A few names come to mind when pondering the surefire Hall of Famers playing baseball today. Adrian Beltre, who recently broke the 3,000-hit barrier, is one, as is Mike Trout, despite his youth. But there’s another all-time great who is toiling away on one of the worst teams in MLB: San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey. The Giants’ record might make Posey easy to overlook, but his combination of hitting and defense makes him almost a lock to one day join the Hall. In fact, despite being only 30 years old, Posey might already have a Hall of Fame résumé if he retired today.It’s difficult to forecast whether any given catcher will find his way to Cooperstown. Only 18 backstops have made the Hall, and some did so in part because of accomplishments after their playing careers (as managers or executives).1For example, Rick Ferrell is listed by Baseball-Reference.com as having been inducted as a player, but he produced only 29.8 wins above replacement in his career (34th on the all-time list of catchers). However, Ferrell won two championships as an executive before his induction, which probably helped his Hall-of-Fame case. Perhaps because of the strain of constant crouching and the beatings they receive behind the plate, catchers are notoriously quick to decline, and historically great performers can become merely ordinary in the space of a few years.But Posey is special. In a nine-year career, he’s already amassed 37.5 wins above replacement (WAR),2According to Baseball Reference.com. which puts him 25th on the all-time list among backstops. If we look at how productive all catchers have been through age 303That is, up to and including a player’s age-30 season as defined by Baseball-Reference. — Posey’s current age — he looks even better, ranking 11th all-time in WAR.According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS, a rough guide to measuring a player’s Hall-of-Fame qualifications,4JAWS (the “Jaffe WAR Score system”) determines Hall-worthiness by comparing an average of a player’s career WAR and his WAR in his seven best seasons with the typical mark for a Hall member at his position. Posey would have a decent chance to make the Hall even if he never played another game. I looked at the top 500 catchers’ JAWS scores and used them to calculate the probability that they would one day be inducted into the Hall.5I used a logistic regression model, with JAWS score as a predictor and Hall of Fame induction as the outcome. I excluded catchers who made the Hall as managers but not as players. Posey’s JAWS score is 36.8 — already only a little below the catcher average of 43.9. (Coincidentally, Posey’s current JAWS score is identical to the end-of-career score of stalwart backstop Ernie Lombardi, who made the Hall of Fame.) Based on this analysis, Posey would have about a 29 percent chance of getting to Cooperstown if he retired today — and as we’ll see below, those numbers probably understate Posey’s contributions.Why is Posey’s résumé so strong? It starts with his impressive numbers at the plate. Since 2009, Posey’s first season in MLB, he has the 17th-highest Weighted Runs Created Plus in baseball, and he’s the only full-time catcher in the top 50. Posey has power, to which his 128 home runs (in one of MLB’s least hitter-friendly ballparks) can attest. He also has patience, with a career walk rate of 9.6 percent, well above the MLB average of 8.1 percent.But Posey is much more than just a catcher who hits well. In addition to his power and discipline, Posey has been one of the best defensive catchers in baseball during his career — thanks to his particular knack for pitch framing.Catcher framing is the art of receiving a pitch so that an umpire is more likely to call it a strike. Before the debut of pitch-tracking technology such as PITCHf/x and Statcast, the idea of framing as a skill was unproven, but now it can be measured. And as Hall-of-Fame voters increasingly understand and recognize the importance of framing, catchers like Posey will probably benefit.Baseball Prospectus rates Posey as the seventh-best framer since 1988,6That’s the first year for which those statistics can be calculated. so he’s among the cream of the crop. And because framing isn’t factored into most versions of wins above replacement, Posey is somewhat underrated even by newfangled Hall-of-Fame yardsticks like JAWS.Baseball Prospectus’s version of WAR incorporates the number of runs a catcher saves via framing (which the version from FanGraphs does not, and the version from Baseball-Reference accounts for in a much smaller way).7The Baseball-Reference metric for catcher defense has a much smaller range of framing values than Baseball Prospectus’s does. For instance, it assigns Posey only 54 runs of value from his defense over the course of his career, while BP puts the value from Posey’s framing alone at nearly double that (104 runs). Unsurprisingly, Posey’s value under that measure is higher, shooting up to 49.8 WAR. If we recalculate his JAWS score using Prospectus’s version of WAR, then, Posey is already good enough to have