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Sports Today: Archie Miller coming back to Ohio edition

Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2018 @ 10:15 AM

WATCH: Archie Miller was all business in first Indiana press conference

Before we get started, let’s get one thing straight: Tonight’s basketball game between Indiana and Ohio State is not a homecoming for Archie Miller. 

He’s not a native Ohioan, although he is from the half of Clevelvania that roots for the Steelers and Pirates. 

But, of course, he made his name as head coach of the Dayton Flyers for six years and was an assistant at Ohio State for two seasons before that. 

RELATED: Dayton basketball can keep dreaming big thanks to Archie Miller

Now he’s got a chance to become a villain to Midwest fans if he can restore Indiana to its past glory. 

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are also under new management, as you may have heard. 

When the Hoosiers snatched Miller away from Dayton, I thought that was pretty bad news for Ohio State, too. 

He was the “it” candidate and a young up-and-comer with connections in the right places to recruit in the Midwest, much like Thad Matta when Ohio State hired him away from Xavier in 2004. 

His ability to coach ‘em up at Dayton was impressive and obviously what made him a coveted coaching name

Though the early reviews are mixed at IU, betting against him doing great things in Bloomington would be foolish. 

As it turned out, new Buckeye boss Chris Holtmann is far more than a consolation prize for Ohio State, which didn’t go looking for a coach until a couple of months after Indiana hired Miller. 

He put his program in place quickly at Butler, keeping the Bulldogs competitive in the Big East and upgrading the recruiting there as well. 

In fact, Holtmann outperformed Miller on the recruiting trail in the three years both were on the job, at least if you believe the rankings (you should). 

Dayton’s classes from 2015-17 ranked 91, 71 and 94 while Butler’s checked in at Nos. 103, 45 and 34, 

RELATED: How Archie Miller’s Dayton recruiting compares to similar programs

(For 2017, that’s early spring rankings before changes such as four-star prospect Kyle Young following Holtmann to Ohio State and McKinley Wright leaving Dayton’s class to sign with Colorado instead.) 

Holtmann is off to a hot start, overcoming some nonconference bumps to put the Buckeyes in position to contend for the conference crown. 

A win over Indiana tonight could help reignite the rivalry between the two schools that burned brightly over the three decades of the Bobby Knight era, it also would strengthen Ohio State’s chances of earning a top four seed in the Big Ten tournament. 

As for recruiting at their new schools, Miller got a big win when he signed Pickerington North four-star prospect Jerome Hunter last fall. 

Both coaches signed good-looking classes, but Indiana’s got bragging rights so far, ranking No. 19 nationally — three spots ahead of Ohio State… 

Then there’s Archie Miller’s old team.

Dayton has struggled to find consistency throughout Anthony Grant’s first season coaching his alma mater. 

The Flyers are tied for eighth in the Atlantic 10 with Saint Louis (11-11, 4-5) but only 1½ games out of fourth place. Dayton has head-to-head tiebreakers over three of the top-four teams, though it still has to play one of those teams, Virginia Commonwealth, on the road.

What’s left on the regular season slate? 

David Jablonski breaks it down

Meanwhile, there was a very interesting development involving Ohio State football and the local high school scene yesterday. 

After we noted in this space standout Dunbar running back Tavion Thomas announced his de-commitment from Oklahoma, our partners at Land of 10 reported Ohio State is suddenly back in the game for Thomas

The 247sports composite three-star visited Columbus unofficially last weekend and is headed back there this weekend on an official visit. 

Rivals also reported Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford was in the Gem City at Dunbar yesterday. 

Close observers of recruiting will note these type of moves this late in the game often mean OSU coach Urban Meyer feels good about his chances of landing a player — and it’s safe to assume Thomas didn’t go ahead and announce his change of plans for no reason. 

If he ends up signing with Ohio State next week, Thomas will be the first Dayton City League player to do so for football since Colonel White running back Terry Pogue in 2000

The last Dunbar football player to be a Buckeye? 

You may have heard of him: Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson… 

The Super Bowl may yet be ruined by one of the NFL’s terrible rules, but there’s hope it will be the last league game marred by the current definition of a catch. 

Appearing on ESPN Radio’s now-listenable morning radio show with Trey Wingo and Mike Golic on Tuesday morning, commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the need to make some changes. 

They even know where the biggest problem with the catch rules lie, so that’s a positive sign something good will actually get done: 

“I think the thing where we’re really focused on is going to the ground, surviving the ground. I think that’s what has caused a lot fo the controversy and that’s what the committee will focus on in the next few weeks.”

