Bob Hunter commentary: Rumblings: OSU freshman Elliott making bigger impact than Michigan’s touted Green

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Some recruiting analysts were perplexed a year ago when Ohio State got a commitment from running back Ezekiel Elliott and then backed off in its pursuit of the more highly touted Derrick Green. Green subsequently signed with Michigan.

Now look, as the first regular season nears the end for both on Saturday in The Game in Ann Arbor. Elliott, from St. Louis, has emerged as the primary backup to OSU senior starter and 1,000-yard rusher Carlos Hyde. Although he has seen little primary duty, Elliott has made the most of his chances, rushing for 262 yards on 30 carries, averaging. 8.7 per lug, usually behind a backup offensive line.

Green, from Richmond, Va., and considered a power back, has been pressed into more of a regular role the past few weeks because of nagging injuries to starter Fitzgerald Toussaint. Green has had 70 carries, for 218 yards, averaging 3.1 behind a struggling offensive line.

Ohio State fans spend a lot more time talking about Michigan during rivalry week than vice versa, according to an analysis of tweets conducted by Emory Sports Marketing Analytics at Emory University.

Analysts wrote that they used “geo-coded data from Twitter to serve as a proxy for fan conversation … the Monday before the rivalry game in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.” (They also collected data on Auburn and Alabama.) Then they calculated the percentage of tweets in that city that were about the opposing school’s football team, giving them “a metric for how much of the conversation in a city was about the rival team.”

The result?

“We found that in the past four years, regardless of where the game is played, or who won the previous year, the percentage of conversation in Columbus regarding Michigan football is at least twice the percentage of conversation in Ann Arbor regarding Ohio State football,” the report said. “It should be noted that 7 percent of the population of Columbus are Ohio State students (57,466 out of 809,798) while 37 percent of the population of Ann Arbor are Michigan students (43,426 out of 116,121).”

The study found that the level of conversation about Auburn and Alabama was more level and, unlike the OSU-Michigan study, percentages tended to be higher in the market of the home team.

As it turns out, new Crew coach and sporting director Gregg Berhalter apparently doesn’t have many changes in store for the team’s roster. It stands at 22 players of a maximum of 30, and all of them are tied to the previous regime. The Crew signed Waylon Francis, 23, who made 65 appearances with CS Herediano in Costa Rica’s first division, this week. Berhalter said the work was primarily done by outgoing technical director Brian Bliss, but he liked what he saw of Francis on video.

Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum and forward/midfielder Dominic Oduro still are out of contract, but one or both could sign, which could leave only six open roster spots.

That means that Berhalter and his new staff essentially could have the same roster that went 8-13-5 under Robert Warzycha and 4-4 under interim coach Bliss, which could make for an interesting basis of comparison.

Berhalter didn’t bring back six players, three of them for salary-cap reasons. He also decided not to bring back assistant Mike Lapper, who was the last holdover from the old coaching staff.

The Cincinnati Reds reportedly are one of eight teams interested in St. Louis Cardinals free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran. According to a report in Primera Hora, a newspaper in Puerto Rico, Cincinnati contacted Beltran’s agent, Dan Lozano. The author of that report told C. Trent Rosecrans of TheCincinnati Enquirer in an email that Beltran said Lozano had informed him of the Reds’ interest.

The New York Yankees reportedly have made Beltran, 36, their top target in free agency, so at this stage, the Reds would seem to be a long shot. The Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals also are reportedly interested in him.

Beltran, a switch-hitter, is looking for a three-year contract. He played mostly right field in each of the last two seasons with the Cardinals, but would likely move to left field if the Reds signed him.

Former Ohio State star Evan Turner is averaging 21.4 points per game for the Philadelphia 76ers, a dramatic leap from the 10.1 the former No. 2 overall pick put up the previous three seasons. He told Hoopsworld that a lot of it has to do with opportunity.

“I’m able to work myself out of bad starts,” Turner said. “The last few years, I was on teams that had such good scorers, if I wasn’t really getting it going, I didn’t have the opportunity to work myself out of it. I don’t have to look over my shoulder.”

Turner also doesn’t have to worry about all of the bad press he got as a draft bust the past few seasons.

“I didn’t read it, but I was told a million times,” Turner said. “I really didn’t think much of it. I knew you still had to play the games and compete, and I always feel like when I step on the court, I’ve got a good opportunity to win, no matter the team I have.

“It’s all about the atmosphere you’re in and how you’re publicized. Sometimes in our situation, especially as the Philadelphia 76ers, you hear about the negatives before you hear about the positives. That’s just how things go sometimes in this city.”

Jabrill Peppers, a five-star cornerback who sent a tremor through Ann Arbor this week by saying that he would make some official visits elsewhere despite being committed to Michigan, told ESPN.com’s Tom VanHaaren why.

“I am still 100 percent committed to the University of Michigan, and that is the place where I want to go to college,” Peppers said. “With the rumors about Coach (Brady) Hoke possibly not being there, I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places.

“For the sake of my future, I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further. Go Blue, and beat TDS (Team Down South).”

The Buckeyes apparently made believers out of Penn State coach Bill O’Brien with their 63-14 victory over his Nittany Lions last month. O’Brien told CBSSports.com that he doesn’t understand how Ohio State can be left out of the Bowl Championship Series title game.

“If they win out, how can they not compete for a national championship? It makes no sense to me,” O'Brien said. “The perception is the Big Ten is down, and until we start winning on the field against the SEC, it’s going to be the SEC on the top of the hill. But we’ve got great coaches in this league, great players, and this conference will be back.”

After Jared Sullinger hit two shots from beyond the arch on Wednesday night against Memphis, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he would like his low-post scorer to take more threes if they are available.

“He constantly tells me to take the open shot,” Sullinger told the Boston Herald. “He's always in my ear about shooting the ball.”

Sullinger, a 6-foot-9 former Ohio State and Northland star, had 23 points for the Celtics in a 100-93 loss to the Grizzlies.

Woody Hayes liked to patrol the sideline without a jacket on cold days, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when Michigan coach Brady Hoke walks into his weekly news conference from the frozen tundra that is Ann Arbor without any socks.

“Brady, it’s like 8 degrees out. No socks?” a Dispatch reporter said.

Hoke didn’t break stride.

“I never wear ’em,” he said.

Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for the Dispatch.

bhunter@dispatch.com

@dailyhunter

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