The LanternThe Ohio State women’s volleyball team is set to kick off Big Ten competition against a ranked opponent on the road.OSU (9-3) is scheduled to play No. 17 Minnesota (10-1) Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Minneapolis.While the Buckeyes have won nine of their last 10 games, they are set to face more competitive teams than they have so far this season, starting with the Golden Gophers, who made it to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball quarterfinals last December.Last season’s success in the tournament aside, OSU senior defensive specialist Alyssa Winner said Minnesota is always difficult, especially when trying to attack.“Minnesota has always been physical,” Winner said. “They play all right defense. I would say their blocking is really well, they’re big girls so they know how to defend well.”The Golden Gophers have won nine straight matches, including three sweeps at the Toledo Tournament held over the weekend. The team’s only loss of the season came in its second match, against Louisville on Aug. 30.Senior setter Taylor Sherwin said OSU has to be more prepared for the Golden Gophers than other opponents.“Getting used to the physicality (and) how much more physical the girls will be,” Sherwin said. “We’ve played a lot of great (non-conference teams), but Big Ten, it’s the best of the best.”Of the six Big Ten teams in the American Volleyball Coaches Association top 25 poll, Minnesota is ranked the lowest, but still holds a higher-rating than the unranked Buckeyes.Freshman defensive specialist Kalisha Goree — who is set to be taking part in the first Big Ten action of her OSU career against the Golden Gophers — said the Buckeyes have to take their performance to a new level for conference play.“This is Big Ten now, so we’ve gotta step up our play,” Goree said.Goree added that if called upon during the match, she hopes her passing and defense will help the Buckeyes to an upset victory.The Buckeyes’ next game is scheduled for Sunday against No. 5 Wisconsin (9-1). The Badgers finished as runners-up in last year’s NCAA Tournament. That match is scheduled for 2 p.m. read more

Read More →

Curtis Samuels emergence among bright spots at Ohio State spring practice

Sophomore running back Curtis Samuel (4) is one OSU player coach Urban Meyer mentioned could see an increased role in the upcoming season.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorOhio State coach Urban Meyer began his Tuesday press conference on a negative note for the second straight week, but he stressed that’s not a reason to panic.“We’re not very good right now, which is fine,” Meyer said. “It’s spring, we don’t have to be good.”Despite the seemingly slow start to spring practice, it’s not all doom and gloom at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.While Meyer said the Buckeyes have “offensive line issues” because of injuries, he added that OSU has a few playmakers making a name for themselves in practice. One of those players, sophomore running back Curtis Samuel, has been good enough that the Buckeyes will do anything they can to get him on the field, Meyer said.“We’re taking a look at Curtis Samuel as a receiver/H-back/running back, so he’s mixing time,” Meyer said. “He’s doing both. He’s a guy that we’ve ID’d as a top-five playmaker right now in our program.”Samuel played in all 15 games last season, but was second fiddle to rising junior Ezekiel Elliott for most of the year. Samuel ended up third on the team with 383 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while averaging 6.6 yards per carry.Despite earning a start in place of Elliott against Illinois in OSU’s eighth game of the season, Samuel’s playing time tailed off during the Buckeyes’ run to the College Football Playoff National Championship.But that could have been a result of Elliott’s play — he finished the year with 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground — rather than a decline in form for Samuel.After Samuel earned just one carry in the title game, Meyer said Tuesday that Buckeye fans will see the Brooklyn, N.Y., native on the field early and often next year.“The days of Curtis Samuel playing 10 plays are over,” Meyer said. “It’s our job to get him on the field for 40 or 50 plays. With (Elliott) coming back healthy and all that, to see him stand on the sideline and watch Zeke play is not right.”As Samuel moves up the list of top OSU playmakers, his coach said the Buckeyes are trying to figure out who else has earned the right to touch the ball next year.Meyer said wide receiver Michael Thomas is high on that list, but added that the redshirt-junior will undergo a sports hernia surgery. He said the surgery is “not that serious,” and mentioned that former Buckeye Ryan Shazier and current redshirt-junior safety Tyvis Powell both had the same procedure.Along with Thomas, Meyer said redshirt-sophomore H-back Jalin Marshall is one of the top playmakers in addition to Elliott, and he said Samuel is “not far behind.”Beyond that group, the fourth-year OSU coach said he and his staff are trying to figure out how other players like redshirt-senior tight end Nick Vannett and redshirt-sophomore tight end Marcus Baugh could fit in.Among the players forcing their way onto the list this spring is sophomore H-back Noah Brown, Meyer said.“Noah Brown had a very, very good day, too, so he’s moved from 15th on the list to whatever,” he said.For now, the list of the Buckeyes’ top playmakers is likely to change, but Meyer said he hopes to have it all penciled in after the Spring Game.“(At) the end of spring I’ll have that, what order they’re gonna touch the ball,” he said.The Buckeyes’ annual Spring Game is schedule for April 18 at Ohio Stadium, before OSU opens its regular season against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va. read more

