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? 

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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.”

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Xenia’s Samari Curtis, a one-time Xavier recruit, wants to be more than a scorer

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 1:08 PM

Xenia jr. Samari Curtis addresses a 67-60 defeat of Olentangy Liberty in the 16th Annual Premier Health Flyin to the Hoop at Trent Arena in Kettering on Sat., Jan. 13, 2018. MARC PENDLETON /

Samari Curtis sounds more interested in improving his game this summer than figuring out where he will take it in 2019. 

The Xenia basketball standout committed to Xavier in February but reopened his recruitment in May

In an interview Monday, he said the Musketeers have remained in touch while Dayton, Cincinnati, Louisville, Missouri and Indiana are also recruiting him. 

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That’s not a top six, though. 

Curtis says he doesn’t have one of those. 

He’s not in a rush to commit again, but he didn’t rule out making a decision soon, either.

“I’m gonna make the decision when I feel the time is right for me,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter. If I find the perfect program tomorrow or two months from now, that’s when I’m going to commit.” 

Curtis and several other Dayton-area standouts are playing together for C2K Elite on the AAU circuit this spring and summer, and he said he’s enjoying the experience. 

“Everything’s going good this summer. I’ve just been working a lot and my coach is pushing me a lot, so that’s all I can ask for,” he said. 

After leading the GWOC in scoring the past two seasons, there are few questions about Curtis’ ability to put the ball in the basket. 

>>RELATED: High-scoring Curtis wants to be program-changer for Xenia

The 6-foot-4 four-star prospect said he is trying to develop every part of his game this summer with an eye on a different role in college. 

“My best role to me is point guard,” Curtis said. “Most of the colleges want me to play point guard. My size makes me look like I play off the ball, but I’m more of a point guard than anything.” 

 

He may have some work to do to make that a reality. 

Brian Snow, a recruiting analyst for 247Sports, said he still sees Curtis as a pure shooting guard. 

“I saw Samari this past week in Atlanta and he played well,” Snow said Tuesday. “In the two games I saw, he especially shot the ball well, and he shows significant potential as a defender as well as with his ability to get to the rim. 

“Right now his game is much more suited to being a secondary ball-handler who is a scorer first and makes plays from the wing as a scoring guard as opposed to a floor general who dominates the ball and is asked to run a team.” 

While Curtis is unquestionably The Man when he dons the Blue and White at Xenia, he is surrounded by talented players who can score on his AAU team (including Trotwood-Madison’s Amari Davis, Springfield’s RaHeim Moss and former Sidney standout Andre Gordon). 

>>RELATED: Area’s best basketball players teaming up this summer in AAU

C2K Elite coach Quincey Simpson can also offer some personal expertise when it comes to becoming a college point guard. His son, Zavier, is the starter at that position at Michigan (though Curtis and the younger Simpson have different types of games). 

“He’s always getting on me. I like it,” Curtis said of the elder Simpson. “He’s just always getting on me about little stuff a point guard has to do to be good at the Division I level, so I’m just taking it all in and using it every game.”

There are two more events left for C2K Elite this summer — one in Grand Rapids this weekend and the UAA Finals in Las Vegas the weekend after that — then Curtis can begin to look ahead to his senior season at Xenia. 

The Buccaneers went 11-12 last season against a brutal schedule, and Curtis is sure to be the focal point again this fall for his last go ‘round in X-town. 

“We were doing good and then I got a concussion so that kind of ruined our momentum,” Curtis said of last season, when he averaged 30.4 points, 5.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. 

“I feel like this year I won’t have to worry about injuries so we should have a good year. I just know we’re gonna shock a lot of people.” 
  

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Scoochie Smith weighing his options after strong performance in NBA Summer League

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 5:08 PM

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 15:  Scoochie Smith #12 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives between Giddy Potts #20 and Rawle Alkins #1 of the Toronto Raptors during a quarterfinal game of the 2018 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 15, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Cavaliers defeated the Raptors 82-68. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 15: Scoochie Smith #12 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives between Giddy Potts #20 and Rawle Alkins #1 of the Toronto Raptors during a quarterfinal game of the 2018 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 15, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Cavaliers defeated the Raptors 82-68. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Former Dayton Flyers point guard Scoochie Smith always felt he could play in the NBA. He showed he deserves a chance with his performance in the NBA Summer League.

Smith spoke to the Dayton Daily News on the phone from Las Vegas, Nev., on Tuesday as he prepared to leave town after playing seven games in 11 days with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

While Smith had confidence about his ability to play at the next level, he said, “Sometimes you’ve got to reassure the people. That’s what happened.”

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» ALUMNI NEWS: Bonsu finds job in NBA

Smith earned an invitation to training camp with the Cavaliers and said while he would probably accept it, he hasn’t made up his mind yet. He’s keeping his options open in case other teams express interest in him.

Smith averaged 8.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 16.9 minutes per game in Las Vegas. His role grew as the Cavaliers advanced past the preliminary round into the Summer League tournament.

Smith, who finished his Dayton career with 1,289 points in 2017 and ranks 28th in school history, said he learned to be more aggressive and stay in attack mode.

“I think that will help me a lot,” he said.

In a 112-109 double-overtime loss to the Lakers on Monday in the semifinals, Smith had 14 points, five rebounds and a team-high five assists in 27 minutes. He made 4 of 12 shots from the field.

