Baker’s recruitment heats up
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Losing has never come easy for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, and he'll be the first to admit it.
"I've never, no, I've never handled it well. Awful loser," Meyer said recently. "I guess I'd rather be known as that than as a good loser."
Meyer, 49, knows that much of the country views him as a less than gracious loser. He hasn't had to show it much, however, as his teams have lost only 24 times in his 12 seasons and 152 games as coach at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State.
He says he doesn't care what others think about him or his program. He either ignores or is unaware of the opinions of those outside of the bubble he's built around his team.
"Once again, perception isn't something that drives me," he said.
The Buckeyes are coming off a 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game. The setback cost Ohio State the conference crown and a likely trip to Pasadena and a spot opposite No. 1 Florida State in the BCS title game. It also ended the Buckeyes' record 24-game winning streak under Meyer.
"I could tell it was kind of tough for him because we all were expecting to go to the national championship game," linebacker Ryan Shazier said.
The Buckeyes instead will play Clemson in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1 in Miami.
After their first bowl workout, Meyer gathered the players and bared his emotions in what the coach called "a cathartic moment."
"He's obviously the guy we look at as a template for how to handle things like this," offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said. "He came back from a recruiting trip and came to the middle of the huddle at the end of practice. He was telling us how much he loves us and everything. That meant a lot to us.
Coach Bill O’Brien at Penn State was first to unwrap his present when No. 87-ranked Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln), the nation’s No. 7 defensive tackle, committed to the Nittany Lions early Tuesday morning.
Holley had been leaning for a while toward the Nittany Lions over Ohio State, Florida and around 30 other scholarship offers, and his pickup was important.
O’Brien has talked at length about adding more depth along the defensive line, and Holley is the type of impact player who could help Penn State become instantly better. With Penn State losing defensive tackles DaQuan Jones and Kyle Baublitz, it was important to land Holley. That’s why O’Brien pulled out all the stops to get him, including making an appearance at Yankee Stadium for Lincoln's 28-27 win over Tottenville in the PSAL City Conference Championship on Dec. 10.
Later in the afternoon, it was coach Les Miles’ turn to get a new toy as Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./South), the nation’s No. 3 inside linebacker, announced he was heading to LSU. Garrett, who is ranked No. 37 in the ESPN 300, also visited Florida, Tennessee and Ole Miss and was offered by virtually every school in the nation. He became enamored with the Bayou Bengals’ vaunted defense.
The addition of Garrett was key for the Tigers because inside linebacker was one of the few areas of need it hadn’t addressed yet with their 2014 class. LSU does have four-star prospect Donnie Alexander (New Orleans/Edna Karr) already on board, but he projects as an outside linebacker on the next level. If you review his scouting report, it reads like Garrett was meant to play in the LSU defense.
Tennessee certainly would have liked to have Garrett in its class as it continues to overhaul its roster. But the Vols already have commitments from eight other prospects projected at the linebacker spot, including No. 10 inside linebacker Gavin Bryant (Jackson, Ala./Jackson). Garrett wasn’t going to make or break Tennessee's class. Ole Miss is also not fretting too much missing out on Garrett, because the Rebels are also deep with commitments at the position and No. 1 junior college linebacker Christian Russell out of East Mississippi Community College should be a star in Oxford.
It wasn’t Santa Claus who delivered Urban Meyer’s present on Tuesday, it was the nation’s No. 4 receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer). Dixon, who is ranked No. 39 in the ESPN 300, was the center of one of the nation’s most intense recruiting battles between Alabama, Ohio State and Miami.
It’s not often you see a prospect turn down Alabama, and there was tremendous pressure on Dixon to stay local and play for the Canes, but in the end, he thought he was the best fit in the Ohio State offense.
Dixon is right. His game -- highlighted by polished route running ability and the strength to out muscle defenders -- complements Buckeyes receivers Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas, who are coming back in 2014.
For Ohio State, it was the second day in a row it landed an elite player from the South. Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), the nation's top linebacker and the No. 12 overall recruit, committed to Ohio State on Monday afternoon.
Alabama put the full-court press on Dixon because he would have been a nice complement to already-committed receivers Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish) and Derek Kief (Cincinnati/La Salle). But the cupboard isn’t exactly bare in Tuscaloosa and four-star Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman) is still on the target board.
Miami has four receivers committed so far, but none of them are the home run that Dixon is. Yes, Darrell Langham (Lantana, Fla./Santaluces) and Braxton Berrios (Raleigh, N.C./Leesville Road) are quality receivers and will add needed depth at the position, but Dixon is the type of player from South Florida you just can’t let get away.
You can never have too many pass-rushing defensive ends in the SEC, which is why Steve Spurrier surely was elated with the gift of Dante Sawyer (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett), the nation’s No. 9 defensive end. Sawyer committed to the Gamecocks on Tuesday, giving them a much-needed boost from a need that hadn’t been filled yet.