When Wingo pointed out one of the biggest complaints is the difference between how a runner at the goal line and a player trying to make a catch at the goal line are officiated, Goodell replied: 

“You make a really strong point. It’s what we call consistency. That’s what everybody wants from officiating… and it’s hard when you see there’s a different rule on a catch when you’re crossing the goal line as opposed to a run.” 

He also said Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver, Middletown legend and former Ohio State standout Cris Carter is among the strict constructionists when it comes to what should be a catch: “Cris thinks you should catch the ball and hand it to an official and if you don’t it’s not a catch.” 

Hopefully Carter is outvoted if he’s part of the discussions for fixing this rule in the offseason…

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Florida State football: 3 redshirt freshmen to make impact in 2018

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 5:18 AM

There’s a lot of general excitement surrounding Florida State football with Willie Taggart entering his first year on the job.

And while a lot of that is centered around the No. 11 recruiting class he just signed, how he handles the already-stockpiled talent will be even more imperative in the early going. Despite coming off a tumultuous 7-6 season, Taggart inherits plenty of talent from Jimbo Fisher and, in particular, it’s the redshirt freshmen who stand to have the biggest impact on Taggart’s program.

Florida State redshirted 12 players of their No. 6-ranked, 24-man recruiting class in 2017 and they’ll all be coming off their redshirt year eager to prove that they belong and hoping to climb the depth chart. And here are the three redshirt freshmen most likely to make an impact for the Seminoles in 2018.

Tight end Alexander Marshall

With Ryan Izzo on his way to the NFL, Florida State returns 2 receptions at tight end between upcoming sophomore Tre’ McKitty and upcoming junior Gabe Nabers (though he’s more of a fullback or h-back). That paves the way for Alexander Marshall to earn some significant playing time coming off his redshirt year.

Originally a 3-star recruit from Bridgton Academy in Maine (of all places), Marshall is listed at a towering 6-foot-8, so he can provide some immediate value in the red zone with that height. And with Taggart’s power-running spread, he’ll almost certainly find himself on the field often in larger sets.

McKitty is the more dynamic athlete, but if Marshall can provide value in the red zone and as an extra blocker he’ll be on his way to a fine career with the Seminoles.

Defensive tackle Ja’len Parks

Ja’len Parks is a former 4-star recruit that was ranked inside the top 150 players in the country by the 247Sports composite rankings, so he’s got plenty of talent and he’ll get his first real opportunity to showcase that in 2018.

Florida State lost Derrick Nnadi and Jalen Wilkerson along the defensive line. And while they’ll still return a lot of talent, it’s always best to have a deep rotation up front and Parks’ emergence would give them at least eight defensive linemen that they’re comfortable with after using nine in their rotation in 2018.

Wide receiver Tamorrion Terry

It’s no secret at all that wide receiver is going to be an issue for the Seminoles in 2018 after losing Auden Tate early to the 2018 NFL Draft from a unit that was already pretty thin on playmaking ability to begin with. That’s why Taggart recruited the position so aggressively in the Class of 2018, signing five at the position.

However, Tamorrion Terry has had a year on campus and a year in the weight room after entering the program with a promising 6-foot-4, 208-pound frame. And none of the five wide receivers incoming are enrolled yet so he gets a headstart on the rest of the pack in spring football.

If he can show what he can do with some added strength and speed during the spring, he could slide into the Tate role as a bigger outside threat capable of providing matchup problems for the smaller cornerbacks in the league, particularly in the red zone.

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Miles Bridges NCAA case: What you need to know about Michigan State’s star forward

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 4:12 PM

Michigan State star sophomore Miles Bridges is one of more than 25 players mentioned in the FBI’s ongoing investigation into college basketball corruption involving agents funneling money to recruits, according to documents obtained by Pete Thamel and Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports.

There’s a lot of information in the Yahoo report, and there isn’t any focus on any particular player. But Bridges’ name is mentioned, and he’s as high profile as any current college basketball player in there. Here’s what you need to know.

How did Miles Bridges’ name come up in the FBI’s investigation?

The FBI is investigating agents who have allegedly funneled money to college basketball players with the hope of getting those players to sign with them after college. The FBI announced some preliminary findings in October, and four college basketball assistant coaches were fired after their names were mentioned in the report. The FBI cautioned that this was just the tip of the iceberg, and reporting from Yahoo’s Thamel last week suggested some sort of reckoning for the sport was on its way.

Thamel and Forde’s story on Friday mentioned recruits who had met specifically with Andy Miller, a former NBA agent who has since “relinquished” his certification with the NBA Players Association. Thamel and Forde cite documents showing payments from Miller and his associates to various college players.