Read More →

Football Johnnie Dixon sheds injuryplagued reputation with spring game performance

OSU redshirt junior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon (1) scores his second touchdown of the Spring Game on April 15. Scarlet beat Gray 38-31. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorWith around four minutes left on the clock, Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins took a snap for the Scarlet team in the annual spring game, and connected with redshirt junior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon for an 18-yard touchdown. Although any score is celebrated between the player who crossed the goal line and his teammates, this one especially got the sidelines in a frenzy.For Dixon, it had been three years in the making.“It was a lot of fun for me. Haven’t been able to catch a passing touchdown since high school days,” he said. “It’s always fun to go out and be able to compete because I’m fully healthy.”After being plagued with leg and knee injuries his first two years in Columbus, Dixon is finally in a physical state to compete. Last season, after dealing with arthritic knees, the Palm Beach, Florida, native had to sit and watch OSU play in a bowl game without him.Even worse, he had to watch the Buckeyes receive a 31-0 drubbing from Clemson.After struggling to stay on the field, and missing most of his first two seasons with the Scarlet and Gray, it had became almost too much for him. Dixon said he was nearly at his wits end, and was having thoughts about his future as he sat in his locker in Phoenix, Arizona, with a pained expression on his face.“I did not think I was going to be here,” he said after the spring game.OSU coach Urban Meyer was unsure what to do with his wide receiver who just couldn’t seem to play long enough to make an impact.“Johnnie is an enigma,” Meyer said after the spring game. “He’s a very highly recruited guy out of Dwyer High School, a very talented guy, nice person. But he got here, had this tendonitis and issues in his knees, and he would go two practices and have to miss two. And it was frustrating for all of us. When he was healthy, he just didn’t make plays, because he would never practice enough to get in the rhythm.”But, just four months removed from the day he thought his career might be over, Dixon shed the shell of an injury-plagued wideout, and performed in front of 80,000 fans in Ohio Stadium. It might not have been a real game, but it was still an immense step forward for a guy who thought his career was over.“It’s amazing,” Dixon said. “I haven’t missed a day of practice. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. It was amazing. Every day to be out there, to bring the energy to the group and all that. It was an amazing feeling.”With the lack of a deep threat last season, Dixon showed he very well could provide downfield potential on Saturday.He torched redshirt sophomore cornerback Kendall Sheffield on a 44-yard fade route from redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow. Sheffield got his head turned in the wrong direction, and Dixon made him pay with a score.However, perhaps the most impressive feat for Dixon was his showstopping juke, leaving three defenders in the dust. On a pair of knees that have been known to fail him before, Dixon pulled off the best move of the day.The crowd seemed to hold its collective breath for a moment, before letting out an exuberant cheer.Dixon enjoyed putting his moves on display, and even seemed to surprise himself.“I haven’t done that one since elementary school,” he said.Coming into 2017, Dixon has just seven career receptions for 55 yards. On Saturday, he posted six receptions for 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and consistently appeared up to the task of being the shifty down-the-field target OSU has been missing.Burrow was especially impressed with his performance. “When I got here two years ago, I thought he was a freak athlete,” Burrow said. “I didn’t really know he had the injury problems and obviously they just kept building up. This spring, it looks like he’s been healthy. He’s had a great spring. Obviously really fast, really explosive, and he’s a great guy to have on the team.”Still, the fact of the matter remains that Dixon has a history of limited play due to problematic knees. Even though injuries to the lower extremities have ended the careers of wideouts early in the past, Dixon isn’t worried about what could come if he goes down again.“I’m not concerned about it,” he said. “You gotta let that go. You can’t think about it. Just continue to hit my rehab how I am. If I’m feeling good like this every day, I feel like I can do it in the season.”It’s been a long journey for Dixon to even get on the field for a simple intrasquad scrimmage. Whether he can stay a relevant factor on offense remains to be seen.Dixon will get his chance again when OSU kicks off the regular season on Aug. 31 against Indiana. read more

