New Browns owner: ‘I’d love Ohio State to play’ in Cleveland

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Five times in the storied history of Ohio State football, the Buckeyes have played a game in the city of Cleveland — four times at old Municipal Stadium (1942-44, 1991) and once at the “new” Cleveland Browns Stadium, that coming in 2009 against Toledo.

With “neutral-site” games at NFL stadiums all the rage in the game of college football, and with a new owner set to officially step in next month, could the Buckeyes be headed back to Northeast Ohio in the not-too-distant future?

If that new owner has anything to say about it, absolutely.

In the course of an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tennessee businessman and new Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was asked about getting more use out of his stadium generally and getting the Buckeyes to return for a game specifically.  Suffice to say, Haslam would jump at the opportunity.

“I’ll go on record as saying I’d love Ohio State to play here. I mean love to,” Haslam, whose father was a member of the Tennessee Volunteers’ 1951 national championship team, stated.

A game in Cleveland would make sense on at least a couple of levels.  The city and surrounding areas that stretch several counties wide have been a hotbed for both a highly-supportive fan base as well a recruiting pipeline for the football program.  Plus, it would give the opportunity to people in the area to come into the stadium and see a winning football team and I’m a lifelong Browns fan so by law I’m permitted to crack wise.

When asked about the possibility of returning to the Northeast Ohio city, OSU left the door slightly — very slightly — ajar.

“Our experience in Cleveland has always been enjoyable,” athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement sent to CFT in response to Haslam’s comments. “As  we look at our future schedules, I do not see an opportunity in the near future but will always keep that prospect in mind.”

As for the possibilities of an opponent if — still a big if, obviously — such an agreement would be struck between the Buckeyes and Browns, future non-conference games against in-state schools would seemingly make tremendous regional sense — Cincinnati and Kent State in 2014, Bowling Green in 2016 and Cincinnati again in 2018.

Ironically, the 2018 game “replaced” a game scheduled for this season that would’ve been played at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Playing a future Big Ten game in Cleveland shouldn’t be totally discounted, either; a conference matchup between Illinois and Northwestern was played in 2010 at storied Wrigley Field, home of MLB’s Chicago Cubs.

The latter scenario, though, likely wouldn’t sit well with Columbus-area fans and alumni, losing a home conference game to That City Up North.

Iowa LB Aaron Mends to miss extended time with injury

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Talk about a hard-luck story.

After never starting a game at Iowa, Aaron Mends (pictured, blocking punt) had earned a starting job at outside linebacker during practice this spring.  With football being the cruel mistress that it can be at times, the Hawkeyes announced Friday night that Mends “will miss an extended period of time due to injury.” The program offered no details as to the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed to involve the knee.

According to the school’s release, the fifth-year senior suffered the injury during the final week of Iowa’s spring drills.

Mends was a three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class.  He was the highest-rated linebacker in Iowa’s class that year.

After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Mends has played in 38 games the past three seasons.  A baker’s dozen of those appearances came during the 2017 season.

Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Clay Helton among 15 CFB coaches attending NFL Draft

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We’re less than a week away from former college players officially finding out their new homes with the start of the 2018 NFL Draft and the excitement is palpable no matter if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan or somebody who dons the cardinal and gold of USC.

Naturally this is a big deal for the players’ former programs as well and their recent head coaches will be taking full advantage of the marketing opportunity to future recruits by stopping by the draft itself at AT&T Stadium for the festivities. The NFL released a list of 14 college football coaches and one recent one on Friday as being confirmed to attend the event and there are a few notable names beyond the big ones we’re used to seeing every year:

In addition, Stanford head coach David Shaw will serve as a draft analyst on NFL Network for a seventh year in a row and even ESPN’s College GameDay is getting involved with a pregame show outside the stadium they are quite familiar with from big games over the years.

Georgia DB Mark Webb tears meniscus in practice but expected back before fall camp

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Georgia’s injury luck this spring isn’t getting much better as the defending SEC champions move toward their annual G-Day spring game over the weekend.

Head coach Kirby Smart confirmed with reporters after Thursday’s practice that sophomore defensive back Mark Webb suffered a knee injury earlier in the week and tore his meniscus. He already had the knee scoped and is expected back before fall camp after the rather minor procedure.

Webb originally landed in Athens as a wideout but made the move to the secondary just as the season was getting going. He appeared in 13 games in 2017, mostly on special teams, but was expected to challenge for one of the starting spots at cornerback heading into the upcoming campaign.

The absence of Webb in the lineup for the final week of spring adds to a growing list of injuries for the team during practice as they do a little bit of roster building toward the future. Receiver Michael Chigbu’s career may be over due to lingering injuries and defensive back Divaad Wilson tore his ACL not long after enrolling this semester.

Safe to say that G-Day on Saturday might not be as physical as Smart and the coaching staff would otherwise like as a result of trying to keep the team healthy as they prepare to head into a big offseason.

Old Dominion announces remodel, expansion plans for S.B. Ballard Stadium

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Old Dominion is making sure the first word in the school’s name is not the first thing you think of when you are playing against the Monarchs, joining a long list of their FBS peers with some significant upgrades for their home venue over the coming years. In plans approved this week by the university, ODU released renderings and an updated timeline on a $65 million remodel of S.B. Ballard Stadium that is set to begin as soon as this summer.

“We are excited to begin Phase 1 reconstruction,” said Greg DuBois, the school’s vice president for administration and finance. “Fan comfort and high-quality amenities are the primary focus of this phase. The project will help us create the type of game-day experience fans want and will set us up for future expansions.”

The stadium, some 81-years-old, will undergo a nearly complete teardown over the next two years in order to transform the place most know as Foreman Field. Both the east and west stands will be demolished and rebuilt, complete with new seating and a new press box. There will naturally be more restrooms and concession stands as part of the plan that includes plenty more bells and whistles for the Conference USA program. Seating is expected to grow beyond 21,000 or so capacity the current venue seats.

While construction will get started in the coming months, the bulk of activity will take place after the 2018 campaign is wrapped up at home and before kickoff of the opener in 2019. The Virginian-Pilot reports that funding will not utilize state funds but that the school is requesting that the legislature approve an added $10 million to the cost structure as a result of rising prices beyond the original $55 million forecasted.

2018 will be just the 10th season for the Monarchs (and fifth in FBS) since the football program was reinstated and it goes without saying that the new digs will be some of the nicest in CUSA when all is said and done. Few programs have been able to successfully navigate the transition as well as ODU has and it seems an updated stadium in the near future is the reward for head coach Bobby Wilder and others in Norfolk.