By and large, the handful of spring games contested Saturday were rather pedestrian and mundane affairs, as should be expected.
Then there was Nebraska’s spring closer.
In the fourth quarter of the Cornhuskers’ annual spring game, No. 22 Jack Hoffman trotted off the sidelines and onto the field as the Red team was facing a critical fourth-and-one. Now, you won’t find Hoffman in your game-day program or on any online roster; you see, Jack is a seven-year-old little boy who is battling pediatric brain cancer and has been adopted by the NU football family.
With quarterback Taylor Martinez lined up in the shotgun, and Jake lined up directly to his left, well, the following happened:
“That was awesome for the team and for Jack,” Martinez said after the game in quotes distributed by the school. “He’s going to remember that for the rest of his life and so will I. It was awesome for him to score that touchdown.”
“Yeah, we drew up the play probably 30 seconds before so I’m sure it was all a blur for him,” fullback C.J. Zimmerer, who has been involved with Team Jack for several months, said. “I was telling some of the other reporters that he did a great job. We wanted to get him around the edge, giving him a nice lane to the end zone. He did a great job running his little legs there. He’s fast for a little guy. He did a great job for the pressure of 60,000 fans. I’m sure it was not very easy for a 7-year-old.”
To put an official stamp on the heartwarming, lump-in-the-throat gesture, here’s a portion of the box score Nebraska sent out following the spring game. Pay particular attention to the Red team’s leading rusher:
God bless little Jack as he continues his brave fight against this insidious disease. And God bless the Nebraska football program for what they have done, did and will continue to do for that little boy and his family.
In a day packed full of Big Ten moves becoming official, Ohio State has added a roster move of its own.
Urban Meyer revealed at the conference’s media gathering in Chicago on Monday that defensive lineman Darius Slade will not return to the team.
A 3-star recruit out of Montclair, N.J., Slade (42) redshirted in 2014 and missed the ’16 campaign with a lower leg injury. He racked up seven appearances in 2015.
Slade was expected to back up Sam Hubbard at defensive end.
Meyer said that he “thinks” Slade is off to Arizona State. If that’s true, Slade would have two years of eligibility to play as a Sun Devil unless the NCAA approved a waive for him.
Indiana running back Camion Patrick and linebacker T.J. Simmons will not return to the team this fall after being granted medical hardships, the program announced Monday. Both players would be fifth-year seniors in 2017.
Simmons appeared in 37 games with 35 starts before suffering a season-ending injury that knocked him out of the 2016 campaign entirely. He collected 213 tackles, six sacks, 16.5 TFLs, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery as a Hoosier. Simmons will remain with the program as a student assistant.
“T.J. was a three-year starter and a tough kid that I was looking forward to coaching,” head coach Tom Allen said in a statement. “He did everything that he could to get himself back from his knee injury, but he was unable to reach a place where he could consistently play. T.J. is excited about his new role as a student assistant coach in the weight room and on the field. He will be helping his teammates get better. T.J. has such a passion for the game and this program, and I am thrilled to have him help us breakthrough.”
Patrick arrived from East Mississippi Community College — of Last Chance U. fame — and proceeded to sustain injuries to his ACL and a shoulder. He caught six passes for 154 yards with one receiving touchdown and one rushing score for Indiana.
“Unfortunately, Camion dealt with multiple injuries during his time at IU and was never able to fully recover,” Allen said. “He has worked hard in the classroom. Camion has battled to get back following each injury, but his body has let him down. He recognizes that. We recognize that, and we want to help him finish strong in the classroom and help him create a bright future for himself.”
Joey Julius was everyone’s favorite kickoff specialist last season. Sadly, he won’t be your favorite kickoff specialist in 2017.
At Big Ten media days on Monday, the Nittany Lions unveiled their 2017 roster and Julius was not on it.
Listed at 5-foot-10, 258 pounds, Julius announced in May he would seek treatment for an eating disorder.
“I have been struggling over the last couple months with my eating disorder,” he announced at the time. “It got to the point where I had to return to St. Louis to seek further treatment at the McCallum place. Recovery is a wonderful and beautiful thing that I am working on returning too.”
Julius handled 93 kickoffs for the 2016 Big Ten champions, averaging 62.1 yards per kick with 45 touchbacks. His kickoff average ranked 47th nationally, and his 48.4 touchback percentage was 40th in FBS. Julius made 10-of-12 field goals and 20-of-24 extra points in 2015 before ceding the job to Tyler Davis last season.
Ohio State may have won the inaugural College Football Playoff national championship, but its most recent trip to the postseason tournament was not nearly as much fun. The Buckeyes were blanked by eventual national champion Clemson, 31-0. Asked whether or not that plays into the mental approach to the upcoming 2017 season, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer suggested that loss is no longer thought about.
“That ship has sailed. It’s gone,” Meyer said. “Professionally, it changed how we do some business on offense, and we’re moving forward.”
Ohio State has added former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as offensive coordinator, with Meyer noting that Wilson is the first offensive coordinator to be brought into Meyer’s program as a head coach (all others have been promoted from within). Meyer acknowledged that more of the offensive management has been put in the hands of Wilson, which supports the thought that things have changed with the offense in 2017.
Ohio State is a heavy favorite among media members covering the Big Ten to win the conference this season, and the Buckeyes will likely be viewed as a playoff contender. Regardless, how last season ended has to leave an empty feeling that needs to be fulfilled this fall, whether Meyer wants to use it as fuel or not.
“It’s the back of everyone’s mind,” Meyer said. “Whether I use that in training camp or not is to be determined.”