"It's definitely going in the right direction. I think last year with the quarterback controversy thing, trying to get healthy, then when I got healthy I just wasn't where I was at as far as football and where I wanted to play, definitely in camp and at the beginning of the year."
- J.T. Barrett via Austin Ward, ESPN
Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is having a significantly better start to 2016 than he did in 2015. The junior signal caller is entering his first season in which he's the unquestioned starter and has even been named one of the captains of the Buckeyes. This time last year, Barrett was on his way to recovering from a season-ending injury and working back to return to the field for Ohio State in the fall. The question about who would start for the Buckeyes between Cardale Jones and Barrett last season went from the offseason until very late in the season, and it took a toll both on the quarterbacks and the team itself. This time around, Barrett is poised to lead Ohio State from the beginning until the end.
Barrett can focus on leading the younger players entering their first seasons with the Buckeyes and making sure the offense is functioning at high rate, as it was the last two games of this past season against Michigan and Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. With a lot of talent leaving for the NFL, what's left of the offense will be leaning heavily on Barrett's ability to make plays with both his arm and legs. The offseason is upon Ohio State and they'll have to work diligently if they expect to contend both in the Big Ten and nationally.
"At the time, I had really accomplished almost everything I wanted to do in college. Winning a national championship, being an all-American, being a part of that brotherhood at Ohio State and the camaraderie that we had, being around some great coaches and playing for a great university, I did all that and accomplished a lot of things."
- Vonn Bell via Austin Ward, ESPN
Former Ohio State safety Vonn Bell was the last of the nine Buckeyes to declare for the NFL draft, and the decision wasn't an easy one. Austin Ward of ESPN spoke with Bell about his decision as well as his expectations for the combine and the upcoming NFL draft. Seeing Bell's reasoning for leaving makes absolute sense. In fact, he says himself the only thing he didn't accomplish that he wanted to with Ohio State was to win the Thorpe award, given annually to the nation's best defensive back. Still, Bell was a semifinalist for the award this past season and was in the running until the end. But everything else, a national championship, All-American status, etc. worked out for Bell and he was certainly a fan favorite among Buckeye fans.
Bell's career with Ohio State was certainly successful both individually as a part of a national championship team. Bell is looking to have similar success in the NFL, and with the recent rise in teams looking harder at taking good safeties, it seems like Bell will fit right in with a team that's looking for a playmaker in their secondary. It should be an exciting time for Bell to hear his name called during the NFL draft.
"Everybody talks about who is the receiver that we're going to talk about. Corey Smith has the ability as a receiver to find windows and find holes and able to tempo himself when he's running routes. He makes you look right when you're actually a little behind him, he can slow his tempo down and catch the ball."
- J.T. Barrett via Ari Wasserman, Cleveland.com
With nine players opting early for the NFL draft, Ohio State no doubt has some rebuilding to do - on both sides of the ball. On offense and at wide receiver specifically, the Buckeyes lost Braxton Miller to graduation but also lost Michael Thomas and Jalin Marshall, both of which declared for the draft. Marshall was especially a surprise, and Urban Meyer and the coaching staff will have to find more playmakers at wideout this offseason. Quarterback J.T. Barrett is confident in both Corey Smith, who recently received eligibility for a sixth year, and Noah Brown. Brown also suffered an injury much like Smith did, and was expected to be one of the top receivers last season for Ohio State.
It seems like the rebuilding might actually be reloading. It makes sense for Smith to be confident as he's been with the team for several seasons and has played significant minutes in that time. Brown was an offseason star before suffering a broken leg a week or so before the season opener against Virginia Tech. Now he'll get a chance to show he still has the ability he did before the injury and see if he can live up to the hype his coaches and teammates gave him early last season.
STICK TO SPORTS:
- The U.S. chocolate company Mars has recalled candy bars in 55 countries after plastic find.
- Kanye West's "Waves" is even more beautiful if you listen to it backwards.
- Looks like the 'X-Files' will be making a return at some point.