“Definitely nerve-wracking, especially for me, Keita (Bates-Diop) and Kam (Williams) going into our senior year and being so late in the process. We literally found out we weren’t going to have a coach on the first day of summer workouts.”
The hiring of Chris Holtmann to be the new head coach of Ohio State basketball came fairly quickly. Only about a week after Thad Matta had resigned from his position, the Buckeyes landed a solid hiring in Holtmann. But during this transition, it’s easy to forget about the actual players on Ohio State’s roster. What were their reactions not only with the hiring but also with the coach that recruited them being gone? For the most part, it’s a positive review from the players early in the process. Holtmann had a meeting with all of the players, including the seniors in Jae’sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, and Kam Williams. That set the groundwork for a relationship that will hopefully help get the Buckeyes back where they want to be as a basketball program.
While the players said it got emotional in Matta’s final meeting with the team, there seems to be a sense of optimism and an attitude of wanting to get to work with the new head coach. Bates-Diop even mentioned that he had some friends that played for Holtmann at Butler and they had nothing but good things to say about the new Ohio State coach. That’s a good sign early on, and it should be an interesting first year for the new staff and the current players as they try to improve on last season.
“We should be a top 15 program (in the country) all the time. Periodically top five. That's my expectation.”
It didn’t take very long for Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith to set the expectation for new basketball head coach Chris Holtmann. After the news conference introducing Holtmann as the new coach, Smith spoke with Doug Lesmerises about the expectations set forth for Holtmann and for the basketball program in general. Smith mentions that he expects the Buckeyes to be competing for the Big Ten championship every season and that although Thad Matta had a window where Ohio State was a contender every season, that it’s time to get back to the winning ways. Of course, until Matta was around, winning ways wasn’t how things were exactly done in Columbus, so Holtmann has big shoes to fill in any case.
But the question Lesmerises asks is if Smith is putting his expectations too high early on. With a transition from an all-time great coach in the Buckeyes basketball program to Holtmann, there has to be time to adjust to new strategies and obviously allow time for Holtmann’s recruiting to kick in as well. He’s already hit the road almost immediately after being hired trying to recruit some of the top talent but it might take a cycle or two until the Buckeyes see the fruits of his labor. Of course, Holtmann does have an eight-year contract so Smith seems to be confident that he can meet those expectations.
“Lewis and Hubbard were a force off the edge last year as part of the No. 6 defense nationally, measured by yards per game. They combined for 11.5 sacks, sharing time with backups Jalyn Holmes and Nick Bosa -- who would start on nearly any other team and also form a feared duo.”
Mitch Sherman of ESPN put together a list of the best duos in college football coming in to the 2017 season. Ohio State made the list twice with the pairings of Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince on the offensive line as both return to their starting spots for the upcoming season. The most obvious one chosen was Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard on the defensive line for the Buckeyes. Lewis and Hubbard are both defensive ends that terrorized opposing offensive linemen for all of last season. As you can see above, they combined for 11.5 sacks and helped solidify a defensive line that featured quite a bit of depth.
Even without the depth, because of Hubbard and Lewis, you could make an argument that the Buckeyes boast one of the best defensive lines in all of college football. The duo will need to be at their peak for the Buckeyes to make a run at the Big Ten title and also another trip to the College Football Playoff.