Bob Hunter commentary | Rumblings: OSU basketball will use football game to lure recruits

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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There is nothing like a night game at Ohio Stadium to flaunt the fanaticism of Buckeye Nation — and that goes beyond the football team.

Coach Thad Matta uses it often to influence men’s basketball recruits, and the tradition will continue Saturday, when the football Buckeyes play Wisconsin. In need of a big man to finish off a recruiting class already ranked second nationally, Matta will welcome 7-foot Elbert Robinson of Garland, Texas, and 6-9 Goodluck Okonoboh of Boston for official visits.

Two players already committed to the class, 6-7 wing Keita Bates-Diop of Bloomington, Ill., and 6-4 guard D’Angelo Russell of Louisville, Ky., also will make official visits. Another committed member of the class, Jae’Sean Tate of Pickerington Central, will be at the game but not on an official visit.

Joining them will be committed 2015 point guard A.J. Harris of Dayton Dunbar and one of the Buckeyes’ top 2015 targets, shooting guard Luke Kennard of Franklin, Ohio.

It’s funny the commotion that two letters can cause.

When Ohio State released its depth chart on Tuesday, the starter at quarterback was listed as Braxton Miller or Kenny Guiton. Some in the media took that to mean that coach Urban Meyer couldn’t decide between them. But it was simply addressing concerns about Miller’s health after he missed two starts because of a sprained left knee.

Yesterday on his call-in show on WBNS-FM, Meyer said Miller has looked good in practice and is expected to start.

Meyer’s offensive coordinator, Tom Herman, said after Guiton led the Buckeyes to a 52-34 victory over California that the senior understood his role as a backup and that Miller would start again when healthy. That opinion didn’t change, even after Guiton set an Ohio State record with six touchdown passes last week against Florida A&M.

Only one Blue Jacket appeared on TSN’s list of the top 50 players in the NHL in a survey of coaches and general managers, and that was goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie last season, was 45th. Coincidentally, that was the position held last year by current Blue Jacket Marian Gaborik, then with the New York Rangers. Gaborik was one of nine players to drop off this year’s list.

Also of note to Blue Jackets fans: Former team captain Rick Nash, now with the Rangers, was 29th, down from 24th last year and 20th two years ago. Topping the list were Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh, and Jonathan Toews of Chicago.

Word that Michigan all-Big Ten linebacker Jake Ryan will return in October apparently remains true, although coach Brady Hoke said it is unlikely he will play Oct. 5 against Minnesota. Ryan, who is recovering from ACL surgery in March, still isn’t practicing without restriction.

“I wouldn’t think (the Minnesota game) would be likely,” Hoke said. “October. We said October. Sometime in October.”

Michigan visits Penn State on Oct. 12, plays host to Indiana on Oct. 19 and then gets a week off before it plays Michigan State on Nov. 2.

In the Cincinnati Bengals’ past two games, the workload for linebacker James Harrison has dropped alarmingly.

The 35-year-old, who came to Cincinnati after a long career with Pittsburgh, played 38 snaps against Chicago but just 14 against Pittsburgh and then five against Green Bay. The NFL average for a linebacker is 30.

Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said it was because of the offenses that the Bengals were facing. Pittsburgh and Green Bay try to spread the field and make defenders move around, and Harrison isn’t known for his coverage skills. Injuries played a role, too, with the Bengals so depleted that they were relying on linebackers for pass coverage — again, not Harrison’s strength.

Attempts to use Harrison in blitzing situations failed, too, for various reasons, including his inexperience with the team.

“I was calling so many blitzes, and he was going to be in a different spot,” Zimmer said, “so it was going to be a little unnerving for him because he had a short time to learn all of them.”

That will change with time.

The Blue Jackets have the eighth-lowest secondary ticket price in the NHL, according to the Vivid Seats ticket marketplace. The Jackets’ median cost is $75, far below Toronto, which was first at $320. Winnipeg was second at $230 and Chicago third at $212.

Ryan Ludwick ripped Reds fans for not supporting the team better down the stretch.

“Coming over here, I heard about how big a baseball town this is,” the outfielder said. “We’ve put a winning ballclub out there. This is a good team. When we went to Pittsburgh, they had an advantage. (Fans) were loud. A playoff atmosphere.’’

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday, Ludwick said he could hear a fan behind the home dugout, taking the fans to task. A Mets player raised similar issues on Tuesday, Ludwick said: “You guys are in the middle of a pennant race, and no one’s here. What’s going on?’’

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis had to defend himself after making it sound like a game Sunday at the Browns would be easier because Cleveland traded running back Trent Richardson to Indianapolis.

“We go to Cleveland next week,” Lewis told SiriusXM. “I’m feeling pretty good about that, a little bit better about that.”

When Cleveland reporters pressed him about it, he said he was only speaking to his high opinion of Richardson. And no wonder. Last season in the teams’ first meeting, Richardson rushed 19 times for 109 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown run. He also caught four passes for 36 yards and another touchdown on a 23-yard catch.

“I thought Trent Richardson was a fine player, a great prospect,” Lewis said. “My only comments was to that. In his two games and evaluating him prior to the draft, I thought he was a fine, fine football player.”

With an 0-3 record and an anemic running game, the Steelers must be eager for the return of rookie Le’Veon Bell, a second-round draft pick out of Michigan State and, before that, Groveport.

His debut could come Sunday when Pittsburgh plays the Minnesota Vikings in London.

Bell made a strong impression during training camp before he suffered knee and foot injuries in the first exhibition game. Without him in the regular season, the Steelers are averaging 51.7 rushing yards a game.

Coach Mike Tomlin said that Bell “perked up dramatically” late last week during practice, and the Associated Press reported yesterday that he should be available this week.

Felix Jones, acquired from Philadelphia a month ago, is Pittsburgh’s leading rusher with 71 yards. Isaac Redman opened the season as the starting running back but has slid to fourth on the depth chart.

The Steelers have rushed for less than 100 yards in nine consecutive games dating to the 2012 season.

Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.

bhunter@dispatch.com

@dailyhunter

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