clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Despite the loss of Jerome Baker, Ohio State is prepared to reload its defense once again

With several underclassmen declaring for the NFL Draft, the Buckeyes are prepared to rebuild their defense in the offseason.

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

“This is a decision many expected from Baker, but it’s something OSU must now account for. How to the Scarlet and Grey adjust with the two-year starter now gone?”

-Patrick Murphy, 247Sports

Urban Meyer and company are certainly used to this routine by now. Every year, some of the best players for Ohio State choose to leave school early as a potential high pick in the NFL Draft. In 2017, the Buckeyes had seven players selected, including five underclassmen. Of the underclassmen, defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker were both taken in the first round.

This year is not likely to be much different. Several Buckeyes have already declared that they will be foregoing their remaining college eligibility to enter the draft, including defensive end Sam Hubbard, cornerback Denzel Ward and, most recently, linebacker Jerome Baker. These departures leave the defense in a similar position to last season, when four defensive players were selected in the first two rounds of the draft.

Baker has been one of the Buckeyes’ best linebackers during his two seasons as a starter. As a sophomore, Baker came off the bench early in the season, but quickly earned a starting gig that he has not relinquished during his career in Columbus. He finished the 2017 season as the team’s top tackler, recording 72 tackles on the year, including eight tackles for loss.

Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that fellow linebacker Chris Worley, a fifth-year senior, is also departing the program. Worley proved one of the most dynamic players in the linebacking corps, having played all three linebacker positions this year, and ended the season with 56 total tackles. Replacing both Worley, who is projected to be selected late in this year’s draft, as well as Baker is a tall order. However, the Buckeyes return Tuf Borland, who has seen significant playing time this season, as well as Malik Harrison. Similar to the situation its secondary faced last season, Ohio State may be losing lauded stars to the NFL, but had enough firepower in its arsenal to not skip a beat heading into 2018.

“I didn’t know any of these guys, but I knew they came from a great program in Butler. I knew some faces over there, so that helped, but I just really wanted to reach out and make things better.”

-D’Angelo Russell, via Adam Jardy, The Columbus Dispatch

Just a few short months ago, former Ohio State basketball star D’Angelo Russell said that he didn’t think he would ever go back to visit with the Buckeyes, given the program’s treatment of former head coach Thad Matta. However, the third-year point guard for the Brooklyn Nets was courtside Sunday night as Ohio State downed Rutgers 68-46 in Piscataway. After the game, Russell and teammate Caris LeVert went to the Buckeyes’ locker room to celebrate with the team. Russell met current head coach Chris Holtmann and greeted former players who were with the program when Russell was in Columbus, including former roommate Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate.

Holtmann and Russell’s relationship got off to a rough start over the summer when Holtmann was first named head coach. Russell had previously stated that “it messed me up completely” how Ohio State managed Matta’s departure from the program, but has since acknowledged his support for the new regime: “It’s a good experience, coming back. Just showing my support with the team being in town. I just wanted to come by and show my support.”

Holtmann said that he didn’t know Russell would be at the game, but mentioned that the two had been texting throughout the week leading up to the matchup. The new coach also said that Russell is “welcome back whenever” with the team.

Russell and Matta grew close during Russell’s sole season with the Buckeyes from 2014-15, prior to Russell being taken second-overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Lakers. In that time, the point guard was recognized as a consensus first-team All-American and Big Ten Freshman of the Year. After spending two rather tumultuous years in L.A., Russell was traded to the Nets. Now, the former standout is averaging a career-best 20.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

“The Buckeyes have been No. 1 all season, and will likely be the favorite for the NCAA team title.”

-Mark Podolski, The News-Herald

Depending on which poll you are looking at, the Ohio State Buckeyes wrestling team is assuredly in one of the top spots nationally. The Buckeyes are 8-0 in match play this season, having already defeated the likes of No. 17 Rutgers and, most recently, No, 14 Minnesota. Ohio State is more than halfway through its season at this point, and things are looking up across the board for the squad as wrestlers at each weight class seem to be firing at all cylinders.

Things don’t get any easier for the Buckeyes moving forward, however. Next up, Ohio State faces No. 7 Iowa in Columbus in their last home dual of the season. Then, next month, they are scheduled to go on the road to face top-ranked Penn State. The Nittany Lions have won every NCAA title since 2011, with the exception of Ohio State’s win in 2016, and are the Buckeyes’ fiercest competition for a championship this season.

Led by Kyle Snyder, the Buckeyes appear poised for their second NCAA team title in four years. Snyder himself is a two-time NCAA champion and an Olympic gold medalist. Currently, five Buckeyes are in the conversation to take home individual national titles. Three of these wrestlers--Snyder, Nathan Tomasello and Kollin Moore--are ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes. Myles Martin and Luke Pletcher are sitting at the No. 2 spots of their own weight classes. Collectively, these five wrestlers are 55-0 in individual matches on the season. Tomasello returned to the Ohio State lineup versus Minnesota after missing a number of matches due to injury, while Snyder has missed matches while traveling for international competitions.

Ohio State has six more dual matches before the Big Ten Tournament, hosted in East Lansing at Michigan State. The NCAA Tournament is scheduled for the middle of March, to be played out in Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena.