|Roles of Roby, Smith still uncertain at Ohio State|
|Wednesday, September 04, 2013 12:19 AM|
COLUMBUS — Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby thought long and hard last winter about whether he wanted to jump into the NFL draft or come back for his fourth season with the Buckeyes.
He decided to return. Then a skirmish in an Indiana bar led to a one-game suspension.
Now the All-Big Ten performer is back with the Buckeyes as they prepare for Saturday’s game against San Diego State.
Coach Urban Meyer said it’s been a strange last nine months or so for Roby.
“Bradley Roby, who I have a lot of respect for, made a decision to come back. It was because he came in with a group of players and he wanted to finish (with them), which I think is very admirable,” Meyer told reporters earlier this week. “He catches a lot of people in his ear, people saying, ‘You could have done this, you could have done this.’ I believe that he went through a little bit of a funk of buyer’s remorse or whatever.”
Meyer meant that Roby perhaps had second thoughts about his decision to come back instead of taking a big paycheck as a high NFL draft pick. It’s a problem for a lot of kids who have to make that call after their third year in college. Many end up thinking back on what might have been instead of concentrating on what’s coming up.
Roby was charged with misdemeanor battery after an incident in Bloomington, Ind., when a bar bouncer claimed he was struck in the chest by Roby. Eventually, the charges were reduced to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and will be dropped from Roby’s record if he stays out of trouble for the next year.
Roby has not spoken to reporters since his arrest. But he apparently played an active role with the Buckeyes in the weeks leading up to last week’s 40-20 win over Buffalo in the opener.
Meyer stressed on Monday that there was no evidence that Roby did anything wrong.
“Once the (bar’s surveillance) videotape came out, (it was clear) there was no assault, there was no battery, there was no, whatever,” noted Meyer, who still elected to bench Roby for the opener for being in a situation he shouldn’t have been in. “But I think he learned a really strong lesson and he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, and I’m anxious to get him back on the field.”
From the sound of it, Roby hasn’t just sat around eating chips and watching soap operas.
“Football players at all levels — but certainly the great ones — they live to play the game,” Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said. “The great players don’t try to get out of practice, the great players don’t try to get out of working out, they try to find ways to get in. Last week, all week, (Roby) was in the office watching San Diego State film to prepare himself. He has treated his situation like a professional and he has worked hard to stay in shape.”
Backup tailback Rod Smith also returns to the lineup this week. He was suspended for the first game because of an unspecified violation of team rules that took place last January or February, according to Meyer.
The addition of the two fortifies an Ohio State team that is thin in the secondary and needs a big back like Smith. Whether both step right into the starting lineup or are eased back onto the depth chart will be determined in practice this week.
Armani Reeves started in place of Roby last week on the corner opposite Doran Grant. Reeves played hard but it became evident as the game went on that Buffalo was picking on the youngster making his first collegiate start. He was called for a pass-interference penalty, was beaten on a couple of throws and went through the typical trials and tribulations of a young player who had never before been in on more than three plays in a game and suddenly participated in 68 defensive plays and 12 on special teams. On a hot, humid day.
Now Reeves, Grant and Roby will vie for the two starting spots this week against San Diego State, which fell behind and was forced to call an uncharacteristic 67 passes in a 40-19 home loss to FCS school Eastern Illinois on Saturday night.
“(Roby) was just being a coach, really, knowing he wasn’t going to be able to play the first game he was helping out myself, Armani Reeves and the young guys and basically the whole defense,” Grant said of Roby’s impact in practice a week ago. “He was still being a great leader. He was always there talking, giving us keys and clues of what we have to look for.”
Smith jumps into the mix at tailback where Jordan Hall rushed for a career-best 159 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Buffalo. But Hall may shift more to the hybrid H-back spot, freeing up room for Smith. He will be joined at tailback by Warren Ball, Bri’onte Dunn and freshmen Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott. Dunn and Elliott did not get a carry in the opener.
In two weeks, the Buckeyes will also get back suspended tailback Carlos Hyde, last year’s leading scorer. He’s been sidelined since his name came up in an alleged assault against a female at a Columbus bar in July.
“What they do is they have to come in and earn their position back,” Meyer added of all the suspended players.
QUOTABLE: San Diego State coach Rocky Long about playing the Buckeyes: “I’m actually a lot more concerned about us getting better than who we play.”
LATEST RANKINGS: The Buckeyes dropped a spot to No. 3 in the first Associated Press regular-season Top 25.
Alabama remained No. 1, while Oregon traded spots with the Buckeyes to move up to second. The rest of the top 10: Clemson, Stanford, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Louisville, LSU and Florida State.
Representing the Big Ten were the Buckeyes at No. 4, Michigan at 17, Northwestern at 19, Wisconsin at 21 and Nebraska at No. 22.
Michigan State was among the “others,” in 29th place, while Cincinnati and Bowling Green also got points.
The Buckeyes remained No. 2 in the coaches’ poll.
ODDITY: Consider that Ohio State does not play anyone currently ranked in the top 16 teams in the nation but that Arkansas plays four ranked among the top 12 in consecutive weeks.
SCOUTING SPREE: Sure hope there were a lot of NFL scouts at the Eastern Illinois at San Diego State game on Saturday night.
Meyer called Aztecs TB Adam Muema “arguably the best tailback we’ll face all year.”
