"Now the focus is always trying to get better, developing skills, working on my craft. Then personally, as the leader of this team, how can I bring the young guys to the level where I'm at?"
For Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, this year's spring practices compared to last year's has to feel like night and day. Not only was Barrett recovering from injury during last year's spring practices, there was also a logjam at quarterback, with Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller also in the mix to take the snaps for Ohio State last year. This spring not only is Barrett healthy, he is the undisputed starting quarterback heading into the 2016 season. Even with a tough schedule and the loss of a lot of talent, Ohio State still has big expectations this year just because of what Barrett can do on the field.
Being the undisputed starting quarterback has its perks, but it also comes with added responsibility. With Ohio State losing so much offensive talent to the NFL, even more will be expected out of Barrett this year. The fourth-year junior knows he not only has to play to the best of his abilities, but he also has to make those around him better to take some of the pressure off some of the younger players. So far Barrett has gotten off to a good start with his added responsibilities, as Urban Meyer has said Barrett has been a leader in the weight room so far this offseason.
"I wanted to go to an organization I feel really is a playoff contender and a team that has a chance to contend for a Super Bowl trophy. I wanted to be part of something with an offense and a quarterback that was established, and the Saints were the first team to call."
Once the NFL season ended, James Laurinaitis had to have a feeling that he'd have a new home next year. The former Ohio State linebacker was probably banking on that home being Los Angeles, since the Rams were going to be relocating there. It probably came as a shock to Laurinaitis that after seven seasons, and 112 consecutive starts at linebacker, he was released by the team. Laurinaitis wasn't on the open market long, signing with the New Orleans Saints, who were the first team to call and inquire about his services.
After New Orleans has struggled the last few years on the defensive side of the football, Laurinaitis will be the Saints some veteran leadership that they desperately need. Should Laurinaitis start at middle linebacker for the Saints, it will likely push last year's first round pick Stephone Anthony to an outside linebacker position. At least Laurinaitis will head into this season healthy, after suffering an elbow injury last season that hampered him from week 6 on. The former Buckeye says he has been working out fully since mid-February, which will definitely help if the Saints have any designs on returning to the playoffs.
"Our main focus is pushing the ball as fast as possible. My team helped me maintain the energy and focus to keep the ball in my hands. I think it helps our team when I'm driving right at people."
There's no question that Ohio State's women's basketball team is one of the best teams in the country when the basketball is in Kelsey Mitchell's hands. Sunday's win over West Virginia to earn a spot in the regional semifinals saw Mitchell score 45 points. In three of the last five games, Mitchell has scored at least 40 points. The 45 points Mitchell scored was not only the fourth-highest point total for an NCAA Tournament game, but also most be a true guard. The attention that trying to stop Mitchell demands also helps her teammates to get open, which is evidenced by the 86.8 points per game the Buckeyes are averaging so far this season.
The next team who will try their hand at slowing down Mitchell will be Tennessee, who will face the Buckeyes in Friday's regional semifinal in Sioux Falls. The Lady Vols know they'll have to try to put the pressure on Mitchell early to try and slow her down. Making Mitchell change directions is key for Tennessee, because if they let Mitchell take a straight line to the basket it could be a long night for the Lady Vols. Tennessee will look to slow down the fast pace Ohio State is looking to play at, since the Lady Vols only averaged 65.2 points per game this season.
"He's got the skills and abilities of the D'Angelo (Russells) and the Denzel Valentines because of that size and he can really pass. The sky's the limit for him."
JaQuan Lyle's first season in Columbus had it's up and downs, but there is no question that the guard has the talent to become a star for the Buckeyes. Not only did Lyle post a triple-double earlier in the year against Rutgers, but he became just the fourth player to put up 20 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in a Big Ten Tournament game. Lyle joined D'Angelo Russell as the only two freshmen during Thad Matta's 12 years as Ohio State head coach to average 10 points, four rebounds, and four assists during a season. Accomplishments like that make some of the games he struggled in this year a little easier to swallow.
Lyle also might have had some unrealistic expectations placed upon him since he had to follow D'Angelo Russell, who was taken with the second pick in the NBA Draft in June. What stands out most about Lyle is his size. At 6-foot-5, he is able to see the floor better than some of the other point guards out there, which should help to boost his assist totals in the future. Also, with a year under his belt now, Lyle has a better feel for the college basketball game. During his freshman season, Lyle struggled at times with turnovers, which might not be quite as much of an issue next year. If Lyle spends the offseason working on his game, not only should big things be on the horizon for him, but also for the Buckeyes, who return all their starters from this year's squad.
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