breaking news


Ohio State football and the mysterious disappearing tailback runs

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 5:12 PM

New Ohio State offense of coordinator Kevin Wilson knows his popularity with Ohio State fans will only last until he calls his first bad play.

Ohio State’s shocking blowout loss at Iowa created a lot of questions. 

One interests me more than the others, and not just because I was born in the same county as Woody Hayes (probably). 

What’s up with Ohio State’s running game? 

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who idolized Hayes growing up in northeast Ohio, acknowledged Monday that the Buckeyes need to get the ball to running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber more after J.T. Barrett again got the majority of the team’s carries in a loss.

RELATED: Meyer turns focus to Michigan State

That has been a common theme when the Buckeyes struggle on offense, and Meyer has even described the quarterback running game as a security blanket or get-out-of-jail-free card on multiple occasions.

Obviously opponents know that, too. They also know Dobbins and Weber are more dangerous runners than Barrett, so when given the choice, they generally give Barrett a “keep” read when the Buckeyes call their base zone-read option play

“Those are all things we have to game plan and continue to work and find ways to give handoffs to the tailback,” Meyer said Monday.

That sounds astoundingly easy, doesn’t it?

Nine-year-old football players know how to hand off, right? 

This is not the same thing as trying to make sure a star receiver gets the ball. Stuff has to happen in between the snap and the catch in that scenario.  

To get a handoff to a running back, a coach just has to, well, call a handoff to the running back. 

After Meyer confirmed he has told his coaching staff this week he wants to see Dobbins and Weber get the ball more, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson went into more detail about why and how that might happen – plus why it might not. 

“Every defense you’re playing is outnumbering you, and either the quarterback or the run-pass option equates that,” Wilson said, identifying the two ways Ohio State has chosen most often so far this season. 

READ MORE about OSU’s “RPOs” here

But what if defenses are putting too many people near the line of scrimmage to block and the quarterback run isn’t a very appealing alternative? Obviously defenses don’t consider Barrett’s legs a very deadly poison if they keep picking it. 

“Sometimes they’re forcing him to keep the ball because they don’t want J.K. to keep the ball,” Wilson said. “So that being said, schematically we’ve got to find a way to get some hats on those guys so our running back can be the runner. At the end of the day, we haven’t done that the last couple of weeks.” 

But why not? 

Well, this is an appropriate week for that question because it’s the same dilemma Ohio State faced last time this weekend’s opponent – Michigan State – came to Columbus. 

After the Spartans coerced Barrett into 15 runs, leaving star running back Ezekiel Elliott with just 12, Elliott famously spoke out. 

What Elliott suggested after that 17-14 loss in 2015 – gap blocking – has been seen some but not often. 

(Gap blocking, including the venerable “power” play that was the staple of Jim Tressel’s OSU offense, revolves around down blocks and backside pullers to get an extra blocker or two to the point of attack. Ohio State has lately favored zone blocking, in which linemen are assigned an area and will employ double-teams based on various rules.)

The reason Ohio State has not used gap blocking regularly over the last two-plus seasons has never been entirely clear, a mystery deepened by the fact gap blocking was part of the successful formula for Meyer’s teams in the past, including in the 2014 postseason when Cardale Jones (a capable but not great runner) was Ohio State’s quarterback. 

One theory is the time it takes to learn all those fancy new passing plays leaves little for installing and more importantly mastering multiple blocking schemes. 

RELATED: 5 things Urban Meyer said after examining Ohio State’s loss to Iowa

Of course trying to run out of spread formations without using the quarterback much, if at all, is not a new problem. 

“In my time through the years and other places the times the quarterback cannot run — our quarterback can run here — how do you still find running game when the quarterback can’t run?” Wilson asked. “We’ve had to do that over time, and we’ve tried the last few — we had some things last week we just didn’t get to it.” 

That’s a tantalizing statement. 

It hints Ohio State knows what it needs to do – the Buckeyes just need to do it. 

If the quarterback is running too much, Wilson needs to call fewer option plays, and if Ohio State still wants to run the ball, that will probably require some different blocking schemes (see above). 

If they don’t, it could be because of a reluctance to change philosophically from a team built on speed to one built on power. 

“Well, we like that speed and that spread stuff, so when you spread it out you get into either the run-pass option or the read option,” Wilson said, indicating they could circle back to what they have been doing and try to do it better rather than try something new. 

He admitted he thought he could rely on Barrett’s arm last week because of the hot streak he and his receivers had been on for six weeks, but the quarterback responded by throwing four interceptions. 