That was at Ohio State’s news conference on Monday.
Then on Tuesday Meyer lavished praise on the QB of Football Championship Subdivision Eastern Illinois, Jimmy Garoppolo. All he did was complete 31-of-46 passes for 361 yards and three TDs in the Panthers’ stunning 40-19 upset of the Aztecs.
“Eastern has really one of the best quarterbacks I’ve ever seen,” Meyer said Tuesday. “I didn’t even know who he was until I watched him. He’s a great player.”
Garoppolo is a 6-2, 222-pound senior from the Chicago area who finished 10th in the voting last year for the Walter Payton Award, sort of the lower-division’s Heisman Trophy presented annually to the FCS’ player of the year.
BOUNCING AROUND: Ohio State opened as a 24-point favorite, then the spread jumped to 28.5 points. It settled in at 27.5 points before going back to 28 points on Tuesday afternoon.
AZTEC LA VISTA, BABY: San Diego State’s defeat to Eastern Illinois broke the mold in a lot of ways.
For instance, the Aztecs:
— Saw their 7-game regular-season win streak come to an end, the school’s longest since 1981.
— Attempted a school-record 64 pass attempts. That’s particularly notable since Aztec QBs have thrown for 300 or more yards in a game 121 times, compared to Ohio State’s 20 times.
— Ran 99 offensive plays. That is the fourth-highest total in school history and most since Sept. 14, 1991. The 99 offensive plays matched the most in the country in the opening weekend of play — both by future Ohio State opponents SDSU and Cal — and both lost.
— Had possession for 37:50. It was the fifth-highest total in a losing effort in the Division I era for the Aztecs.
— Had four interceptions for the first time since Sept. 26, 2009 and had five total turnovers for just the third time in the last 31 games.
B10 won’t penalize schools that schedule FCS teams: If all goes according to plan, the possibility of one of those attention-grabbing FCS wins won’t exist much longer in the Big Ten.
The College Football Playoff is coming next season and strength of schedule is part of the criteria the selection committee will use to determine the four teams. Playing FCS opponents wouldn’t help the cause.
That’s only part of the reason Commissioner Jim Delany is encouraging Big Ten schools to keep FCS schools off non-conference schedules. He said recently that games against FCS foes don’t create enough excitement for players, fans and television networks.
While FCS-FBS matchups usually result in lopsided games that serve as little more than scrimmages to the FBS teams, the chance for the upset offers some intrigue. It happened eight times last week and fans in Big Ten country will long remember Appalachian State’s 34-32 victory at Michigan in 2007.
Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said Tuesday it’s “an opportunity of a lifetime” for the FCS players. Andersen speaks from experience. When he was head coach at Southern Utah in 2003, his team went to Nevada and played the Wolf Pack to within 24-23.
“Those kids still talk about that,” he added.
Delany said in Madison, Wis., last month that conference members have made it a goal to keep FCS opponents off schedules.
“We don’t have any penalties for those that don’t,” Delany added. “It’s not like a violation of our rules. But everybody agreed when every game is televised, every game matters and the fans matter. Interest in those games is less. They’re from another division. They have 20 less scholarships. It’s like a junior college team playing against a high school team or a high school team playing against a JV team.”
Taking FCS schools out of the pool of potential opponents will add to the challenge of scheduling.
The Big Ten will go from eight to nine conference games beginning in 2016. That means each school will have four home conference games one year and five the next.
Athletic departments ideally need seven home games to make ends meet. To reach that threshold, FBS schools have turned to FCS programs. In return, the FCS school shows up to (usually) take a beating and goes home with a paycheck for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
When FBS schools schedule non-conference games against each other, both parties typically desire a home-and-home series. Sometimes a lower-level FBS school will accept a 2-for-1 deal and sometimes cash is involved.
But if a Big Ten team wants to schedule a fellow FBS opponent with no obligation for a return date, it’s going to cost big bucks.
“For the (FBS) teams that are available,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, “it’s probably a good thing for them. It drives the market up a little bit.”
Every Big Ten team except Michigan and Penn State is playing an FCS opponent this season. Three of those games are this week: Missouri State at Iowa, Indiana State at Purdue and Tennessee Tech at Wisconsin.
Big Ten teams are scheduled to play nine FCS opponents in 2014, including Michigan’s opener against, yes, Appalachian State.
The number of FCS opponents penciled in by Big Ten teams drops to four in 2015, two in 2016 and one in 2017.
The Big Ten is 72-6 against FCS teams since 1998, according to STATS. The Southeastern Conference is a nation-leading 111-2 in those games over that span.
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has mixed feelings about the loss of FCS opponents. His Hoosiers opened with a 73-35 win over FCS Indiana State, whose campus is about 65 miles away from Bloomington, Ind.
“A number of Big Ten teams are playing Missouri Valley teams, some of the teams out of the Ohio Valley Conference as well — that to me makes a little bit of sense,” Wilson said.
Delany added: “It doesn’t mean if you’re Indiana you have to go play Southern Cal but maybe you can go play Kentucky.”
Wilson said he understands why Delany wants upgraded schedules.
“By eliminating FCS, you’re just playing better opponents,” he added. “It makes the schedule tougher but hopefully you’re going to get fans in the stands because it’s a difficult. With HD TV, it’s difficult getting folks to the games, so we’ve got to play great opponents as well.”