With South Carolina having few scholarships available for its 2014 class, there’s not a lot of room for swings and misses, so it was vital for the Gamecocks to make sure they got their guy at the position. With Jadeveon Clowney likely bolting for the NFL and Chaz Sutton graduating, there’s gaping holes at both defensive end spots and Sawyer, the No. 91 player overall, has the talent to step in and compete with other younger players like Gerald Dixon, Mason Harris and Darius English to fill the spots.
Missouri finished runner-up for Sawyer, and landing him would have sent a significant message to the rest of the SEC that the Tigers are now major players for the top talent in the region. In reality, they already are, even with the miss. The Tigers have pledges from nine players in Florida and Georgia, and that trend is only going to continue to tick upward after the success of the 2013 season.
Four-star wide receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer) committed to Ohio State on Tuesday, giving the Buckeyes their second top 50 recruit in as many days. The No. 39 overall player in the ESPN 300 gives Urban Meyer another playmaker on offense and could become a dependable weapon quickly for the Buckeyes.
What will make him so effective in Columbus? Let's break it down:
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Shazier did not win the Big Ten defensive player of the year or linebacker of the year honors but did lead the league in tackles and tackles for loss while tying for the lead in forced fumbles. Dennard won the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back.
Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun and Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland all made the second team.
Lewan was a first-team All-American last year. Calhoun earned the honor in his first full year of starting. Borland was named the Big Ten defensive player of the year.
Several Big Ten players are featured on the AP's third team. They are:
- Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde
- Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
- Penn State WR Allen Robinson
- Ohio State OT Jack Mewhort
- Penn State G John Urschel
- Wisconsin G Ryan Groy
- Northwestern K Jeff Budzien
- Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman
- Michigan State LB Max Bullough
- Michigan State LB Denicos Allen
Congrats to all the honorees. Kind of surprised that neither Mike Sadler nor Cody Webster made any of the three teams at punter, but the Big Ten is well represented among the All-Americans.
The freshman defensive lineman didn’t set any expectations for himself, because he had no idea what life was going to be like in college.
Physically gifted for his young age and certainly somebody Ohio State was excited about down the road, all of the preseason attention was on a pair of pass-rushing talents in the class above him, which again helped keep the pressure down and the goals seemingly nonexistent.
But if his rapid development into one of the best young linemen in the Big Ten has taken him by surprise or maybe come a little easier than he thought it would, Bosa does bristle at the suggestion. It hasn’t been the product of a miracle, and it has not happened by accident.
“Definitely wouldn’t say it came easy,” Bosa said. “In the beginning, I wasn’t really a good player and it took a lot of hard work and pushing through a lot of stuff to get where I am.
“It’s good to see that all my hard work is being rewarded with something.”
The honors are piling up now as Freshman All-American awards flood in from across the country after his breakout campaign, tributes which might have exceeded expectations even if Bosa had decided to set any before his first season with the program.
He wasn’t expected to be a starter on the completely rebuilt defensive line, with Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington tabbed as the next great stars up front heading into their sophomore seasons. Among the heralded 2013 recruiting class, much of the focus centered on the game-breaking talent of hybrid weapon Dontre Wilson, the bright future for safety Vonn Bell or the possibility of a pair of touted linebackers cracking the lineup at a thin position on defense.
Instead, Bosa wound up making the biggest impact of them all, ultimately supplanting Washington in the starting lineup, forming a terrifying tandem with Spence on the way to 12.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks -- and by the middle of the season, providing him and the coaching staff with a chance to upgrade their evaluations.
“I think you get opportunities,” defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said in October in the middle of Bosa’s rise. “You start out with five opportunities, ten opportunities, 15, whatever those opportunities are. He was a player that took advantage of those opportunities and went from 20 or 25 snaps to 50, 55, 60.
“Now he's a starter for us. We've got to have him in there, he's a difference maker.”
He’s also just getting started for the Buckeyes, and they’ve got plenty of time to get even more out of Bosa now that he’ll actually have some expectations moving forward.
Ohio State could have its entire front seven back next fall if linebacker Ryan Shazier decides to hold off on the NFL for another season, but either way it will be building around a defensive line that appeared to speed through the learning curve this fall. While that was a collective effort by the Buckeyes, it’s not a stretch to tie Bosa’s smooth individual transition to the overall improvement, and it’s not all that difficult to pinpoint when things changed for him.
“Probably the Northwestern game [was the turning point],” Bosa said. “It was my first time really making some plays, scored a touchdown, was player of the game.
“But I’m not really focused on individual accomplishments, so I just hope to finish this season strong.”