Those allegations of payments to players are amounts in the hundreds to multiple thousands, with former University of Utah star and current Los Angeles Lakers player Kyle Kuzma recorded as receiving $9,500.

The documents Miller and associates meticulously kept say he or his associates arranged for a payment of $400 to Bridges’ mother Cynthia. Bridges and his family are also alleged as receiving $70.05 for lunch with Miller and/or his associates.

Here’s what Yahoo listed for other current college players:

  • USC ‘s Bennie Boatwright and/or his father, Bennie Sr., according to documents, received at least $2,000.
  • USC’s Chimezie Metu and/or adviser, Johnnie Parker, according to documents, received $2,000.
  • Texas’ Eric Davis, according to documents, received $1,500.
  • South Carolina’s Brian Bowen and his family received at least $7,000 in benefits, according to the documents. That is believed to include $1,500 in plane tickets.

The lunch may not seem like a problem, but it’s still a violation of NCAA rules.

“There’s nothing wrong with meeting with an agent,” Atlanta lawyer Stu Brown told Yahoo. “But then it becomes a question of who pays for the meal.”

Yahoo’s report lists Alabama guard Collin Sexton, Duke forward Wendell Carter and Kentucky forward Kevin Knox as having met or dined with Christian Dawkins, one of Miller’s associates. Knox’s father has denied meeting Miller or Dawkins.

The documents in Yahoo’s report also list Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo as having dined with Dawkins. A new report Yahoo published later on Friday night names Dawkins as attempting to negotiate a trade with MSU assistant Dwayne Stephens that would have had former Spartan Gary Harris and Bridges agreeing to sign with Miller’s agency in exchange for the agents delivering former 5-star recruit Brian Bowen to East Lansing. This did not end up happening, though, and the details surrounding it are unclear.

So what does this mean for Bridges and Michigan State?

While there is no record of Bridges taking any money from an agent, the parent of a college athlete doing so would still be a violation of NCAA rules.

From NCAA rule 16.02.3, which addresses “extra benefits”:

Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their family members or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students or their family members or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g., international students, minority students) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability

That $470.05 would violate that rule, so Michigan State has a couple of options. One would be sitting Bridges until the team has all the facts and knows what punishments, if any, it would face for playing him. That’s what B. David Ridpath, president of the Drake Group, which advocates for academic integrity in college sports, advocated for in an interview with  The Detroit News.

“I think in this case it would be pretty silly for Michigan State not to (sit Bridges) because you’re already looking at the presumptive penalty of at least a couple games, that it’s probably not a bad idea to sit him until this shakes out,”  he said. “But it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if they said, ‘Hey, we don’t know the whole circumstances of this. The NCAA and the conference have to look at it.’ And they might play a delay tactic just to get through the tournament.”

Losing Bridges would be a giant hit for the Spartans, who could be in line for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He’s the team’s leading scorer at 17 points per game, and Bridges’ absence would leave a huge hole in Michigan State’s frontcourt.

For now, that doesn’t appear to be the direction Michigan State is heading. Izzo said in a statement on Friday:

“While we will cooperate with any and all investigations. We have no reason to believe that I, any member of our staff or student-athlete did anything in violation of NCAA rules.”

Interim athletic director Bill Beekman echoed those remarks:

“MSU is committed to a culture of NCAA compliance,” Beekman said. “We have proactively contacted the NCAA and Big Ten Conference. As Coach Izzo has stated, there is no evidence that he or anyone in his program, including student-athletes, did anything impermissible.”

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Arkansas will see increased competition for specialist jobs in 2018

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 5:00 AM

Arkansas football is set to begin next week its first spring workouts under coach Chad Morris. The Razorbacks are scheduled to practice 14 times between March 1 and April 9, though another date could be added, with the NCAA allowing up to 15 practices. The spring game will be played April 7 at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

While there are many issues to address with the offense and defense this spring, special teams won’t go unnoticed. A heavy focus on all areas of the special teams is a point of emphasis for Morris.

Quality control assistant Tanner Burns has been retained from the previous staff and will be primary special teams coach. Under his guidance, the Hogs special teams improved in several ways last season. But he won’t be doing it alone in 2018 as Morris plans to give every assistant on staff a role in helping with special teams.

Here are three things Arkansas should look to accomplish within its special teams during spring practices:

Crank up kicking competition

Arkansas punter Blake Johnson essentially went unchallenged in being named the starter last season, despite his inconsistencies. That will not be the case going forward. Though the junior is back, he’s going to have plenty of competition from some preferred walk-ons.

