"I think the biggest thing was we created depth at the receiver position. I was really pleased with the way those guys played and got better through the course of the spring. You could wear guys out, the tempo of the offense, throwing the ball and the length of the season anymore if you don’t have any depth. It was a great learning experience for the young players to almost go back to ground zero and start over."
Despite a wealth of talent at the wide receiver position last season, it seemed as though the Ohio State Buckeyes offense in general and wide receivers in particular never gelled. Even with Michael Thomas providing a natural downfield threat, it was not enough, given a series of injuries and position changes that rocked the remainder of the wideouts. Braxton Miller and Jaylon Marshall, both converted quarterbacks, were not true outside receivers last season, having also lined up as slot receivers or even in the backfield. And with injuries to both Noah Brown and Corey Smith, who were projected starters in the spring, there was no one to accompany Thomas as exclusive outside receivers. To make matters worse, there was confusion at the quarterback position, which was only resolved when J.T. Barrett won back the starting job from Cardale Jones. Further, the offense did not seem to sync with the new play calling personnel following the departure of offensive coordinator Tom Herman for Houston. The magic from the 2014 post-season seemed to be lost forever in 2015, when the Buckeyes fell to 100th in passing yards with just 188.8 yards per game.
This season, however, should be a different story. With Brown and Smith returning, and with incoming freshmen Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor ready to compete, the loss of Thomas, Miller and Marshall to the NFL does not sting so much. While there is still a high learning curve for the freshmen especially, the fact that there is finally depth at the true receiver position is going to help the offense find a rhythm. With more options for Barrett to throw to, the receivers are less likely to get worn out over the course of the season, and the benefits are already showing after a strong performance in spring ball.
"Michigan fans are pinning their hopes on Harbaugh lifting their school’s football success. If he can do that, the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry could again become a true rivalry."
While the last 15 years have been a period of football riches for the Ohio State Buckeyes, they have been much the opposite for the Michigan Wolverines. Since Jim Tressel took the helm of the football program in 2001, the Buckeyes have won two national titles, eight Big Ten championships (outright and shared) and have gone a whopping 13-2 against rival Michigan. Meanwhile, Michigan has earned zero national championships over that span and earned its last conference title 11 years ago. After the retirement of Lloyd Carr in 2007, Michigan brought on Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia, who went 0-3 against the Buckeyes, and Brady Hoke, whose only win came in his first season when Luke Fickell was interim head coach for Ohio State.
Though Michigan holds the overall edge in the rivalry, leading with a 58-48-6 record over the Buckeyes, the gap is much narrower than it used to be. Prior to Tressel, John Cooper went 2-10-1 against the Wolverines in a period dominated by Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. Essentially, despite being perhaps the best rivalry in college football, the competition has been dominated by one side or the other for nearly 30 years since Cooper took over at Ohio State. In Ohio State’s most recent run, seven of 13 games were won by a double-digit margin, with the Buckeyes outscoring Michigan a total of 465-315.
Michigan fans hope that Jim Harbaugh, who is entering his second season as the Wolverines’ head coach, will be able to bring balance back to the rivalry, but Buckeye fans hope that Urban Meyer’s perfect record versus Michigan will continue, and will ultimately even the overall score against their biggest rival.
"With this group that we have coming back, we want to get back to that old-school feel and we want to put responsibility on them to come in in June better players and come in in October better players and better people. We understand that there’s a sense of development from the coaching aspect, but guys who want to get better get better."
Summer may have only just begun, but it is back to work already for the Ohio State men’s basketball team, which had its first practice together with the 2016-17 squad. The tiny group--just 13 players in all--has eight returning players from last season, including forward Jae'Sean Tate who is still recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum. The injury caused Tate to miss the final seven games of last season, but he is expected to be back to full strength later this summer. Assistant coach Greg Paulus says that Tate’s recovery is "progressing in the fashion we were hoping for."
The Buckeyes have just three incoming freshmen on the roster, including 6-foot-9 center Micah Potter, 6-foot-9 forward Derek Funderburk and 6-foot-six forward Andre Wesson. Sophomore guard C.J. Jackson is also joining the 2016 recruiting class from junior college in Florida. Potter is expected to back up Trevor Thompson at the center spot. Redshirt sophomore David Bell, who is competing with Potter for the spot, recently underwent a hernia repair, and is expected to be back on the court later this summer.
Ohio State also added sophomore Joey Jent, a walk on guard who transferred from Wofford. Joey is the son of Chris Jent, who was brought on in the offseason to replace Jeff Boals following the latter’s departure to Stony Brook. Jent had coached previously with the Buckeyes from 2011-13, and was an assistant in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings among others. Jent also played with at Ohio State from 1988-92 and briefly played in the NBA before starting his coaching career.
"The game at Oklahoma Sept. 19 should be a doozy and one of the best non-con games in the nation. Each school has national title hopes. And each school has a Heisman-contending QB, with J.T. Barrett facing Baker Mayfield."
With an expanded Big Ten schedule that now features nine conference matchups for the first time since 1984, opportunities for premiere non-conference matchups are dwindling. Still, Ohio State has perhaps the most intriguing out-of-conference schedule, owing to its week three matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman Sept, 17. The Buckeyes face the Bowling Green Falcons and Tulsa Golden Hurricanes in weeks one and two, respectively, and are expected to win handily, giving the revamped squad time to gel before their road test against the Sooners. Ohio State has only faced Oklahoma twice in program history, and holds a 1-1 record against them.
Other marquee out-of-conference matchups in the Big Ten include Penn State’s week two game against the Pittsburgh Panthers. The once-rivals have not faced each other since 2000, though Penn State leads the overall series by a mark of 50-42-4. The Nittany Lions will also once again play Temple--a team that shocked the college football world when it beat Penn State in last season’s opener in Philadelphia. Penn State will face Temple week three this year at home.
Michigan State also boasts an intriguing matchup against its own former rival Notre Dame, who the Spartans have not played since 2013. Notre Dame has won the last three meetings between the two squads, and it does not help that this particular iteration will take place in South Bend. Still, both teams have a lot of rebuilding to do prior to their week two matchup.