Bob Hunter commentary | Rumblings: Ohio State makes late push to sign offensive lineman
The 2013 Ohio State football recruiting class is stacked on defense, and indications are that coach Urban Meyer is going to gain at least one more offensive playmaker by the time national letters of intent can first be signed on Wednesday. But insiders also say the Buckeyes are almost desperate to sign at least one more offensive lineman.
They have two committed: Evan Lisle of Centerville and Timothy Gardner of Lawrence, Ind. But in the commit-flip world where Meyer and his staff have excelled, they’ve swung and missed so far this time. They failed to lure former Penn State commitment Dorian Johnson, who opted for Pittsburgh months ago; struck out with former Tennessee commit Dan Skipper, who pledged to Arkansas; and former California commit Cameron Hunt narrowed his list back to Cal and Oregon.
That apparently has caused the Buckeyes to reassess some of the prospects they passed over earlier in the process and are committed to other schools. As Rivals.com reported this week, they even offered a scholarship to junior-college lineman Matt Finnin of College of DePage (Illinois). But he is committed to Nebraska.
Meanwhile, it was reported last night that Alabama made a late scholarship offer to running back Ezekiel Elliott of St. Louis, who committed to OSU in April. The Alabama offer, reportedly to be a defensive back, leaves one wondering whether coach Nick Saban is serious, or whether he’s just messing with former rival Meyer, with whom he also is going head to head for blue-chip safety Vonn Bell of Rossville, Ga. It does appear the Saban-Meyer rivalry has been rejoined.
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers is thankful that Jared Sullinger slipped far enough in the NBA draft to allow his team to take the former Ohio State star with the 21st pick. But he wasn’t surprised.
“I loved the talk before the draft,” Rivers said. “I actually think (Celtics president of basketball operations) Danny (Ainge) may have been part of it. I’ve watched (Sullinger) for so long, and all of a sudden out of nowhere, he can’t play. He’s too this and he’s too that. I was like, ‘This is amazing how quickly you become a bad player without playing.’
“That’s the thing that I’ve always laughed at about the draft. You were a great player until the last game, and then right after that game there’s a six-week period where you forget how to play and then you fall in the draft. It happens to all kinds of guys.”
When Sullinger had 14 points and 11 rebounds against Houston, Rockets coach Kevin McHale said, “He’s an old-school kind of guy. He doesn’t jump much, just pushes you under. Shocking as it is, it surprises people. No one boxes out anymore, so he’ll be in good shape.”
Edmonton Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov, the Russian winger who went No. 1 in the draft, already has four goals, including two game-winners, in the Oilers’ first six games; his total was twice as many as any Blue Jackets player had entering last night’s eighth game of the season.
While it’s obviously way too early to draw any conclusions, Yakupov’s start is worth noting given that the offensively challenged Jackets made it clear before the draft that they had no interest in trying to trade up from No. 2 to No. 1 to get him, and wouldn’t even take him if he fell to No. 2.
The Jackets took defenseman Ryan Murray, who is out for the season because of a shoulder injury, with the No. 2 pick.
When the Crew’s deal with Argentine defensive midfielder Matias Sanchez is announced — the two sides are believed to be waiting on the paperwork to be finished — the team’s roster-building strategy will be even more clear than it already is.
Sanchez, 25, will become the team’s third international addition on defense in a matter of days, joining American-born defender/midfielder Agustin Viana from Uruguay and central defender Gláuber of Brazil.
Crew management believes that when it comes to international players, it is easier to project success in Major League Soccer for defensive players than it is for goal-
scorers, and the trio should bring considerable improvement to the team’s defense.
Meyer sat with senior co-captain John Simon so long that he lost track of time the day before the Michigan game, devastated over the news that the fluid that had built up on the defensive lineman’s knee wouldn’t permit him to play.
In a profile of Meyer in the current issue of Columbus Monthly, he said that an assistant coach had to remind him that he was scheduled to speak at a fundraiser and that when he walked into Earle Bruce’s Beat Michigan Tailgate, he could barely remember where he was.
“All I got was the vision of what these seniors did for our program, and then the fact that the head senior — the head guy — is not going to be able to play,” he said. “You love someone that much, your players that much, you’re going to lose it.”
Meyer lost it during his brief speech, but regained his composure when Bruce walked over slowly and put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick after suffering a concussion in November, told reporters on Wednesday that he “loved” playing for new Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner when he was in San Francisco in 2006.
“Loved my time with Norv,” Smith said. “A very, very friendly QB system.”
Should the Browns try to either trade for Smith or sign him as a free agent, they likely wouldn’t be the only team interested in doing so.
Browns backup quarterback Colt McCoy increased his salary from the league minimum $540,000 last year to $2.325 million in 2013 based on his playing time and performance from his first two NFL seasons, according to the NFL Players Association base salary database and reported on Yahoo.com
McCoy played just 39 snaps in a relief role in three games this season, completing 9 of 17 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. But the 2010 third-round draft pick started 21 games over his first two seasons in the NFL, and his base salary was escalated by $1.5 million when he played in 47.18 percent of the Browns’ offensive snaps as a rookie. McCoy added another $250,000 to his 2013 salary by taking 82.41 percent of the snaps and reaching certain performance incentives in 2011.
Rich Rodriguez explained his first-year success at Arizona — the Wildcats won eight games, including only their second bowl victory in 14 years — and his failure in three years at Michigan at least in part by the commitment of the players.
“We got total buy-in from the get-go here,” Rodriguez told The Sporting News. “From the players to the support staff to everybody that was touching the program. We had some guys committed at Michigan, but we had others that weren’t.”
Rodriguez has his current players thinking about a first-ever Arizona appearance in the Rose Bowl, which probably would seem even more amazing if the opponent was Michigan.
“Let’s just get there first,” Rodriguez said.
Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.