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CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 17 Ohio State

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2011 record: 6-7 overall, 4-5 in Big Ten (4th in Leaders)

2011 postseason: Gator Bowl (24-17 loss to Florida)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked

Head coach: Urban Meyer (104-23 overall, first season at Ohio State)

Offensive coordinator: Tom Herman (first season at OSU, first as OC); Ed Warriner (first season at OSU, first as co-OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 27th rushing offense (191.1 ypg); 115th passing offense (127 ypg); 107th total offense (318.1 ypg); 81st scoring offense (24.5 ypg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: Luke Fickell (11th season at OSU, first as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 50th rushing defense (141.5 ypg); 14th passing defense (182 ypg); 19th total defense (323.5 ypg); 27th scoring defense (21 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: nine

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Stadium: Ohio Stadium (102,329; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 2010 (co-champs with Michigan State and Wisconsin)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
A total of 16 starters returning from a season that the Buckeyes had to navigate its way through without long-time coach Jim Tressel.  In comes two-time BcS-winning coach Urban Meyer, injecting some much-needed enthusiasm and optimism to a program dealing with NCAA sanctions.  Part of that enthusiasm and optimism, especially from Meyer, comes from Braxton Miller, the true sophomore who showed flashes of brilliance in his first season as a starter at this level in 2011.  The best part when it comes to Miller may be — likely will be — yet to come as his dual-threat ability is a hand-in-glove fit for Meyer’s spread offense.  Add in a defense was above average in 2011 and returns nine starters in 2012, and you have a team hellbent on playing spoiler early — or very late in the season as the case may be — and often.

The Bad
Regardless of how well the Buckeyes adapt to Meyer and his new coaching staff, OSU will be ineligible for the postseason — Big Ten championship game and a bowl game — thanks to NCAA sanctions levied for the actions of the previous regime.  Keeping his squad focused on improving throughout the season — especially for what will be their bowl game, The Game vs. Michigan — will be Job One for Meyer & Co.

The Unknown
How much of an impact will Jordan Hall’s freak injury impact the running game?  Last season’s third-leading rusher was expected to provide half of a 1-2 RB punch with Carlos Hyde, but the senior cut the bottom of his right foot from stepping on a piece of glass.  That injury could have Hall, listed as the No. 1 RB on the depth chart prior to his injury, out through the middle of September if not longer.  While it’s certainly far from devastating, watching how Hyde and sophomore Rod Smith handle the running-game workload will be interesting to say the least.

Make-or-break game: vs. Michigan, Nov. 24
In a normal year, The Game would be the make-or-break game for either side.  With Ohio State on probation and ineligible for the postseason of any kind, The Game becomes The Postseason for the Buckeyes in 2012.  As if it needed an additional layer of importance, there’s the fact that the Wolverines dropped the Buckeyes 40-34 last season, snapping a streak of seven straight wins — six, technically — over its bitter That School Up North rivals.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Braxton Miller
A year away from entering any type of meaningful Heisman discussion, Miller is nonetheless the only current Buckeye with the type of talent to merit inclusion on even the periphery of the talk.  As a true freshman last season, Miller led the Buckeyes with 714 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, while also throwing for 13 touchdowns and tossing just four interceptions.  He was limited to just 157 pass attempts under interim head coach Luke Fickell; with Meyer at the helm and with that year’s worth of on-the-job training, expect that number to double and, potentially, place his name on the lips of Heisman voters.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Hogs WR Keon Hatcher undergoes second surgery on same foot

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - SEPTEMBER 5:  Keon Harcher #4 of the Arkansas Razorbacks catches a touchdown pass over Kalon Beverly #32 of the UTEP Miners at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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An injury that wiped out most of Keon Hatcher‘s 2015 season has resurfaced.

On social media over the weekend, Hatcher posted a video which revealed his left foot encased in a post-surgery boot.  WholeHogSports.com subsequently confirmed through multiple sources that Hatcher had indeed undergone surgery recently.

The website writes “[i]t’s unclear why Hatcher required the surgery or whether he will miss any practice or playing time because of the surgery.”  The university has thus far declined to address the receiver’s status, although head coach Bret Bielema could be expected to touch on the situation during a post-spring press conference Thursday.

During Arkansas’ Week 2 upset loss to Toledo, Hatcher suffered a broken left foot that at first was expected to sideline him for a minimum of six weeks but, following surgery, ultimately cost him the remainder of the season.

At the time of the injury, Hatcher was the Razorbacks’ leader with 198 receiving yards and two touchdowns.  In 2014, he led the team with 558 yards receiving and six touchdowns.

Hatcher received a medical hardship waiver for the 2015 season, which will allow him to return as a fifth-year senior this season.

QB Nick Johns decides to transfer from Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 25: A Virginia Cavaliers fan reacts to the Cavaliers being charged with a safety in the second quarter against the Boise State Broncos at Scott Stadium on September 25, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Seeing the writing on Virginia’s depth chart wall, Nick Johns has decided to take his leave of Charlottesville.

As more and more kids are doing these days — especially the cool ones — Johns took to Twitter to announce that he has decided to leave the Cavaliers football program and transfer to an undetermined elsewhere.  According to the quarterback, he was given an unrestricted release from his UVa. scholarship.