Nobody would have predicted that, but then again Barrett should never be confused with Joe Germaine, so maybe the coaching staff should have known that bubble was going to burst eventually. 

At any rate, that’s what happened last week. 

What’s it going to be this week against Michigan State? 

Wilson wasn’t giving anything away. 

“We’ll fight hard to get (Dobbins) going,” he said. “He’s been great. And going forward yeah we’ve got to get him carries. Got to, but I don’t think we can force it, either.”

Coaching rumors: Gus Malzahn interested in Arkansas job, helping choose new AD

Published: Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 1:07 PM

With news that Bret Bielema will be gone as the head coach of Arkansas once this season is complete, expect the rumors of Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn heading back to Fayetteville to ramp up.

Per a SBNation.com report, the Razorbacks landing Malzahn might not be that far off.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is interested in returning home to take that position once it’s open, though his status might depend on this week’s Iron Bowl. He’d also have a hand in picking Arkansas’ new AD.

The move would make some sense considering Malzahn has roots in the state of Arkansas, deep high school ties, and might see the Razorbacks as his dream job. Having some power in helping choose the new Arkansas athletic director could also help draw him to the position, as he might not have that sam power at Auburn, which is also looking for a new leader of the athletic department.

If Auburn to win the Iron Bowl this Saturday against Alabama, the Tigers would play Georgia in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 2 against Georgia with a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line. It would be hard to see a coach leaving a team that just made the playoff leaving for a rebuilding job.

Florida coaching search: SB Nation report adds another layer to Gators’ saga

Published: Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 2:18 PM

Florida’s coaching search saga continues.

First, the buzz focused primarily around Scott Frost, the second-year UCF coach who turned the Knights from a winless program to a 10-0 juggernaut in the American Athletic Conference sporting one of the nation’s top-5 offenses.

Then the focus shifted almost exclusively to Chip Kelly, the former Oregon coach and offensive mastermind who has been out of the coaching scene for a year after four seasons in the NFL.

And now, on Sunday, SB Nation dropped a report saying Frost is still a top target even though the Gators have some hesitations.

The report in full:

“The Gators want Frost. But Florida is worried about the Heartland native’s ability to build out a staff of SEC recruiters, and the Gators are wary of him bringing his entire UCF staff with him to Gainesville. If Frost were to take the job, Florida would want to include current interim Randy Shannon and perhaps other current Gators on the defensive staff.”

Florida has spoken with USF head coach Charlie Strong, a former UF defensive coordinator before his time as head coach at Louisville and Texas.”

The report also said Kelly has talked with Florida but is also interested in West Coast jobs, including UCLA.

Let’s take a moment to digest this.

The biggest takeaway is that the Gators’ coaching search is still wide open — or at least more open than most anticipated after the Kelly buzz started swirling.

Second, it’s understandable for Florida to have hesitations about Frost. While his success story at UCF is nothing short of spectacular, the competition is at a different level in the SEC. And considering Florida’s last two coaches in Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain couldn’t get the job done, athletics director Scott Stricklin needs to make the right decision on his first attempt.

Third, if Frost is indeed a top candidate, a decision likely won’t be made for a while unless Stricklin decides to hire Kelly. Stricklin said at his Oct. 28 press conference announcing the coaching search that he would not talk directly with a sitting head coach while his season was still underway. That means the earliest Stricklin will have direct communication with Frost is likely after the AAC Championship Game on Dec. 2, unless the Knights lose to South Florida this coming Friday.

As always, this coaching search, now heading into its fourth week, is still fluid and likely will remain that way as the Gators prepare for their 2017 season finale against Florida State on Saturday.

More updates will come as the search continues to unfold.

LSU climbs in AP Top 25 after 30-10 win over Tennessee

Published: Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 2:18 PM

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU keeps playing its way up the charts.

The Tigers defeated Tennessee 30-10 on Saturday night in Knoxville, improving to 8-3 on the year and 5-2 in SEC play. With the win, LSU jumped to No. 19 in the AP Top 25, climbing two spots from where it ranked last week. The Tigers are one of five SEC teams ranked in the poll along with Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi State. Among three-loss teams, only Mississippi State and Oklahoma State rank higher.

The Tigers fought through dreary conditions to win Saturday night, playing through a deluge of rain and gusts of wind nearing 20 mph that forced multiple muffed punts and caused stadium lights to go out during halftime. Still, LSU made the best of this, recovering both of Tennessee’s dropped punts and pinning the Vols inside their own 5 yard line twice.

RELATED: Fans shouldn’t let Danny Etling’s love for them go unrequited

Running backs Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams led the way, combining to rush 31 times for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns. Unable to throw consistently because of the conditions, quarterback Danny Etling contributed his legs to the effort as well, rushing 9 times for 42 yards and a 13-yard touchdown.

