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Ohio State to use time off as ‘training camp’ for NCAA Tournament

Holtmann needs to circle the wagons to avoid Big Dance disappointment.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s a lot of reestablishing your habits, your system, the details of how you want to play offensively and defensively. Sunday is going to roll around here quicker than we think, but we’re trying to reestablish our habits. It’s almost like a training camp.”

-Chris Holtmann, via Ryan McGlade, 247Sports

I was one of the people that thought that the nearly week off between the Buckeyes’ final regular season game (a double-overtime win over Indiana) and the Big Ten Tournament would benefit the team, which had been struggling down the stretch in large part due to its lack of bench production throughout the season.

However, for the third time this season, OSU fell to Penn State in their only game in the B1G Tourney, giving the Buckeyes nearly two weeks to regroup before their eventual NCAA Tournament return. The last month of the regular season was a bit of a rollercoaster for the Buckeyes after their nearly flawless January. So, in order for Chris Holtmann’s squad to get back to playing its best basketball, the coach is going to put the team through their paces in preparation for the Big Dance.

While I still subscribe to the idea that the rest should give the Buckeyes fresher legs for the tournament— and that PSU is just an oddly awful matchup for Ohio State— it’s clear that rest isn’t going to be the only thing that the Buckeyes need to maximize their chances for success in the postseason.

When Holtmann got to Columbus, he said that he would be starting work with his new team with the basics, and now it seems like that is where he will return. Without an opponent to prepare for, the Buckeyes will try to reestablish the philosophies and schemes that they want to rely on when they get back into action.

While the numbers don’t look demonstrably different from January to February, there was undeniably a difference in the cohesion that the team played with, especially on defense. The guards will need to be able to find ways to minimize opponents’ three-point opportunities, especially if playing a less-talented, mid-major in the early rounds.

And Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop will have to be able to reassert himself after being less than reliable for large portions of February. If Holtmann can get his team playing the way they were when they went almost undefeated int he first month of the year, they should have a good shot at advancing to the tourney’s second weekend, no matter who they end up paired with.

“[...] expect sophomore Jeffrey Okudah to step up and seize a valuable role. No player received more love from his teammates based on the way he improved toward the end of the 2017 campaign.”

-Ryan Ginn, Land of 10

As Ohio State’s spring football practices kick off this week, obviously all eyes are going to be on who gets what snaps under center and in what order. However, as Ginn points out in his article, there are more players than just Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow, and Tate Martell to be focused on.

The cornerbacks will be of special interest this camp, as new coach Taver Johnson looks to replace Denzel Ward. While the Buckeyes will have Damon Arnette and Kendall Sheffield returning after been listed as co-starters opposite Ward last season, a lot of attention has been give to Jeffrey Okudah, because of how well he played on special teams and in reserve duty last year. Former CB coach Kerry Coombs rotated players freely in and out of the secondary during his tenure. So, assuming Johnson does the same, Okudah has the opportunity to at least be the next man up, if not take one of the starting spots outright.

Either way, the entire secondary will be fairly young for the first time in a while. In recent seasons, while players have had to wait their turn to get into the starting lineup, they were experienced, veteran players when they did finally get their opportunities. However, this year, the Buckeyes likely won’t have a single senior in the mix, with a number of sophomores taking important snaps.

They also could get contributions from true freshmen Tyreke Johnson and Sevyn Banks, both of whom have already enrolled at OSU, and are participating in spring practices.

“The top five quarterbacks in this category are well-rounded, highly sought after passers, so it’s easy to assume they can’t move. That isn’t the case. Barrett carried the football often at Ohio State, and is a proficient at reading blocks.”

-Chris Trapasso,

So, Trapasso wasn’t exactly enamored with the NFL Combine performance of J.T. Barrett. In his article, he ranked the top-six quarterbacks in the following categories; short/intermediate accuracy, processing, pocket movement, decision-making, passing under pressure, deep accuracy, arm strength, mobility, and scheme fits (West Coast, Air Coryell, Spread/RPO).

The only time that the most decorated QB in Ohio State and Big Ten history made any list was in the mobility category, and that was in the sixth spot. Now, I have no illusions that Barrett will end up being a Hall of Fame NFL signal-caller, but I do think that he has a chance to be a solid career-backup who gets a spot start here and there.

Anyone who’s watched him play over the last four years at OSU knows that he isn’t exactly the most physically-gifted athlete to ever play the position; so, him not blowing people away at the combine isn’t much of a shock.

However, there is a winning quality that is unmistakable in his game when you watch the film (despite the obvious issues that show up as well), and I think that leadership and tenacity will likely be what ends up getting him a spot on a team.

If not, he’ll likely be on the coaching staff at OSU, Texas, or Cincinnati sooner rather than later.