"People forget (Kelly) wants to run the football. His offense is based on running the football and running the football well."
-49ers general manager Trent Baalke, via Chris Biderman, Niners Wire
Despite needs at numerous other positions, ranging from defensive end to linebacker to the offensive line, one position that has not been well explored with the 49ers No. 7-overall pick in this weekend’s draft is the possibility of a running back, with the most likely candidate former Ohio State standout Ezekiel Elliott. While rather unlikely, the 49ers have a need for a strong runner to back up fellow former Buckeye Carlos Hyde in the backfield. With injuries to both Michael Davis and Reggie Bush last season, it was difficult for the running backs to find a rhythm. Moreover, when Hyde was out with injury last year, the 49ers rushing attack was reduced to a meager 86 yards per game.
There is also the fact that new head coach Chip Kelly’s high-tempo offense requires more than one solid back at the position to keep defenses on their toes, as evidenced by Kelly bringing in both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews to Philadelphia after trading away LeSean McCoy. And while many remember Kelly’s running backs as being on the smaller side at Oregon, he also had power backs like LeGarrette Blount and Jonathan Stewart who were able to run up the middle and open the passing game out wide. Moreover, both Hyde and Elliott ran a similar version of Kelly’s zone-based scheme, and are familiar with the fast-paced offensive style of Kelly.
The 49ers have taken a running back in each of the last seven drafts, and it seems unlikely that, given the large amount of injuries occurring at the position, combined with Kelly’s style, that the trend will stop this year.
"Getting to learn from Antonio Gates, he’s been in the league so long. Obviously, he does it the right way. If I don’t go to San Diego, I just hope I go to a team where there’s a good veteran in front of me who I can learn from. They can help share their traits with me, so I can have a career like they have. That’s all I’m hoping for."
-Former Ohio State tight end Nick Vannett, via Michael Gehlken, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Following a tumultuous offseason for San Diego in the tight end department, it seems highly likely that the Chargers will be selecting a tight end at some point in this weekend’s NFL Draft. Only one of the four tight ends on the 2015-16 roster remain--and that person is 34-year old Antonio Gates. Selecting a tight end has been a focus area for San Diego in the offseason, who added Jeff Cumberland from free agency and Sean McGrath from the practice squad, but the Chargers are looking to the draft to add an influx of young talent to the tight end position. And that young talent will be critical in the future in replacing the eight-time pro-bowler in Gates, while still giving the opportunity for the new crop of tight ends to learn from the veteran.
Vannett could be the type of tight end San Diego desperately needs. With a league-worst 3.5 yards per rush, the offensive line could use the assistance of a great blocking tight end like Vannett, who did an exemplary job filling that type of role at Ohio State. And though his numbers do not speak to his receiving abilities, having been on an offense that ran almost twice as much as it passed, Vannett has proved to be reliable in the passing game. Vannett, who selected Gates’ No. 85 jersey to wear throughout high school, is looking forward to the opportunity to learn from veterans like Gates and to grow into a better tight end wherever he ends up come the draft.
"So I couldn’t control the plays that were called. But what I could control was doing the job I was asked to do and running the routes I was asked to run as effectively as possible. I could control how well I executed the game plan to help our team win."
-Former Ohio State receiver Michael Thomas, via the Players’ Tribune
Michael Thomas is ready to be a breakout receiver. In an open letter to NFL coaches and general managers, Thomas detailed the qualities which would make him a solid investment come this weekend’s draft, most of them boiling down to his outstanding work ethic and his willingness to help his team win--even if that means downplaying his own athletic prowess.
After committing himself to becoming a better football player (Thomas had previously worked to excel at basketball), Thomas had a breakout year during his senior season at the wide receiver position, but knew that he would need to continue to work hard and improve on his knowledge of the game.
Thomas also brings perspective on what it means to be a team player, all by knowing what is in and out of his control. He stated that, while he could not control how many times the ball came his way, especially in a run-heavy offense, he could control how many of those passes he came down with, leading to just five drops in two seasons. And while he may have the speed to burn corners at the NFL level, the offense at Ohio State did not require him to do so. What Thomas does do, however, is execute the plays that are required of him to perfection to help his team--a pledge that he says will continue with whatever team calls his name at whatever point in the draft over the weekend.
B1G Monday / MIVA Monday— Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) April 25, 2016
Congrats ⛳️ earning conference titles this wknd!
It has been a victorious weekend for the Ohio State Buckeyes as both men’s and women’s tennis and women’s golf took home Big Ten championships.
The No. 5 men’s tennis team swept No. 15 Illinois 4-0 in its final regular season match to win its 10th conference title in 11 years Sunday. The victory marks the first time a Big Ten team has gone through a season without dropping a single point. With the win, the Buckeyes move to 11-0 in conference play as they prepare for the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis, where they will be the No. 1 seed. Ohio State is 27-2 overall on the season.
The No. 6-ranked women’s tennis team also came out strong this weekend as they swept Purdue 4-0 in the regular season finale. The team earned their first outright conference championship in program history as a result, going 11-0 on the season in the Big Ten and dropping just one team point in the process. The Buckeyes are also the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, set to begin in East Lansing later this week.
The women’s golf team earned their third-straight title over the weekend at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, tying with the Northwestern Wildcats as the conference co-champions. The squad has earned a whopping 14 conference titles since 1982--double that of Indiana, the next team on the list. The Buckeyes will likely be in action next in the NCAA Tournament, scheduled to begin with regional matches in early May.
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