"[NFL Media analyst Daniel] Jeremiah said Friday on NFL Network that there are at least 13 future NFL players participating at [Ohio State's] pro day."
- Dan Parr, NFL.com
Ohio State doesn't do anything important without commensurate fanfare. Friday morning's pro day, in which the team's NFL hopefuls showcased their stuff in an environment more friendly than the NFL Combine, was no exception. More than a dozen former Buckeyes ran drills, gave interviews, and seized their final chances to impress scouts, GMs, and head coaches before April's NFL Draft.
The pro day was vitally important for some of the team's biggest names: Cardale Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, and Braxton Miller. Jones didn't throw at the combine as a result of a hamstring injury. Elliott struggled more than anticipated with his hands, considered one of his best attributes as an all-around back. Bosa's combine made him look a little stiff, and Miller's 40-yard dash time was, at 4.5, something of a disappointment for the speedster.
That changed on Friday. Jones struggled with some overthrows, but got to show off his massive arm and soft touch, which will be a boon to his draft stock. Elliott was so sharp catching the ball that he even reeled one in while talking on the phone, using just one hand -- all while being guarded by Urban Meyer. Bosa, a guaranteed first-rounder, is trying to move his name even further up the board, and his pro day performance didn't hurt. Meanwhile, perhaps aided by some team-friendly stopwatches, Miller recorded a 4.3 40 time, which is more in line with what people expected of him.
Of course, even the Buckeyes who did impress at the combine wouldn't pass up a chance to improve their stock even further. WalterFootball.com's Tony Pauline spoke with a handful of anonymous insiders in attendance, who had high praise for some Ohio State standouts:
"Best workout of the day. Ran faster than I expected, ran terrific routes and caught the ball really well. Much better receiver than people give him credit for."
-on WR Michael Thomas, via Pauline
"Dynamic athlete and a good-looking football player. In the right system with proper coaching, he has Pro Bowl potential."
-on OLB Darron Lee, via Pauline
"He's going to be under-drafted. Should be a top-75 pick but may last until the fourth round. Does everything very well, but not the glamour-boy field-stretcher everyone wants today."
-on TE Nick Vannett, via Pauline
"If the team signed him, it would be hard to argue that the Steelers don't have the best offensive line in football."
- Bryan DeArdo, 247Sports.com, on Taylor Decker
While pro day events are hardly designed to highlight the skill sets of offensive linemen, they still have a chance to put their value on display during their interviews with NFL personnel. One player who really stood out during that part of the process was O-line stalwart Taylor Decker, whose decorated career in Columbus featured a national title and the prestige associated with blocking for Ezekiel Elliott, who -- despite being an otherworldly talent -- didn't do it all by himself.
Decker met with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and while just about any franchise would be thrilled to have him -- including both teams from this year's Super Bowl -- the prospect of Decker in black and gold is an intimidating one. The Steelers develop O-line talent better than just about anyone, and lining Decker up next to the likes of David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey would certainly help Ben Roethlisberger sleep better at night.
The Steelers have been incredibly Buckeye-friendly in the last decade, giving contracts to players like Santonio Holmes, Mike Adams, Cam Heyward, and Ryan Shazier. Pittsburgh reportedly also met with Eli Apple and Vonn Bell during the event, and it's easy to see one or two Ohio State players from this draft class slotting right into the Steelers' lineup. (For what it's worth, I've also written before about the Buckeye who I think would be most beneficial to Mike Tomlin's team in the long term: Cardale Jones.)
"If they shoot 68% or whatever they shot against us five days ago, we're probably in trouble."
- Thad Matta on Michigan State, via Joe Rexrode, Detroit Free Press
While Ohio State football stole the headlines Friday morning, tonight's results on the hardwood will be of even more immediate consequence for Buckeye sports. Thad Matta's seventh-seeded squad will take on Michigan State for the third time in as many weeks, with the Buckeyes desperately needing an upset win to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
That's a pretty tall order. The Spartans have barely let the Buckeyes even make a game of things this season, losing by 19 and 15 points during their two contests in 2016. When Matta focused on shutting down Denzel Valentine in the first matchup, Bryn Forbes lit the scoreboard up from deep. When the Buckeyes tried to close off the long ball in the second game, Valentine worked Ohio State inside like an expert boxer. The Spartans can hurt teams in so many ways-- precision passing, deep shooting, powerful inside presence -- that it's going to take a confluence of small miracles for the Buckeyes to pull the upset here.
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