"Quarterback is like, or was, it was literally like breathing to me. I always had a feel for it, I was always throwing a ball around. I’d probably have a better feel (on defense) if I was playing linebacker since I was 5. That would be interesting. I wish I had played linebacker since I was 5, to see where I would be now, to be honest with you."
-Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee, via Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com
Just a few short years ago, Darron Lee was a standout high school football player--but not at the position where he is now making an impact. Lee played quarterback in high school, but was recruited as an athlete to the Buckeyes in the loaded 2013 recruiting class. He promptly learned the linebacker position during his freshman redshirt season before stepping into a starting role for the Buckeyes, earning a second-team All-Big Ten selection following the 2015 season in addition to the team’s 2014 national championship. While fans may argue that Lee could use the extra year of development in college, given that he is so young in his position, he is waiving his final two years of eligibility for what is likely to be a first-or-second-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.
However, in just two years, Lee has proven to be a highly-instinctive linebacker, and has shown prowess on defense in the "walkout" linebacker position, with outstanding tackling and coverage skills. Luke Fickell, Lee’s coach at linebacker, says that even while learning a new position, Lee was still further along at the outset than former Ohio State standout Ryan Shazier, who was ultimately taken No. 15 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. And now, we can look forward to watching Lee grow even more in his "new" position.
"I’m excited to be back on the mat helping my teammates as we chase another title...I love Ohio State, the wrestling program and want to do all I can to add to its championship history. This was a well-thought-out plan and I am excited to see how it unfolds."
-Kyle Snyder, via The Ohio State University
The Ohio State Buckeyes wrestling team has had no shortage of good news in 2016. The sixth-ranked Buckeyes defeated 11th-ranked Illinois 22-17 Sunday after taking more than two weeks off over the holidays. Highly-recruited freshman Myles Martin earned his first start against the Illini, and won 22-7 at the 174-pound weight class--his 14th win of the season. The cherry on top was the announcement over the weekend that last year’s freshman phenom, Kyle Snyder, would be returning to wrestle for the Buckeyes this season.
Snyder, who was the top prospect in the country when he came to Ohio State, had opted to redshirt this season in order to train for the Olympic trials, which begin in April in Iowa City just a few weeks after the college wrestling season ends. After going 30-4 in his freshman season, Snyder was a Big Ten and NCAA finalist at the 197-pound weight class, and went on to win a world championship at 213-pounds, becoming the youngest freestyle world champion ever. In order to stay in shape for the trials, Snyder is planning to wrestle as a heavyweight this college season.
Snyder will be able to compete in February, when Ohio State takes on top-ranked Penn State in State College, as he plans on wrestling in several tournaments in Russia early this year.
Ohio State currently sits at 5-1 on the season, their only loss to No. 4 Missouri in December. The team could certainly use Snyder’s skills as it continues conference matches, as the Big Ten has 10 of 14 teams ranked nationally.
"He has principles that he is not going to go away from. They will be aggressive and they will play fast and run to the football, but they will be very sound and very simple."
-Chuck Long on Chris Ash, via Ryan Dunleavy, Asbury Park Press
With a win in his final game as co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, Chris Ash is now officially 100 percent vested in Rutgers as its new head football coach. With the move to his first-ever head-coaching job, we can expect a similar scheme on defense to what we have seen at Ohio State, Arkansas, Wisconsin and San Diego State--which has been the same elusive-yet-simple defense that is so disruptive.
Former Ohio State quarterback Stanley Jackson commented that Ash’s 4-3 defense "always looks the same." With four defensive backs hanging out at the same level on every play, it confuses quarterbacks as to what the coverage will actually be (man-to-man, blitz, Cover 2, etc).
The simplicity of the design is carried out in Ash’s personal coaching style. Instead of confusing young college defensive players with complicated schemes, he coached his players in understandable and executable terms that made his seemingly basic defense effective. While the coverage may look the same on a consistent basis, the discipline of Ash’s unit makes it difficult for offenses to score.
Ash’s skillset has potential to make an immediate impact at Rutgers, whose secondary allowed more than 3,000 passing yards this past season. Ash had similarly remedied Ohio State’s shoddy secondary, which had been prone to giving up the big play.
POLL ALERT: Ohio State jumps to No. 5 in women’s AP Top 25 hoops poll; UConn still at top. https://t.co/Tg2kLdnboy— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) January 4, 2016
The Ohio State women’s basketball team is steadily moving up the polls, coming in at the
No. 5 spot this week in the AP Poll. In the team’s most recent victory, sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell led the then-No. 9 Buckeyes in scoring with 28 points in the 80-71 win, handing sixth-ranked Maryland its second loss of the season (Maryland had lost to No. 1 UConn earlier in the week). It was a nice victory for Ohio State, who fell to Maryland in the Big Ten Championship last year after the Terps went on an 18-0 conference winning streak from 2014-15.
And, for the second time this season, Mitchell was named espnW’s player of the week. Mitchell led her team in handing Maryland their first loss in conference play since joining the Big Ten a year ago. Overall, Mitchell had four each steals, rebounds and assists in the win, and shot 50 percent from the field and 75 percent on free throws.
Mitchell’s 28-point performance came days after a 25-point effort that led her team against No. 24 Michigan State, scoring 15 points in the final quarter. Despite a relatively poor shooting performance (including going 6-of-22 from the field), Mitchell led her team in the comeback win over the Spartans in both teams’ conference opener.
The Buckeyes are sitting at 10-3 currently, with losses to the top-three teams nationally in UConn, South Carolina and Notre Dame. Ohio State will face Indiana at home Thursday. They will host Maryland at home in February.
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