Read More →

Football Moving past the loss to Iowa and more from Urban Meyer

Urban Meyer watches a Buckeye offensive possession from the sideline in the third quarter of the Ohio State-Iowa game on Nov. 4. Ohio State lost 24-55. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe mood in the postgame press conference room following No. 6 Ohio State’s 55-24 loss to Iowa last Saturday was noticeably down. Head coach Urban Meyer and the two players — center Billy Price and defensive end Tyquan Lewis — were both clearly emotional about the loss they suffered that could prove to be the loss that wipes out its playoff hopes.Meyer spoke on the Big Ten coaches teleconference Tuesday about what he said to the team after the game as he attempted to keep the morale up in the locker room. The message to the whole team — players and coaches alike — was simple. “Move forward,” Meyer said. “We have great trust, great confidence. I just had that discussion with our staff yesterday where we gave up an incredible amount of rushing yards and the week before we shut down Saquon Barkley, arguably the best back in the league or in the country. And then J.T. was 13-for-13 or 16-for-16, or whatever it was, and then it’s athletics and you’ve got to rebound and put that one behind you, which is hard, but you’ve got to move forward.”Meyer said his team knows what is at stake in the upcoming matchup against Michigan State and that the team still has plenty left for which to play.“They understand, they’re a very smart team, understand what’s at stake,” Meyer said. “Come back home and play against the other team that’s tied with us for first place. I’ll know more today, obviously we haven’t seen them yet. These meetings start here in a few minutes.”Here are some more topics he discussed Tuesday.Meyer on Michigan State’s improved season: “Their quarterback’s really starting to play well. Threw for 800 yards the last two games. Defense, they’re No. 1 in the league in rush defense. Playing typical Michigan State, very good defense. So they’ve just got some momentum right now.”Meyer on the linebackers’ performance this season: “This past week was not good at all. To this point, they’ve been playing very solid, at times very good. Especially when you have some new guys in there. Jerome Baker is really the only returning starter. At times, they’ve played very well. And like the week before, they played very, very well. And this week we did not.”Meyer on balancing quarterback and tailback rush attempts: “A lot of those are, when you run the read game, they’re a couple defenses that really tried to take the tailback out of the game. So we’ve been working on that hard this week.”Meyer on whether the inconsistent play is the result of a lack of leadership: “No I think this is one of the better groups that I’ve had. It’s perplexing at times because I know they care so much. The two ejections, one was a mistake by the official and one was in the heat of the moment, there wasn’t a purpose or intent to it.”Meyer on safety Damon Webb’s career and 2017 season: “A very good career. Obviously it remains to be seen how he plays these last few games out, but he’s a very good player for us. Good person … He’s done a pretty good job [this season]. Obviously, the taste in your mouth from last weekend was not good, but before that he’s been playing pretty good.” read more

Read More →