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Ohio State could solidify case as DBU with 3 defensive backs at the combine

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Conley, Hooker, and Lattimore are all potential first-rounders.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

“The Buckeyes have emerged as the league's current kings of the combine looking back over the last four seasons overall. And while rival Michigan actually has more overall attendees this year, once again Ohio State's loaded draft class in the secondary is in line to steal the show.”

- Austin Ward, ESPN.com

With Eli Apple and Vonn Bell taken in the first two rounds of last year’s NFL draft, this year, Ohio State’s trio of draftable DBs; Gareon Conley, Malik Hooker, and Marshon Lattimore; are looking to continue to cement their legacy as the B.I.A. (“Best In America”).

All three are considered potential first-round selections, with SBNation’s Dan Kadar projecting Hooker to go fifth to the Tennessee Titans (via the L.A. Rams) and Lattimore to move up I-71 to Cleveland with the 12th pick (via the Philadelphia Eagles).

Through the combine, pro-days, and individual workouts, if Conley is able to work himself into a late first-rounder, Ohio State will have a very strong argument for being the country’s DBU.

“With two games left and both against teams sporting identical 6-10 conference records, Ohio State has to win tonight at Penn State and at home Saturday against Indiana if it wants to avoid playing the opening day of the tournament.”

- Adam Jardy, Columbus Dispatch

Let’s be honest, the chances of the Ohio State men’s basketball team making the NCAA Tournament this season are slim to none, and slim is getting closer to none by the day. However, if the basketball Buckeyes have any hope of making the Dance, they more than likely will need to win out through the Big Ten Tournament next weekend in Washington D.C., including their final regular season games against Penn State (14-15, 6-10) and Indiana (16-13, 6-10).

Ohio State currently sits at 11th in the Big Ten standings, with Penn State at 12th and Indiana at 10th. Places 11-14 play an additional opening round game in the B1G Tourney, adding to the already arduous task of winning the tournament.

However, despite their 16-13, 6-10 record, there is the slightest sliver of optimism, as Ohio State has played well against some of the best opponents on their schedule, including Virginia, UCLA, Purdue, Maryland, Michigan State, and Wisconsin. OSU’s balanced attack has four players averaging in double-figures, with Kam Williams just on the outside at 9.9 ppg. So, the ability for the Buckeyes to find points from anywhere in the lineup will force the conference’s better defensive teams to pick a scorer to focus on, potentially opening up opportunities for others.

And, with Jae’Sean Tate, Trevor Thompson, and Marc Loving, the team’s three best players on the season, now getting consistent efforts from Williams, C.J. Jackson, and a still recovering JaQuan Lyle, they might be hitting their stride at the exact right time to pull off one of the biggest David vs. Goliath stories in program history.

The converse, of course, is that Thad Matta’s crew has also been known to play down to their level of competition this season, sometimes with disastrous results; i.e. losing to Florida Atlantic, who is currently 10-17 overall and 6-10 in Conference USA. So, they very well could drop both games against PSU and IU and finish the conference slate 6-12, ahead of only lowly Rutgers.

So while I wouldn’t hold my breath that the Buckeyes will be dancing come March, stranger things have happened. I mean, did you watch the end of the Oscars on Sunday?

“They’re going to be fine, very competitive, if they stay healthy, and on track. I’m talking about with the eight position players now, because pitching is always the unknown, relative to health and experience.”

- Sonny Fulks, Press Pros Magazine

Despite going 1-3 in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge last weekend, former OSU pitcher Sonny Fulks believes that there is reason to be optimistic about the Baseball Buckeyes this season. Even though OSU lost long-ball threat Ronnie Dawson to the MLB Draft, the lineup appears to far more balanced this season as the opportunities to produce runs are well-distributed 1 through 9.

While the Bucks were held to just 11 runs in four games against top-notch West Coast talent, their bullpen did show signs of life, as relievers Seth Kinker and Kyle Michalik looked sharp. However, Fulks believes that a fundamental change in approach is needed for the starting rotation to be effective. While the ability to throw 90 miles per hour is always preferred over not, nowadays, that is a speed that even average hitters are very comfortable hitting against, especially when it is pumped down the middle.

To avoid 90 mph, dead-red fastballs turning into 400 foot homeruns, Fulks says that Ohio State’s starters need to learn how to trust their off-speed and breaking pitches more, and how to work around the outside edges of the strikezone, especially when they are ahead in the count.

The Buckeyes return to the diamond on Friday for a three-game series against Campbell in Buies Creek, N.C.

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