"With Devin Smith and Evan Spencer gone, [Thomas] could become an even bigger focus of the passing attack."
-Brian Bennett, ESPN.com's Big Ten Blog
Long known for its bruising offensive lines and commitment to the ground game, the Big Ten conference has had no shortage of 1,000-yard rushers of late. 1,000-yard receivers, however, have been harder to come by. Just three players in the conference hit that mark last year. This week, ESPN's Big Ten Blog profiled the receivers most likely to top the 1,000-yard mark in 2015. It should come as no surprise that Buckeye WR Michael Thomas was on the list.
Bennett ranks Thomas as the second most likely player to hit 1,000 yards in the Big Ten. He comes in just behind Penn State's DaeSean Hamilton, who put up 899 yards as a freshman. Hamilton should benefit this year from an improved offensive line and a more comfortable Christian Hackenberg, and could be in for a monster season. Michael Thomas, who had steady QB play all last year, could explode for a different reason: his two biggest competitors for touches from last season, Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, are both gone. Smith was the highlight reel player of the three, but Thomas was by far the most reliable from play to play. If he's the leading receiver on this year's fully weaponized Buckeye offense, featuring playmakers like Jalin Marshall, he could be in contention as the conference's leading receiver.
"Ohio State has more star power right now than any program in college football and it's not even close."
-Dan Wolken, USA Today Sports
College football media days kick off next week (though the Big Ten's don't start until July 30), and USA Today broke down the list of teams they're most excited to hear from -- the teams with actual news to discuss, beyond the banal platitudes that so frequently color dialogue between teams and the media. The Ohio State Buckeyes come in at the top of the list for the Big Ten, with no shortage of story lines to captivate the college football landscape.
Not least among these is the budding rivalry between coaches Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh, in just a few short months, has brought back an edge to a Michigan program that has been decidedly lacking in recent years. Harbaugh has Michigan on a sharp upswing, one which should give this November's rivalry game higher stakes than we've seen since Brady Hoke's first season at UM. Couple the coaching battle with Ezekiel Elliott's Heisman candidacy, the looming quarterback battle (haven't heard much about that yet, have we?), and there's no shortage of crazy places this season could go.
"The camp's receivers raved that Barrett was the best college QB throwing to them."
-Travis Haney, ESPN.com
This week, J.T. Barrett was one of eight college QBs serving as camp counselors at the Nike Elite 11 camp, for some of the best high school players in the country. He got rave reviews from the players under his tutelage, who were beyond impressed by Barrett's skills. To stand out among a group that included USC's Cody Kessler, Tennessee's Josh Dobbs, and Arizona State's Mike Bercovici is no small feat, but Barrett rose to the occasion. That should come as no surprise, given that Barrett has an incredibly difficult road ahead if he wants to win the starting job over Braxton Miller (he's back, in case you hadn't heard) and reigning national champ Cardale Jones.
Barrett declined interviews at Elite 11, preferring to keep his head down and work. According to Haney, there's a lot of chatter from college coaches speculating that despite the odds Barrett will eventually claim Ohio State's starting job this season. I tend to agree, as I've written before, but count on Urban Meyer to stay totally mum until the last possible moment.
STICK TO SPORTS:
- Ohio State has asked a judge to dismiss fired band director Jon Waters' lawsuit.
- Great news! West Nile-infected mosquitoes have been found across Ohio!
- Some lobster news, if you're into that kind of thing.
- Mayor Coleman, on a bike!
- I'm not good at math, but apparently $100 is worth more than $100 in Ohio.