|No Roby, no Hyde, no Smith means Buckeyes adapt|
|Thursday, August 22, 2013 12:26 AM|
COLUMBUS — While Armani Reeves spoke to a semicircle of reporters after a recent Ohio State practice, the person he was discussing was about 50 feet behind him seated in an ice bath cooling off after another hot day of work.
The distance was more than a little symbolic.
Bradley Roby, the Buckeyes’ standout cornerback, isn’t doing any talking these days, at least not publicly. He also isn’t even practicing with the first team.
Roby, like fellow stars Carlos Hyde, the Buckeyes’ leading scorer last year, and Hyde’s top backup, Rod Smith, is suspended for the opening game, Aug. 31 at home against Buffalo.
All got into trouble. All are paying a price.
Some fans think it’s a high price since no one was hurt and there were no serious charges. Others believe the matters have been swept under the scarlet-and-gray rug outside coach Urban Meyer’s office.
Players like Reeves will carry the load for the Buckeyes.
“I was always willing to be a hard worker on and off the field,” said Reeves, tabbed to start at Roby’s cornerback spot. “I still learn from the older guys like (Roby). Whether the situation is good or bad I’m just going to take advantage of any opportunity I have and play to the best of my abilities.”
Ohio State’s coaches spent nine months making plans to fill the holes left from last year’s 12-0 team.
Now, with the opener just over a week away, they must come up with three more replacements.
Hyde will miss the first three games after an alleged assault against a woman. Roby will sit out at least the opener after a skirmish at a bar in Bloomington, Ind. Rod Smith, who was expected to take Hyde’s spot, was benched for the first game after a violation of team rules last winter.
Roby had his misdemeanor assault charge reduced to misdemeanor disorderly conduct, then The Columbus Dispatch reported on Wednesday that the latest charge was dropped on the condition that Roby not face any legal problems in the next year.
“He’ll be suspended one game just because there’s an issue,” Meyer said.
There are worthy candidates — like Reeves — in the wings. But it’s still not the ideal way to go into a season.
Hyde and Smith will likely be replaced by a committee: H-back Jordan Hall, second-year players Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball and freshmen Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott. Wilson has been the talk of camp, with water-bug moves and incredible speed.
“Jordan Hall is a guy who has some playing experience and has been through some adversity, obviously,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said, referring to Hall’s injury-riddled career. “He does have some game experience. … Yeah, I’d say he’s probably the No. 1 guy right now.”
The coaches have heaped praise on the three chastened players, saying they have refrained from sulking and have taken an active role in preparing the players who will take their spots.
“He was wrong. He screwed up. He’s paying a price,” cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said of Roby. “He works hard at his craft, he studies film, he takes care of his business and he wants to be as good as anybody in the country. He’s not yet. I don’t find him to be different (this season after the suspension). I find him to be embarrassed and I don’t blame him. But I find him to be a guy who’s going about his business as a pro.”
Against an overmatched Buffalo team that is coming off a 4-8 record in coach Jeff Quinn’s third season, the suspensions probably won’t be noticed. But integrating suspended players back into the lineup in season isn’t easy without ruffling the feathers of the players who filled in for them or stayed away from offseason trouble.
Reeves is excited about the prospect of starting the first game of his sophomore season.
“It means a lot,” he said. “You’d never expect a kid from Boston to be playing at Ohio State. It’s a very different experience and I can’t wait to have all my family and friends to see me on the field. It’ll be fun. It’ll be real fun.”
But Reeves knows that as soon as Roby is cleared to play, he will likely head back to the sidelines.
“Obviously he’s one of the best in the country, if not the best,” Reeves added. “When he comes back, I’m still going to do the same thing I’ve been doing all the time and that’s just working hard and helping this team anyway I can.”
The ABCs of Ohio State football
A look at the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes from AA to Z:
AA—is for Aaron Mawhirter, a walk-on freshman linebacker from Sandusky, Ohio, first in alphabetic order by first name but probably will have difficulty getting into a game.
A—is for “The Big A,” aka as Adolphus Washington. A quarterback-eating (in a manner of speaking) defensive lineman from Cincinnati’s Taft High, he was a big get for coach Urban Meyer in his first recruiting class. Now Washington is destined to make Adolphus a household name as he starts up front on the rebuilt line.
B—is for Bedford, Ohio, home of current Buckeye Tyvis Powell and former Mr. Football and ex-Ohio Stater Bam Childress. Childress never really found his niche at Ohio State after a spectacular career at Chanel High. Powell is penciled in as the Buckeyes’ “Star” which is a hybrid position, melding a safety with a linebacker to provide extra coverage in passing situations.
C—is for California, the third opponent on the 2013 Ohio State schedule. The Bears open a new era under first-year coach Sonny Dykes, who comes from Louisiana Tech to replace 11-year coach Jeff Tedford. The Bears were just 3-9 a year ago, but welcome back seven starters on offense, six on defense and three on special teams.
D—is for Defense, of course. The Buckeyes have plenty of new names filling out the starting slots, since they lost seven first-team players from a year ago (including the entire line) and also will be without cornerback Bradley Roby for the first game due to a suspension.
E—is for Earle, as in Bruce. The 82-year-old was 81-26-1 in nine seasons from 1979 through 1987 as head coach of the Buckeyes. He now is a radio analyst in Columbus.