Inside linebacker Devin White led the defense in tackles once again with 11, pushing his total to 114 on the year. The mark leads the SEC and ranks fifth among Power 5 players. Thanks to White, fellow linebacker Tyler Taylor and the LSU defensive line, the Tigers held Tennessee to 1.1 yards per carry, the Vols worst single-game mark since last season versus Alabama.

What’s next for LSU?

The Tigers return to Baton Rouge this weekend for their season finale matchup versus Texas A&M. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on the SEC Network. LSU has not lost a game to Texas A&M since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012, outscoring A&M 154-92 in the process.

Saturday will also be senior night, a chance for LSU to honor the most veteran players on the roster. Honorees will include quarterback Danny Etling, fullback J.D. Moore, wide receiver DJ Chark, defensive linemen Christian LaCouture, Greg Gilmore and Frank Herron and running back Darrel Williams, among others.

College football rankings: AP Poll Top 25 features 5 SEC teams after Week 12

Published: Sunday, November 19, 2017 @ 2:18 PM

The latest AP Top 25  was released by the Associated Press on Sunday after Week 12 games. Five SEC teams were listed in the Top 25 after the 12th full weekend of the 2017 football season.

Alabama remains atop the poll following a 56-0 win against Mercer. The Iron Bowl looms large for the Crimson Tide with a trip to the SEC Championship on the line. Alabama received 58 of a possible 61 first-place votes. Miami, which moved to 10-0 with a win against Virginia, was the recipient of the other three.

Georgia took care of business against Kentucky during the Bulldogs’ final home game at Sanford Stadium, and Auburn made easy work of UL-Monroe at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Both stayed put in the AP Poll this week, as Auburn checked in at No. 6 followed by Georgia at No. 7.

Mississippi State picked up a road win at Arkansas. The Bulldogs moved up one spot from No. 17 to No. 16.

LSU also collected a road win in lousy weather conditions at Neyland Stadium against Tennessee. The Tigers were rewarded with a two-spot jump from No. 21 to No. 19 in the rankings.

AP POLL HISTORY: PRESEASON | WEEK 1 | WEEK 2 | WEEK 3 | WEEK 4 | WEEK 5 | WEEK 6 | WEEK 7 | WEEK 8 | WEEK 9 | WEEK 10 | WEEK 11

The Associated Press began its college football poll on Oct. 19, 1936, and it is now the longest-running poll of those that award national titles at the end of the season. The preseason poll was started in 1950. Sixty-one members vote in the poll each week.

The 2017 preseason AP Poll placed the Crimson Tide as the top SEC team at No. 1, Auburn at No. 12, LSU at No. 13, Georgia at No. 15, Florida at No. 17 and Tennessee at No. 25.

Here’s a look at the complete 2017 Week 12 AP Poll:

AP Poll: 2017 college football Top 25 after Week 12

1
Alabama (58)
SEC
Record: 11-0
PV Rank

1

Points

1,522

2
Miami (FL) (3)
ACC
Record: 10-0
2
1,433
3
Oklahoma
Big 12
Record: 10-1
3
1,370
4
Clemson
ACC
Record: 10-1
4
1,355
5
Wisconsin
Big Ten
Record: 11-0
5
1,328
6
Auburn
SEC
Record: 9-2
6
1,203
7
Georgia
SEC
Record: 10-1
7
1,157
8
Ohio State
Big Ten
Record: 9-2
8
1,064
9
Notre Dame
Division I FBS Independents
Record: 9-2
9
1,023
10
TCU
Big 12
Record: 9-2
11
906
11
USC
Pac-12
Record: 10-2
12
891
12
Penn State
Big Ten
Record: 9-2
13
888
13
UCF
The American
Record: 10-0
14
833
14
Washington State
Pac-12
Record: 9-2
15
697
15
Washington
Pac-12
Record: 9-2
16
613
16
Mississippi State
SEC
Record: 8-3
17
573
17
Memphis
The American
Record: 9-1
18
496
18
Oklahoma State
Big 12
Record: 8-3
10
422
19
LSU
SEC
Record: 8-3
21
415
20
Stanford
Pac-12
Record: 8-3
20
407
21
Michigan State
Big Ten
Record: 8-3
22
366
22
South Florida
The American
Record: 9-1
23
247
23
Northwestern
Big Ten
Record: 8-3
232
24
Virginia Tech
ACC
Record: 8-3
136
25
Boise State
Mountain West
Record: 9-2
96