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Don’t discount Cameron Johnston’s shot at the NFL

While rugby-style punting doesn’t work in the pros, the Aussie punter brings a more diverse set of skills than he showed at Ohio State.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Johnston will get his shot, because he’s always been more than a rugby-style punter. Ohio State just didn’t let him show that very often.”

-Bill Landis,

It is a rare thing for punters to be drafted. Even those invited to the NFL Scouting Combine are in reality hoping to get a spot in a training camp as undrafted free agents. It would also seem that the road to the NFL will be significantly more difficult for Cameron Johnston, Ohio State’s rugby-style punter, because rugby-style punts simply do not translate to the NFL.

Johnston, however, has a much more diverse punting skill set than fans saw at Ohio State. In fact, his recruiting film to arrive in Columbus in the first place featured far more traditional, spiral punts that are commonplace in the NFL.

Urban Meyer instituted the change to the end-over-end, roll out-style kicks, which is more advantageous in the college game due to the ability to release more players on the snap during punt plays. A line drive punt can then go directly into the arms of fellow teammates down the field. In the pros, however, just two players can release on the snap, which negates the numbers advantage downfield that benefited Johnston at Ohio State. As a result, punters aim for longer hang time and to get the ball closer to the sideline, where it is more easily covered on the return.

Johnston, however, has proven that he has the consistency and accuracy required to translate to punting in the NFL. Last season, he was a Ray Guy Award finalist and second-team All American, with 26 of his 56 punts landing inside the 20 yard line. He has shown that he is able to adjust to a given system, having altered his style effectively to rugby-style punting under Meyer, and will need to prove that he is able to switch back to the more traditional, spiral punting found in the NFL. He had his first shot at the combine, with 15 punts in on-field workouts, and will have his next chance at Ohio State’s Pro Day March 23.

The Ohio State Buckeyes took home the Big Ten wrestling title behind four individual champions at the conference tournament in Bloomington, edging out Penn State by 9.5 points to bring home their second conference title in three years. It is the fourth Big Ten title in program history for the Buckeyes, and the first outright championship since 1951. Head coach Tom Ryan was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for his efforts, which marks the second time in three years he has won the honor. The Buckeyes recorded 139.5 points over the course of the tournament, while Penn State came in second place with 130. Iowa rounded out third place with 112.5 points.

Ohio State led after day two of tournament matches Saturday, despite being down two points to Penn State after Friday. The Buckeyes entered Sunday with 117 team points, 18.5 ahead of Penn State and 22 ahead of Iowa.

Of six Buckeye wrestlers making the finals Sunday, four earned individual championships--a school record. Redshirt junior Nathan Tomasello, the No. 1 seed at 133 pounds, earned his third Big Ten Championship with a 5-4 decision over Iowa’s Cory Clark, becoming just the third wrestler in conference history to win three titles. Tomasello won his previous two titles at 125-pounds. Redshirt junior Bo Jordan, also a top-seed, won the 174-pound title, while redshirt freshman Kollin Moore and junior Kyle Snyder earned 197-pound and 285-pound titles, respectively. Cnyder’s victory marked his second-straight 285-pound title. Moore was also named Big Ten Freshman of the Year following the tournament.

With their performance in the conference tournament, eight Buckeyes punched individual tickets to the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis later this month. In addition to Tomasello, Jordan, Moore and Snyder, redshirt freshman Jose Rodriguez earned a berth at 125-pounds, freshman Luke Pletcher at 141-pounds, redshirt sophomore Micah Jordan, brother of Bo Jordan, at 149-pounds and sophomore Myles Martin at 184-pounds.

“It’s a new season. We’ve gotta get ourselves ready to roll.”

-Thad Matta, via Eric Seger, Eleven Warriors

The Ohio State Buckeyes’ regular season ended in disappointing fashion Saturday with a 96-92 loss to Indiana at home on senior day. The Hoosiers’ point total was the most points allowed ever at Value City Arena, and Matta had strong words about his team after the loss. “We’re a get-well card for guys,” he said. “You’re struggling? Play Ohio State. You’ll get out of your slump just like that. It’s been that way all year long.” Prior to Saturday’s matchup, Indiana had lost six of their last seven games, scraping only a one-point victory over Northwestern at home, but the Hoosiers somehow managed to turn it on to the tune of 54 first-half points against the Buckeyes.

However, the Big Ten Tournament is set to start Wednesday in Washington D.C., with the Buckeyes earning the 11th-seed and scheduled to face Rutgers, the 14-seed. The winner of the first-round matchup will face Northwestern, the six-seed, Thursday. Matta stated that Rutgers is “a team that has had some great moments of basketball,” and that the Buckeyes will need to be ready to perform at their highest level during the tournament.

Matta was generally noncommittal in the conference’s postseason round table call. He said “I haven’t thought about it” when asked if the Buckeyes would accept a postseason bid to the NIT. He also did not elaborate much on the subject of the team’s overall improvement compared to last season, especially in a down year for the Big Ten as a conference, but did acknowledge that the Buckeyes’ schedule to open conference play did not make things any easier: “...we had a very very challenging Big Ten schedule in terms of starting out on the road as much as we did.” He once again highlighted the need for a consistency that has evaded the team for most of the season.