F—is for FAMU, or Florida A&M University if you prefer. The Rattlers aren’t in the same class with the Buckeyes — literally. They’re a Football Championship Subdivision member, meaning they don’t play in bowl games but rather can participate in a playoff at the end of the year. FAMU comes to Ohio Stadium for the first time on Sept. 21, the Buckeyes’ final tuneup before beginning Big Ten play the following week at home against Wisconsin.
G—is for Geelong. That’s the hometown of 21-year-old freshman punter Cameron Johnston, a former Australia Rules Football player down under. He sent a video of his punting prowess to several schools, including Ohio State, and has impressed the coaching staff enough to win the job in camp. One can only imagine what the folks back in Geelong must think of their native son as a Buckeye, named for the spiky nut of a native tree.
H—is for Heisman, and also Jeff Heuerman. The Ohio State tight end was asked during camp what he expected out of improving quarterback Braxton Miller this season. Rather than explain, he stepped back, struck a pose as if he were running and feigned a straight arm — creating a 6-foot-6 representation of the Heisman Trophy. Then he laughed. Miller is considered one of a handful of favorites for the Heisman heading into the season, although last year’s winner, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel wasn’t considered a frontrunner at this time last year. And he’s back to try to win another.
I—is for the I’s have it. Ohio State plays Illinois and Indiana back to back on Nov. 16 and 23.
J—is for J.T., times two. If Meyer ever shouts, “J.T., come here!” during practice he could get stampeded. The Buckeyes have both freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett and junior defensive lineman J.T. Moore.
K—is for Kickoff Luncheon. At the Big Ten’s annual media get-together in late July, the Buckeyes were voted the team to beat not only in their division but in the conference title game (see next item).
L—is for Leaders Division. Ohio State, at 6-7, wasn’t good enough two years ago to play for the fancy-named division title in the Big Ten, then last year won it but was banned from playing in the conference championship game. This will be the first time, in the third year of the conference’s divisional setup, that the Buckeyes can play in the Big Ten title game, set for Dec. 7 in Indianapolis.
M—is for Miller. Make that Millers. There’s two of them on the Buckeyes’ roster. One, of course, is starting quarterback Braxton Miller. There’s also Steve Miller, a junior defensive lineman out of Canton McKinley High. No word if some people refer to him, per a song by his namesake, as “the gangster of love.”
N—is for Nine, as in nine Big Ten games. After years of playing eight conference opponents, the Big Ten shifts to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016.
O—is for Ojikutu. Brandon Ojikutu is a junior wide receiver out of Cleveland John Marshall High.
P—is for Pryor, former QB Terrelle Pryor. He is still in the midst of a 5-year exile from Ohio State, banished by the NCAA during the probe two years ago for allegedly being the guy who handed out money to players who attended a charity event. He is getting a shot to play a lot for the Oakland Raiders this season.
Q—is for the Q in Tyquan Lewis, a freshman D-lineman out of Tarboro, N.C., who had a solid camp.
R—is for Rock, as in Chris Rock. No, not the popular comedian and actor. This one is a sophomore defensive lineman who prepped at Columbus DeSales High. If this Chris Rock makes a joke, you’d better laugh — he’s 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds.
S—is for Simon, John Simon. The co-captain a year ago has moved on to the NFL and is trying to earn a spot on the roster at linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. His absence leaves a leadership void for the Buckeyes.
T—is for Touchdowns. A year ago, running back Carlos Hyde scored 17 of them — most on the team — while topping the team in points with 102. This year, Hyde must sit out the first three games after he was listed as a person of interest in an alleged assault against a female at a downtown Columbus bar in July. Video from the incident appeared to show Hyde making a striking motion at the woman, who had also slapped at him. That was enough for Meyer to sit him out the first three games since the team has a strict rule regarding respecting women.
U—is for, of course, Urban. Now associated, at least in Ohio, with the football coach of the same first name, it was a moniker once associated primarily with heads of the Roman Catholic church. Pope Urban I was pope from 222 to 230. His reign is the first that can definitely be dated. There was also an Urban II, who was in charge from 1088 to 1099. He set up the first Crusade.
V—is for victory. Ohio State has 837 of them in 123 years of football to go along with 316 losses and 53 ties.
W—is for Wisconsin, a team sporting a different look this fall. The Badgers come to Ohio Stadium for the Big Ten opener on Sept. 28 and new coach Gary Andersen will likely have a few cards up his sleeve. His predecessor, Bret Bielema, shocked many by leaving Madison, Wis., for the rigors of the Southeastern Conference at Arkansas. Andersen’s Badgers don’t have Montee Ball (graduation) but the three-time defending conference champion does have 14 starters back, eight on offense and six on the other side, along with both kickers, the punter and long snapper.
X—is for the middle letter of Texas. After decades of only getting an occasional player out of the Lone Star State, now all of a sudden the Buckeyes are ripe with guys from the heart of Longhorn territory. Running back Dontre Wilson, the freshman flame who was the talk of fall camp, is from DeSoto. Cornerback Eli Apple hails from Houston. The aforementioned QB, J.T. Barrett, is a native of Wichita Falls, Texas. And Mike Mitchell, in the mix at linebacker, is a proud son of Plano.
Y—is for Youngstown, starting center Corey Linsley’s hometown.
Z—is for zip, as in zero. That’s how many losses the Buckeyes had a year ago while going 12-0. Ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press media poll this year, a lot of people think they may just put up another zero in the loss column in 2013.