"Playmaker. Just a playmaker. I’ll play slot. Outside. Inside. Running back. Whatever’s in the game plan, I’m capable of playing any position."
Ohio State fans know well the versatile playmaking prowess of former Buckeye Braxton Miller. Beyond the ability to switch from quarterback to receiver heading into his senior year, Miller has shown that he can play any number of roles on offense--from any receiver role to running back. Drafted for his ability to grow and develop, having only played as a receiver for one season, the Houston Texans took a bet on his outstanding athleticism, believing that he will be able to turn into a high-caliber receiver at the game’s highest level. The fact that Miller can play a multidimensional role for a team which finished No. 19 in the league in total offense last season certainly helps as well. Texans GM Rick Smith has previously described Miller as "a versatile, explosive player. Trying to impact our football team, adding players who can add dimension to our football team who can make plays with the ball in their hands, and certainly he can do that."
Wide receivers coach Sean Ryan acknowledged that Miller has a great skill set, and is able to change directions and catch the ball well. While Ryan did not describe Miller’s potential role as broadly as Miller himself did, he did say that Miller is succeeding in both inside and outside receiving roles.
A particular pain point for Miller, mostly a result of a lack of experience at his new position, is his ability to deal with press coverage on the outside--an issue that will only be amplified when facing top-tier defensive backs in the NFL. Miller said that, having played in the Senior Bowl against some of the better DBs in college, he was able to improve his playmaking ability on the outside against press coverage, and is continuing to work on learning techniques to improve as he prepares for the start of his rookie season.
"At the end of the day, they’re still my brothers. They just made the decision they felt was best for them. I’m going to support them, and I hope they will support us."
With four of five members of the 2015 recruiting class for the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team having departed the program in the last year, including three since the end of last season, JaQuan Lyle remains the only remaining player in what was once a top-five class nationally. Still, there do not seem to be any hard feelings between the departed players and Lyle--or any of the other remaining Buckeyes, for that matter. Lyle’s postgame comments following a season-ending loss to Florida in the second round of the NIT Tournament in March, however, would not have painted such a friendly picture. As several members of the squad acknowledged their frustration with how the season ended, and vowed to do better the following year, Lyle called out the "hunger" of a team which seemed to play with no emotion or drive in their final game of the season. The following nine days saw the departure of freshmen center Daniel Giddens, forward Mickey Mitchell and point guard A.J. Harris from the program. (The final member of the recruiting class, guard Austin Grandstaff, had transferred from Ohio State just ten games into the season). All four will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Even so, Lyle says that he was surprised by his teammates’ decisions to transfer, but that he has remained close with them throughout the summer. Junior forward Jae’Sean Tate echoed Lyle’s sentiment, adding that the players who have remained at Ohio State are the ones who truly want to be there for the right reasons.
"These are the things I think we dream about as little kids. What third-grader, fourth-grader, fifth-grader isn’t running around saying ‘I want to be an Olympian someday?’ This guy is living the life to do that so I can’t wait to watch him."
With the Olympics just a few weeks away, the eyes of Buckeye nation rest on Kyle Snyder, who has won both an NCAA title at the 285-pound weight class and a world championship at 97-kilograms in the last year alone. A former junior world champion, Snyder has been preparing for the games in reality for life, but especially over the past few months since the conclusion of the NCAA wrestling tournament in March. He officially earned his spot on Team USA with a win over 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner in the Olympic Trials in April, and has been relentless in his workouts since, training at Ohio State’s facilities in preparation.
Initially taking a redshirt during the college wrestling season in order to prepare for the freestyle wrestling of the Olympics, Snyder returned to the Buckeyes following the start of Big Ten matches and went 11-0 overall for Ohio State. He ultimately earned his individual title to compliment his 2015 team championship with a win over two-time NCAA heavyweight champ Nick Gwiazdowski from NC State.
Despite heading to Rio with the rest of the US Olympians, where he will participate in the opening ceremonies August 5, Snyder will have to wait until the last day of competition--August 21--to compete for his medal.
Snyder is the first Ohio State wrestler to compete in the Olympics in 24 years, and the first that Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan has coached. While Snyder is excited to represent Ohio State on the international stage, he is also eager to compete for the U.S.: "Other than serving our country in the military, I feel like being an Olympian is the next best way to represent your country and I’m really excited to do it."
"Derek is one of those guys who is going to be able to play multiple positions at Ohio State. Who he works with is going to be dependent on what day it is.Obviously we’re excited about his versatility and that’s the biggest thing that he’s going to bring to the program."
The highest-ranked member of this year’s incoming men’s basketball recruiting class, freshman Derek Funderburk from Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, may be able to provide the versatility the Ohio State Buckeyes most desperately need on the court. Funderburk, who was the No. 66 recruit nationally, also received offers from Indiana, Iowa, Penn State and Xavier.
The six-foot-nine, 210-pound power forward, originally from Lakewood, Ohio, likely won’t be battling with big men Trevor Thompson and David Bell for the center spot, and should have ample opportunity for high percentage plays close to the basket. Funderburk won a national dunk contest earlier this year for prep school students, and has looked to diversify from the center position where he first began playing before moving to power forward. Ideally, he would like to move to shooting guard, though he is still listed as a forward on the Buckeyes’ roster.
Ohio State returns its six top scorers from last season, which could prove to be a good thing for Funderburk. Senior forward Marc Loving said that he could not pin a single position on the new freshman, indicating his versatility. Associate head coach Dave Dickerson says that Funderburk’s role could vary even from day-to-day based on the team’s needs. Especially given the loss of four members of the 2015 recruiting class, Funderburk has ample opportunity to fill any number of roles in the 2016-17 season. More than his position on the court, though, Funderburk says that he will bring an aggressive and confident mentality to a team that, in many ways, played without emotion for much of last season.