"In essence, it's the Bearcats--Ohio State's opponent for Saturday night's game in Ohio Stadium--that the Buckeyes have to thank for their starting defensive tackle."
-Ari Wasserman, Cleveland.com
Ohio State defensive tackle Adolphus Washington might not have played college football at all, were it not for a scholarship offer from Cincinnati that changed his mind. Washington had initially given up on football to concentrate on earning a basketball scholarship. He reconsidered his position when the offer from the Bearcats came in. Initially, it was very conceivable that Washington could have ended up there--he went to high school at Cincinnati Taft.
That prospect dwindled significantly as Washington's high school career wore on. He blossomed into a 5-star recruit, garnering offers from powerhouse programs like Alabama, Oregon, and of course Ohio State. Once that happened, Washington became pretty firmly out of reach for a program like UC. Still, not all of the Bearcats' coaches from 2011 have to consider this a major loss: Kerry Coombs, now at Ohio State, was Washington's chief recruiter for the Cincinnati program.
Washington's commitment to OSU actually had a hand in breaking the news that Urban Meyer was returning to Columbus to coach the Buckeyes. One of Meyer's friends came to a scrimmage that Washington was playing in, and allegedly told Washington's father that the coaching hire was all but a done deal. Meyer has high hopes for Washington, who is still coming into his own as a player after switching from end to tackle last season. The move was necessitated by Joey Bosa's emergence as an all-world threat while Washington battled a nagging injury.
"If I came out here negative and didn't get better, then I'm hurting myself for next year when I have to go on the field."
-OSU WR Michael Thomas, via ESPN's Austin Ward
Through three games, redshirt sophomore Michael Thomas has been the go-to guy for freshman QB J.T. Barrett. Thomas has exploded for 11 catches, 214 yards, and 4 touchdowns, leading the Buckeyes in each of those categories. His 53-yard catch-and-run score against Virginia Tech gave Ohio State new life in that game, though they ultimately fell short. For Thomas, it's been an enormous burden lifted. A tremendous talent, Thomas struggled mightily with consistency in his first year despite a flashy showing in his first spring game. This lack of reliability led to a non-medical redshirt in Thomas's sophomore year, a rarity.
"I had to remain positive. I still had to keep a straight head," Thomas said. It's clear that that mindset is working. The young receiver is getting a chance to show on a weekly basis what a talent he is, something that he previously only seemed able to showcase during OSU's spring games. Thomas also benefitted from jousting with first-round NFL pick Bradley Roby in practice last year. He almost had his redshirt pulled so that he could appear in Ohio State's final game last season, with the receiving corps depleted by injuries and inconsistency, but Buckeye fans should be thankful that they didn't lose a year of Thomas's talent for the sake of one game.
"You trust your training, you'll be fine."
-Ohio State CB Doran Grant, via BuckeyeXtra
Last year's Ohio State secondary got exploited in big moments. That has to change this year for the Buckeyes to stay competitive. To achieve success with their overhauled game plan, the Buckeyes are turning to senior CB Doran Grant, the most experienced player on the defense. Grant has started or appeared in 42 straight games for Ohio State. Still, he wasn't always well-suited for leadership.
"He's always been a decent person and a pretty good teammate. But he was never a great player, really not much of a player on special teams. He always had the talent," said Urban Meyer. That all changed heading into Grant's senior season. "Boy, has his leadership stepped up, his practice habits, the way he goes about his business...night-and-day to where he's been." Meyer has a lot of good to say about Grant.
The team-voted defensive captain will need to prove it's all true this week, going against former No. 1-overall prospect Gunner Kiel and the Cincinnati Bearcats offense.
"Names don't play, teams do."
-David Blatt, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach
More than 300 journalists turned out for the Cleveland Cavaliers' media day Friday. The reason for the increase in hype was obvious: new Cavalier Keith Bogans. Okay, maybe it had something to do with LeBron James. James, who spoke to the crowd decked out in the wine and gold, will be joined by perennial All-Star Kevin Love in Cleveland this season.
James touched on a number of issues, from preparation to teamwork to hometown pride. Asked about being back, he referenced the "chills" he got at his welcome-home event at the University of Akron. He also spoke to the mindset that he, Love, and teammates like Kyrie Irving will need to have to make this season a success. "Every single day we have to understand that we can't waste that day. We have to prepare each and every day to get better," James said.
It will be Blatt's job to make such a talented cast gel. There are always growing pains on teams that have multiple bona fide stars who want the ball, as James found out the hard way his first season in Miami. But if growing pains can still see you end up in the NBA Finals, that's maybe not something to fear. The Cavs should be the heavy favorite in the East either way.
STICK TO SPORTS
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