Whether or not Bosa can accomplish that goal in the Discover Orange Bowl, there will certainly be no hiding from the expectations ahead of his sophomore season now.
NEW YORK -- A tackle-machine linebacker, a tackle-busting running back and one of the most disruptive defensive tackles in the country made return appearances on The Associated Press All-America team.
The All-America teams were released Tuesday and selected by a panel of AP college football poll voters.
Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston from Florida State added All-American to his resume after a spectacular redshirt freshman season. Heisman finalists Andre Williams from Boston College and Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch also made the first team. Williams joins Carey in the backfield and Lynch, the dual-threat quarterback, was chosen as an all-purpose player.
Carey, a junior, is second in the nation in rushing after leading last year, but said he thinks he's a better player now.
"I worked hard to improve my speed and strength in the offseason while keeping my speed," Carey said. "I put on 10 pounds of weight and I think that's helped my durability. I also wanted to be a better blocker away from the ball. Blocking for our quarterback and our receivers is key to our system and it's important that I do my part even when I'm not carrying the ball."
- Both Jeremy Gallon and Shilique Calhoun were recognized by CBS Sports for having one of the top 10 individual game performances of 2013.
- Michigan State AD Mark Hollis is confident that Mark Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi will stay with the Spartan coaching staff.
- Matt Charboneau takes a look back at the steps that Dantonio has taken since becoming HC at Michigan State and how that has led to a Rose Bowl berth this season.
- From Zack Meisel -- an NFL Draft stock report on Braxton Miller: Will he be a luxury car or clunker in the NFL?
- Does the silence from Bill O'Brien mean he might be considering a departure from Penn State for the NFL?
- National exposure has increased for Iowa and Iowa State football, a closer look at some of those numbers.
- The Nebraska O-line has suffered injuries all season, but the medical training staff has nearly everyone on the line back on the field getting ready for the Gator Bowl.
- Wisconsin safety Michael Caputo, who missed the Penn State game due to a head injury, will be back to play in the Capitol One Bowl which is a very good thing for the Badger defense.
- Darrell Hazell's wish list: "a high level of confidence and a high level of play" in 2014.
- Grading out the Illinois offensive unit.
- Injury updates for Michigan as it prepares for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
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Here is a look at some of the top storylines in the conference leading up to signing day.
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Ohio State makes Southern push
Shortly after Ohio State landed five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), I asked on Twitter if it’s time to stop doubting Buckeye coach Urban Meyer’s recruiting efforts. Of course, fans from other schools all over the country jumped in and said the jury is still out (and several other things that aren’t safe for print). But even then the biggest Meyer critics might have to change their minds if he is able to also land No. 4 receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer) in the next couple of days. The Buckeyes currently have the nation’s No. 8 class and have some major momentum heading into the final push.
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The Class of 2013 is in the stretch run. With just 50 days until national signing day, there are plenty of developments and questions in the lead-up to Feb. 5. From top uncommitted players to class rankings predictions, this is everything you'll need to know.
Questions to ponder
50. Who is next at Texas, and when? The choice as new Longhorns coach will be key for future classes, but the timing of the hire is also important as there are quite a few commitments targeted by other teams that are now hanging by a thread with each passing day -- dead period or not.
49. Will Maryland close with a bang? This one is simple: keep No. 15 Jalen Tabor (Washington, D.C./Friendship Collegiate Academy) and No. 26 Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) home and it's a big bang.
We've all experienced at least one crazy, tempestuous relationship, right? It was toxic yet also sometimes thrilling beyond measure. The highs were extraordinary, and the lows miserable. There were raving arguments full of frenzied recriminations, but somehow you stayed together for a surprisingly long time. Alas, eventually, sanity prevailed and you went your separate ways.
On Jan. 6 at midnight, college football will break up with the BCS after a tumultuous 16 seasons. The sport will move on to a new relationship in 2014 with the four-team College Football Playoff. This one promises to be more stable and mature.
So as we move toward this inevitable split, how do we feel? We know this is for the best, but certainly there will be some bittersweetness to the parting.
The BCS, after all, stopped us from ending seasons the way we ended 1997, when twin unbeatens Michigan and Nebraska eyeballed each other from across the country because the old bowl system didn't allow them to settle things on the field. Simply, the BCS tried to find the best way to put the Nos. 1 and 2 teams together for a winner-take-all game, which, at the time of its creation, seemed like a great idea. While it was unquestionably an imperfect system, it gave us Texas' 41-38 win over USC in 2006, which might well be the greatest college football game ever played. It also gave us Ohio State's shocking double-overtime win over a seemingly invincible Miami squad in 2003, which has a spot on the same list.
HP (STL, Missouri): Any chance Texas look at B1G for their coaching vacancy? Dantonio, Fitzgerald, O'Brien all look like ripe targets for money making Texas program.
