“[Ryan] Shazier is the fastest inside linebacker in the league. He didn’t run the 40 at the combine because of an injury, but he ran an unofficial 4.36 at his Ohio State pro day...that speed and athleticism has allowed Shazier and Dupree to contribute to the defense in diverse ways.”
— Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The divisional round of the NFL playoffs are happening this week. That means we’ll get to see former Ohio State Buckeyes in action. On the AFC side, Ryan Shazier will be donning the black and gold for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In an article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ray Fittipaldo wrote about the recent draft hits the Steelers have had. Shazier came out of OSU in 2014, and was drafted amidst a two-year playoff drought for the Steel Curtain — something that doesn’t happen very often.
Since busting onto the NFL scene, Shazier has been one of the fastest players on the defensive side of the ball. This season, the former Buckeye has used his speed to be one of the defensive leaders for the Steelers. He’s within the top three defenders on the squad in the tackles and sacks category, and leads the Steel Curtain with three interceptions, as mentioned in the article.
When Shazier was at Ohio State, he displayed his playmaking ability – and it’s no wonder that he would become an NFL star. In the 2013 season, Shazier, a junior, contributed seven sacks, 144 tackles and four forced fumbles for the Buckeyes.
You can catch Shazier and the Steelers take on the Kansas City Chiefs at 8:20 p.m. ET on Sunday. The game was originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET, but due to forecasted storms in Kansas City, the time was pushed back.
“At the national championship, he’s proven it. At the professional level, he’s proven it. He’s not afraid of success. He wants it. He welcomes it.”
— Emmitt Smith on the success of Ezekiel Elliott, as reported by Jean-Jacques Taylor ESPN.com
On the NFC side of the divisional playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys take on the Green Bay Packers. That means one thing: we get to see Ezekiel Elliott run the football.
The rookie sensation, who was named to the AP All-Pro team last week, has been setting defenses ablaze. His success on the gridiron was noticed by another former Cowboy great, Emmitt Smith.
In the article by Jean-Jacques Taylor, Smith notes watching Elliott make a jump cut against the Minnesota Vikings for 30 yards in the regular season. That’s just one of the highlight reel plays Elliott has made in his first season on the professional football circuit.
Walking into his first NFL playoff game — which will take place in the same venue where he helped Ohio State secure the first ever College Football Playoff -- at AT&T Stadium, Zeke has the honor of leading the NFL in both yards and carries. Additionally, the 1,631 yards Zeke collected this year broke Tony Dorsett’s 30-year-old Cowboys rookie rushing record.
Zeke’s tour de force brings up questions. For instance: how does one rush for those kind of numbers? Smith answered the question in the article by Taylor, stating that the “combination of vision, speed and power” helped paved the way for Elliott to menace defenses.
Smith knows what he’s talking about. The Cowboy running back was part of three Super Bowl wins for ‘America’s Team’ and was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. Smith also holds numerous NFL rushing records, too.
To see the next chapter in Ezekiel Elliott lore, the Cowboys face the Packers at 4:40 p.m. ET on Sunday.
“Despite the disappointing postseason, the Big Ten looks robust and ready to be a major force again next year and beyond.”
— Brian Bennett, ESPN.com
Pivoting back to the college gridiron, the Big Ten is trying to pick up the pieces after another disappointing year in the College Football Playoff. Even though the Big Ten representatives haven’t scored in the past two playoff appearances, and bundled with the fact the conference went 3-7 in this past session of bowl games, there is no need to hit the panic button.
ESPN.com’s Brian Bennett broke it down, and determined that the Big Ten is strong – and is getting more swole. Notably, the high priced and high profile coaches residing in the Big Ten have brought a fierce competition to the conference game. Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh are part of, arguably, the biggest rivalry in all of sports. James Franklin has reclaimed Penn State to national prominence and Paul Chryst has Wisconsin on the doorstep to becoming a playoff contender. Combined with the new hire of P.J. Fleck to Minnesota, the Big Ten now has a boatload of talented coaches all going in the same direction: conference suprecemy with a chance to win a national title.
Bennett makes a couple more great points that show the Big Ten’s strength: money and the ability to recruit. The Big Ten Network has been a nice source of revenue for the member schools, and the recruiting trails now go all across the country in search for the next star. If you want read Bennett going more in-depth on the Big Ten, you can see his article here.
Stick to sports
• Ohio State is getting an urbanized Target that will feature a CVS and Starbucks.
• Man sends $1,000 worth of pennies to the DMV.
• State senator proposes bill to hold colleges accountable for athletic department deficits.
• House sets path for health care reform.