» OFFSEASON FEATURES: Donnie JonesJosh CunninghamTrey LandersRyan Mikesell

Smith’s best performance came Saturday in the second round of the tournament. He scored 15 of his 17 points in the last seven minutes in a 92-87 victory over the Houston Rockets.

“I was just waiting on my moment,” Smith said. “I was fortunate enough it came during that Houston game, not right at the end of the tournament. I still got to showcase some more.”

Smith said the Cavaliers were happy with his play, and he thought they were maybe a little surprised by how well he performed.

“I think they learned a lot about me,” he said.

» RECRUITING: Dayton among the teams pursuing Xenia senior

This was Smith’s second experience in the Summer League. He played with the Boston Celtics in the Summer League a year ago but saw limited playing time.

“They drafted about four guys, so it was kind of tough for me to find an opportunity,” Smith said. “Staying positive and doing what I did in my first year (in pro basketball) helped me get the opportunity this week.”

Smith started his professional career last year in Australia and played in 27 games for the Cairns Taipans, averaging 10.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

Smith then returned to Ohio to play for the Canton Charge, the Cavaliers’ affiliate in the NBA G-League. He averaged 14.3 points, 8.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds. He shot 51.9 percent from the floor and 52.3 percent from 3-point range. He had his best game — 26 points and 10 assists — in the final game March 23.

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Former Dayton guard Bonsu finds job in NBA

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 3:46 PM

Dayton’s Joey Gruden and Jeremiah Bonsu leave the court after a victory against Saint Joseph’s College on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff
Dayton’s Joey Gruden and Jeremiah Bonsu leave the court after a victory against Saint Joseph’s College on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, at UD Arena. David Jablonski/Staff

Former Dayton Flyers walk-on guard Jeremiah Bonsu is taking his career to the NBA.

After graduating from the University of Dayton in 2017 and spending a season at Bowling Green as a graduate assistant men’s basketball coach, Bonsu has a new job as a player development intern with the Dallas Mavericks.

» OFFSEASON FEATURES: Donnie JonesJosh CunninghamTrey LandersRyan Mikesell

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Bonsu’s former teammate at Dayton, Kostas Antetokounmpo, signed a two-way contract with the Mavericks last week.

Bonsu spent three seasons with the Flyers. He never scored a point and appeared in only two games as a senior, but he became a popular player in part because of his celebrations on the bench.

» RELATED: Bonsu on Senior Night emotions

Bonsu, a graduate of Pickerington North High School, wrote two articles for The Players’ Tribune during his career, one about the death of teammate Steve McElvene and another about his unlikely path to college basketball.

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WATCH: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on legalized gambling and Pete Rose, the shift, the DH, expansion and more 

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2018 @ 3:45 PM

CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 24: Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose is introduced to the crowd as the 1976 World Series Championship team was honored prior to the start of the game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park on June 24, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Staff Writer
CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 24: Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose is introduced to the crowd as the 1976 World Series Championship team was honored prior to the start of the game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park on June 24, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)(Staff Writer)

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred shared numerous interesting thoughts during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday morning. 

You can view the whole interview below, but here are some of the highlights: 

1. The lift of the federal ban on gambling on sports does not impact Pete Rose’s eligibility. 

“No matter what happens with gambling in the United States, there will always be a rule that prohibits on-field personnel, managers, coaches, players, front-office personnel from betting on their sport,” Manfred said. 

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He also issued a non-denial denial when asked if MLB has more evidence Rose bet on baseball as a manager or player than has been released.  

2. The designated hitter is probably not coming to the National League any time soon. 

Patrick has frequently noted he gets the sense the DH will eventually be universal, but Manfred disagreed. 

“I’d leave it alone,” the commissioner said when asked about changing the current setup in which the American League uses a DH but the NL does not. 

“To the extent that we have an issue with offense, if that’s your issue, if you look at the two leagues, I’m not sure the DH is your answer.” 

>>READ MORE: 5 ways to make baseball even better

He expressed concern about bringing about the end of the way baseball was originally played. 

“If (the National League) adopts (the DH), the pure form of baseball that’s played in the National League becomes extinct. I think there would be some reluctance.” 

3. He did not rule out banning the shift. 

“I think it is a broader issue than shifts,” Manfred said, noting the major expansion in use of shifts came about in a short amount of time as an organic reaction to the availability of more statistics. 

He acknowledged a sense owners want to discuss potentially “being more proactive as far as rules changes in response to what is happening organically.”

He also mentioned concerns about the increased use of relief pitchers, but in both cases warned against unintended consequences. 

4. MLB has found getting more kids to play baseball wasn’t as hard as they might have expected. 

Be it through one-day camps, organized leagues or via academies in “underserved areas,” the league has found investing in getting more kids to play baseball has worked. 

“We have a safe game that provides tremendous playing opportunities, that teaches great values, and we’ve had a tremendous amount of success,” he said, noting society as a whole is dealing with declining participation in all youth sports. 

Citing “industry numbers,” Manfred said baseball participation by children under 12 has increased six percent over the last three years while all other sports are down. 

“The trick is being where kids are and being able to put money out there to provide them with opportunities.” 

5. He likes the idea of 32 teams in MLB — eventually. 

That would mean adding two more teams to the league at some point, but the commissioner said it would create more scheduling flexibility and create more options for the playoffs. 

It would also inevitably include some realignment

As far as potential new MLB cities? He mentioned Las Vegas, Portland, Nashville, Charlotte, Montreal (or another Canadian city) and (in the longer team) a city in Mexico. 

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