Johns, who is not related to returning Cavalier starting quarterback Matt Johns, was a three-star member of UVa.’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 19 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the District of Columbia. As he didn’t see the field as a true freshman, Johns’ main claim to fame during his brief time with the Cavaliers was a driving while intoxicated charged he accrued last August.

With Matt Johns and Connor Brewer, a Texas/Arizona transfer, in a dead-heat for the starting job exiting the spring, and former East Carolina starter Kurt Benkert added as a graduate transfer over the weekend, Nick Johns’ decision to leave for a better shot at playing time is understandable.

Wyoming basketball player gives up hoops to play football

BOISE, ID - OCTOBER 24: Head coach Craig Bohl of the Wyoming Cowboys rallies his team at the start of the fourth quarter of the game against the Boise State Broncos on October 24, 2015 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Boise State won the game 34-14. (Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images)
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At the expense of its basketball team, Wyoming’s football team has made an early-May addition to its roster.

Austin Conway, a Cowboys basketball player, expressed a desire to play football earlier this year and was given clearance by both head coaches involved, Craig Bohl on the football side, Allen Edwards on the basketball side, to participate in spring practice.  With the 15 spring sessions now in the books, Conway has made his decision and will give up basketball in order to concentrate on football.

Conway, a Colorado high school quarterback, will play wide receiver at the collegiate level as well as return kicks for the Cowboys.

“I had nice long talks with Coach Bohl and Coach Edwards at the end of spring football,” said Conway in quotes distributed by the school. “Both coaches were very supportive. The biggest thing was I just had to follow my heart. I felt really comfortable being back out on the football field this spring. It felt like I was at home back on the field.”

Conway, who took a redshirt for the Cowboys basketball team as a true freshman in the 2015-16 season, will be eligible to play immediately in 2016 and will have four years of eligibility remaining.  The press release stated that the player’s “scholarship will be shifted from the basketball team to the football team beginning in the summer of 2016.”

As for his football credentials, here is the pertinent 411 from the release:

Conway was an outstanding football and basketball player at Overland High School in Aurora, Colo. He was named to The Denver Post’s All-Colorado team for all classifications as a dual-threat quarterback his senior season of 2014. During his senior season, he passed for 1,341 yards and 13 touchdowns and added 509 rushing yards and five rushing TDs. His junior season, Conway accumulated 1,847 passing yards and 1,130 rushing yards for 2,977 yards of total offense. He had a combined 31 touchdowns, 19 through the air and 12 on the ground. 

“Austin showed us during spring football that he has a passion for the game of football and that he had the skills to benefit our team moving forward,” said Bohl. “We were aware of Austin’s football accomplishments in high school. The fact that he has only been away from the game for a year we believe will make his transition a smooth one. He certainly benefitted from going through spring practice with us and will benefit from having a full summer to work with our strength and conditioning staff. We are excited to have Austin as a part of our team.

“Coach Edwards and I have been working together through this process to try and help Austin decide what is best for him. I want to thank Allen (Edwards) for his willingness to help Austin find the path that he feels is best for his future.

Kirby Smart, on competing against Nick Saban on recruiting trail: ‘I don’t look forward to that’

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 11:  Head coach Nick Saban and Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart of the Alabama Crimson Tide look on from the field during the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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And, in related news, I don’t look forward to getting kicked in the testicles.

One of the more fascinating storylines leading up to National Signing Day was Nick Saban and his former right-hand man.  After nine years with Saban at Alabama, including the last eight as defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart struck out on his own to become the head coach at his alma mater Georgia.

As both are part of the SEC, their paths crossed more than a couple of times on the recruiting trail in the two months between Smart’s hiring between the hedges and signing day.  As al.com explained…

Alabama and Georgia went up against each other for multiple recruits in the final weeks of the 2016 recruiting cycle. Alabama signed Ben Davis and Lyndell Wilson — two major UGA targets — while the Bulldogs flipped receiver Tyler Simmons away from the Crimson Tide. In the class of 2017, Smart flipped four-star quarterback Jake Fromm from Alabama and landed a commitment from one-time Alabama offensive line commit Netori Johnson.

… both the mentor and the protegé scored wins on the recruiting front.

It’ll be fun,” Smart said upon his hiring in early December when asked about going up against the recruiting juggernaut that is his former boss; two months later, after Saban had pulled in yet another top-ranked class — UGA was seventh in 247Sports.com‘s composite rankings — a couple of months ago, Smart has tweaked his tune.

“I said it would be fun? Oh man, I hope I didn’t say it would be fun,” Smart said on the SEC coaches teleconference earlier today. “I don’t look forward to that because I know Nick does a great job in recruiting. He’s very relentless; he does a really good job, and they have a great product to sell.”

Of course, 2016 wasn’t a one-off battle between the boss and the former employee, with work on the Class of 2017 in full swing.  At the moment, both the Bulldogs and Tide have nine commits each to next year’s class, with UGA, at No. 6, three spots behind UA.

Given the fact that the next signing day is still nine months away, Smart will have plenty of time to close that gap — or his boss will have plenty of time to widen it.