The Razorbacks added Chad Stephens from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College to the roster last month. He turned down scholarship offers from smaller programs for a preferred walk-on spot at Arkansas. He should be Johnson’s primary competition this spring. Redshirt freshman Blake Mazza could also be an option at punter.

At kicker, junior Connor Limpert has a much stronger chance of retaining his job than Johnson. But if Limpert isn’t sharp, the Hogs will have options. Mazza can provide some competition this spring. In the fall, preferred walk-ons Reid Bauer and Matthew Phillips will be added to the roster. Bauer also had walk-on interest from Michigan, Missouri and Purdue. Phillips chose Arkansas over scholarship opportunities at Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky.

Arkansas kickoff duties seemingly are up for grabs. Any of the previously mentioned players could take those duties from Limpert. He had a touchback percentage of just .318 last season — worst in the SEC among players with at least 50 kickoffs. He was also tied for worst nationally with 6 kickoffs out of bounds.

All this competition is a recipe for making special teams stronger. It’ll begin this spring and will be one of the key storylines to watch during that time.

Leave returns to De’Vion Warren

This may be decided by the coaches this spring, but the primary kick return duties should be a foregone conclusion. Sophomore wide receiver De’Vion Warren has to be that player. In fact, the Hogs would be wise to do whatever they can to make sure he fields every kickoff.

Warren’s 26.3 yards per kickoff return last season led the SEC. His 1 00-yard kickoff return touchdown against Auburn shows why he’s such a great return specialist with maybe the best combination of quickness, vision and speed on the team.

If he’s capable of comfortably fielding punts, the Hogs should use him for those duties as well. That’s an experiment that can and should be tested this spring.

Keep up the coverage

Arkansas special teams were mostly outstanding in coverage last season. Opponents averaged just 19.3 yards per kickoff return (third in SEC) and 3.6 yards per punt return (first in SEC). Other than a kickoff return touchdown that arguably cost the Hogs a win against Texas A&M, they were exceptional in coverage.

The kickoff coverage was particularly impressive considering Arkansas ranked last in the SEC with 21 touchbacks. The Hogs are getting back nearly all the players who thrived on that coverage unit — particularly Derrick Munson, Giovanni LaFrance and Hayden Henry, all of whom were freshman linebackers last season. There shouldn’t be any reason to drastically alter the coverage units this spring or next fall.

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Ohio State basketball’s NCAA Tournament likely to begin far from home

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 5:00 AM

COLUMBUS, Ohio — This much is known: Ohio State basketball will play in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

What is less certain is where the Buckeyes will dance for the first time since the 2014-15 season. There are three prime locations for Ohio State among the eight cities that will host the first two rounds, with Detroit, Pittsburgh and Nashville all in the rotation in 2018. But the Buckeyes have a different geography problem — those sites also happen to be close to a slew of better teams. Instead, the Buckeyes could find themselves relegated to San Diego, Dallas or Boise, Idaho.

The following teams are in Ohio or states that border Ohio and are ranked ahead of the Buckeyes in the most recent AP Top 25: No. 2 Michigan State, No. 3 Villanova, No. 4 Xavier, No. 8 Purdue and No. 11 Cincinnati. As the NCAA notes, proximity is key for top teams: “Teams will remain in or as close to their areas of natural interest as possible. A team moved out of its natural area will be placed in the next closest region to the extent possible. If two teams from the same natural region are in contention for the same bracket position, the team ranked higher in the seed list shall remain in its natural region.”

As such, Villanova is virtually a lock to end up in Pittsburgh, and Xavier could play there, too, if it finishes as a No. 1 seed. Michigan State is likely to end up in Detroit, and Purdue would likely be assigned either Detroit or Nashville. Auburn, another top team, is also a strong possibility for Nashville.

All of those teams figure to be No. 1-3 seeds, which means that they will be paired against No. 6-8 seeds. At this point, the Buckeyes appear trapped in the No. 4-5 range.

Ohio State NCAA Tournament projections, Feb. 24

Outlet Seed Site
ESPN No. 5 Boise
CBS Sports No. 5 San Diego
USA Today No. 4 San Diego
Washington Post No. 5 Dallas

The projections listed above reflect an unfortunate reality for the Buckeyes. Though there are a number of sites close to Ohio, there are also quite a few teams likely to earn a higher seeding that are also near those cities.

Ohio State still will have a manageable path to the Sweet 16, but it likely will begin more than 1,000 miles from home.

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