Brian Bennett: The Texas search could be a wild one. I really don't know how that ends up. Don't think Pat Fitzgerald gets a call. Dantonio and O'Brien? Maybe, though I would think O'Brien is far more likely to leave for the NFL. Would think Texas is after bigger names like Fisher and Malzahn, but things could get very interesting if their top targets turn down the 'Horns. We shall see.
Tim (Columbus): Ohio State getting the #1 ILB in McMillan is HUGE! And that reminds me, Urban Meyer has been recruiting very well on the defensive side of the ball the past couple years. When is that going to start paying off and we can get back to being called "The Silver Bullets" again?
Brian Bennett: I don't think it will be long. You're right in that some serious talent has been brought in on that side of the ball. Young guys like Bosa, Spence and Washington have already developed into very good players. There is young talent at LB and in the secondary waiting in the wings. Now it's all about developing that talent.
Matt (MI): If I am not mistaken it seems as if EVERY B1G team brings back a ton of experience and talent at the QB position (Illinois may be the exception). It has been a long time since this could be said, but it looks like next season could be a very good year for B1G QBs and could help improve the conference perception. Which quarterbacks do you expect to take a huge leap in production and do you agree it could be a good year for the B1G because of the QBs?
Brian Bennett: Illinois is an exception, and Ohio State could be if Miller goes pro. Nebraska has some experience in Armstrong but not exactly a ton, while Northwestern loses Kain Colter but brings back Siemian. But for the most part, there will be a lot of experience coming back at the position. That should help, and the position needs to get stronger throughout the league. It was not a great year for QB play in 2013, though many teams did play young guys there.
Samuel (Iowa City, Iowa): Brian, not too long ago it seemed that Wisconsin, MSU and Iowa were at the same level. Wisconsin has been to the Rose Bowl. Now MSU is going. Iowa bottomed out and is progressing again. But will the Hawkeyes progress enough to earn a trip to Pasadena in the near future?
Brian Bennett: That's a good question. I like the progress I saw from Iowa this year, rebounding from a tough season. Kirk Ferentz proved he's still as good as there is at developing talent. I think the Hawkeyes still need to improve at the skill positions to be a Rose Bowl type team. The wide receiver position in particular is a glaring need. Hard to win big in college football these days without a couple of difference makers who can make plays in the open field.
Grant (San Francisco): With the playoff system coming, and lending itself really REALLY well to a 4-mega-conference system with conference champions earning a playoff berth, which four conferences would survive this shift, and which conferences would be split up?
Brian Bennett: I look at it differently. I think the current conference setup lends itself perfectly to an 8-team playoff. You take the 5 power conference champions, the best champion from the other leagues and Notre Dame and then two wild cards. Enhances the conference races and only forces committee to pick two teams and seeding. I think we'll end up there if logic wins out.
Jake (State Farm): Here's a thought: O'Brien is overrated. He didn't turn PSU around (they went 9-3 in 2011). They already had talented players on both sides of the ball and great senior leadership. I would hope that a team with Allen Robinson, Hackenberg, DaQuan Jones, Deion Barnes, and all the tight ends would go 7-5. Any NFL team would be taking a risk with O'Brien. More unproven than people think.
Brian Bennett: Any unproven NFL head coach is a risk. O'Brien has experience running the offense with the Pats, but not all former Pats assistants have worked out. That said, do I think he's overrated? No. No coach has had to deal with all the things that were thrown at him, and he's handled them beautifully.
James (Detroit): Michigan can beat Kansas State if _____.
Brian Bennett: The offensive line can make major strides this month. Kansas State is not a great team by any stretch but did play well in the final month or so. Michigan is just as talented but has no chance if it can't protect Gardner or field some semblance of a running game.
Troy (Wisconsin): Wisconsin's only first or second team all big 10 player was Chris Borland, while Ohio State had 3 such players. Wisconsin's defense put up better numbers as a unit statistically, shouldn't this be reason for you to pick Borland over Shazier for DPOY? While Shazier had better numbers, he had a better supporting cast (according to you) and a worse defense (according to stats).
Brian Bennett: I suppose you could make that argument. If we had a third team, a few Badgers like Brendan Kelly, Beau Allen, Dez Southward and Sojourn Shelton would have been on it. Wisconsin probably had fewer frontline stars but much more experience and depth than Ohio State's D. I think Borland is probably the best defensive player in the Big Ten for all that he does, but I thought Shazier had the better year, if that makes sense.
Ohio State Adds WR Johnnie Dixon
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
2:00 PM ET Washington State Colorado State 3:30 PM ET 20 Fresno State 25 USC 5:30 PM ET Buffalo San Diego State 9:00 PM ET Tulane Louisiana-Lafayette
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State