No matter how talented Ohio State may be on offense at the skill positions, without a solid offensive line providing protection none of it will matter. The Buckeyes lose four starters on the offensive line, returning just one, so this spring the focus on the offense should be starting up front.
“We’re not really worried about who we lost,” sophomore Pat Elflein said to The Columbus Dispatch. “We’re just worried about who we’ve got now. We’re just focused on getting better every day. We definitely have some big shoes to fill, but we’re capable of it.”
To recap, Ohio State is losing Jack Mewhort, Marcus Hall, Corey Linsley and Andrew Norwell to the NFL. They return junior Taylor Decker, who is moving from right tackle to left tackle. Ohio State will not be lacking in potential on the offensive line though. Ohio State just recruited four four-star offensive linemen in the Class of 2014 according to Rivals.com, and the Class of 2012 that is coming in to their own now also included three four-star recruits, including Decker. The offensive line has the individual talent to be one of the top units in the Big Ten, one that helps separate Ohio State from most of the rest of the conference, but as was put on display by Michigan State and Clemson in Ohio State’s two-game season-ending losing streak, it is far from being a dominant force that could compete for a championship.
Last season saw Ohio State give up 22 sacks, which was in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten and a stat that is relatively common for a team with a quarterback who can make plays happen with his feet. But quarterback Braxton Miller has been roughed up in his time in Columbus. The Orange Bowl resulted in a lingering injury that sees Miller limited at best this spring as he rehabs following surgery on his throwing shoulder. If keeping Miller healthy is the biggest key to success this season for Ohio State, then consider the offensive line the key master (or are they the gate keepers?).
Finding an identity as a unit on the offensive line will be critical for Ohio State. That begins now.
For those who pay attention to the uniform game within the game of college football — which seems like just about everyone these days — a distinct pattern has emerged of late: new coach, new uniforms. This offseason alone we’ve seen it at Rutgers (new coach Chris Ash), Central Florida (new coach Scott Frost), Virginia Tech (new coach Justin Fuente) and, now, Virginia. Nothing gives the fan base something new to rally around quite like giving them something new to look at, particularly when a new staff takes over for an underperforming one. When the product on the field still appears like the old one, you might as well make it look different, at least.
The Cavaliers broke out new uniforms on Saturday that blend the program’s past with its present.
Here, head coach Bronco Mendenhall explains the thesis behind the change. I’ll let you decide whether this is the typical Nike brand-speak coming out a new mouth or convicting symbolism that will yield a tangible difference on the field.
Next, some new looks at the new look, courtesy of Virginia athletics:
Virginia’s new staff and new uniforms will see the field for the first time Saturday against Richmond.
A familiar headline splashed across SEC-land on Sunday: Mississippi State defensive tackle Nick James was arrested early Sunday morning.
It’s his fourth arrest in the past three years.
James was arrested previously for driving without insurance in 2013, disorderly conduct and driving with a suspended license in 2014, and public intoxication in February of last year.
The latest arrest came at 1:36 Sunday morning for public intoxication, according to the Starkville Daily News.
The Bulldogs released a statement saying Dan Mullen “is aware of an incident involving Nick James that occurred last night, and he is currently getting more information on it.”
A senior, James saw action in all 13 games last season with 10 starts. He has posted 43 tackles, three TFLs and one forced fumble in 34 career appearances. James was penciled in to start along the Bulldogs’ defensive front this season.
Mississippi State will already be without five-star signee Jeffery Simmons for punching a woman in a parking lot fight before his arrival on campus.
Western Michigan has dismissed a pair of players accused of sticking up a female WMU student after committing an on-campus robbery, the program announced Sunday. The players, linebacker Ron George and wide receiver Bryson White, were both freshmen.
The pair are accused of holding the student up with a semi-automatic firearm and a knife. It is not clear which player is accused of holding which weapon. “He had the gun to the back of my head and he slammed the back of my head with the gun,” the woman said.
The woman says the players stole “hundreds of dollars, along with a stereo speaker.”
“I’m so scared. I couldn’t sleep last night,” the woman told WWMT-TV. “I haven’t ate anything since. I’m so scared. I don’t want to live here anymore.”
“This has been a difficult time for our University, community and football family,” head coach P.J. Fleck said in a statement. “With this action we are moving forward and we are focusing our attention on Northwestern.”
George was a three-star signee out of Pittsburgh. White was a walk-on from Ohio.
Western Michigan visits Northwestern Saturday (noon ET, ESPNU).
It’s been a good year for Kirby Hocutt. His basketball team returned to the NCAA Tournament, then made a nice rebound hire in Chris Beard when Tubby Smith bolted for Memphis. His baseball team won its first-ever game at the College World Series, then held onto head coach Tim Tadlock when Texas came calling. His football program is positioned for a solid year, with rare stability at the defensive coordinator position and perhaps the most talented quarterback in school history in Patrick Mahomes. He reached a new level of professional currency when he was named chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
That last bit has led to a handsome new contract that pushes his salary to north of $1 million a year.
As detailed by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Hocutt has inked a seven-year contract that pays him a sum of $7.525 million. He’ll earn $1 million in the first year and net raises of $25,000 each year, plus bonuses that could reach as much as $225,000 each year. All told, theoretically, Hocutt could earn $1.4 million by the final year of his contract.
“I couldn’t feel more fortunate to have the support that I’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy at Texas Tech University,” Hocutt told the paper. “The leadership continues to be tremendous. I couldn’t be more excited about President Schovanec. The support he provides, that Chancellor (Robert) Duncan provides, I couldn’t be more fortunate as an athletics director.”
Salaries for athletics directors aren’t as easy to track as coaches but, according to the most recent data on file, Hocutt appears to be one of just eight active ADs to earn seven figures — and more than the ADs at both Texas and Texas A&M.
In addition to Tech’s success in the big three sports — the Red Raiders were the only Big 12 program to reach the postseason in football and men’s basketball while also reaching the College World Series — 11 of the school’s 14 other programs also reached the postseason, including Big 12 titles in soccer, men’s tennis and baseball.