an 85 percent chance of making the Hall, according to my calculations. Now, Posey’s framing value this year has been minimal, so it’s possible that he’s losing his touch (he wouldn’t be the only older catcher to forget how to frame a pitch). But even if you assume that he will be a league-average framer going forward, Posey’s JAWS could end up high enough to practically guarantee a Hall of Fame induction.8This is based on a series of career simulations described later in the article.In some ways, comparing Posey with the historic greats of yesteryear in this manner isn’t fair. We don’t know what kind of framer Johnny Bench was, for example, and it’s possible that his already-tremendous WAR total would just get more inflated if we did. But we do know that it’s rare for a catcher to have both offensive ability and framing skills. (The few catchers better than Posey defensively tend to be specialists like Jose Molina and Brad Ausmus.) Conversely, there are a lot of catchers who are not great framers but nonetheless have long careers because they excel at the plate. So it’s likely that at least some of the catchers ahead of Posey on the all-time list would see their total value decline if we could measure their framing ability.Add it all up, and Posey has likely already had a Hall-of-Fame career. And his playing days probably won’t end anytime soon — the average catcher who had 20 or more WAR through age 30 ended up playing another six and a half seasons. So Posey has plenty of years to improve upon his already impressive career. To get a sense of how Posey might end up finishing his run, I asked the folks at Out of the Park Baseball — a baseball simulation engine — to game out the rest of his career. Out of the Park came back with four simulations of Posey’s future. And according to each, the hypothetical Busters fared very well. In each simulation, Posey earned an end-of-career JAWS score of greater than 51, which would give him at least a 90 percent chance of making the Hall, according to my calculations. With an average of about 2,000 hits, 400 doubles and 250 home runs, Posey’s milestones weren’t overly impressive, so he didn’t make the Hall on the first ballot in the simulations — it usually took three to four years for him to get in — but he was eventually inducted in each universe that was played out. That sounds pretty similar to what will happen in our universe, too.Posey is one of the few catchers in history who can do it all. He can hit and frame, and he even provides extra value by blocking errant pitches and throwing out runners. When you combine his offensive and defensive skills, Posey might just be the most underappreciated Hall of Famer playing today.CORRECTION (Aug. 24, 10:02 a.m.): An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Baseball-Reference.com’s version of wins above replacement does not incorporate the number of runs saved via catcher framing. It does, although Baseball-Reference’s method assigns less value to framing than Baseball Prospectus’s version of WAR does.
It’s Black Monday — the day after the NFL’s regular season concludes — when 20 to 25 percent of teams (usually of the non-playoff-bound variety) have historically begun their offseason by firing (or otherwise parting ways with) their head coaches. This year, the New York Jets have fired Rex Ryan, Mike Smith is out in Atlanta and Jim Harbaugh left the San Francisco 49ers in a mutual split. Further changes may be coming.Teams don’t take these coaching changes lightly, but for all the focus on the coaching carousel, it’s been difficult for researchers to figure out how much who’s wearing the headset matters.Teams that change coaches have a strong tendency to improve the following season, which could be taken as prima facie evidence that swapping in a new coach makes a profound difference. But it also could simply be the residue of regression to the mean. A poor record is generally required for a team to consider dismissing its coach, but much of the differences in NFL team records is due to luck and not the comparative skill levels of the teams themselves. When that luck evens out, the team appears to improve, even if its underlying skill didn’t change all that much.And this phenomena is essentially what the research on NFL coaching changes has found. Although the average team to change coaches since 1994 has seen its winning percentage improve from .383 to .428 the next season, that’s mostly regression to the mean at work. In fact, once we account for the teams’ previous Elo ratings and the inexorable pull that a .500 record exerts on NFL teams from year to year, there’s little evidence that changing coaches helps teams at all.The aforementioned sample of teams had an average Elo rating of 1437 at the end of the regular season with their old coach, which tends to translate to a .463 winning percentage the following year whether a team changes coaches or not. But the season after making the change, those teams averaged a .428 winning percentage — about 35 points lower than we’d have expected based on their previous Elo ratings. This may speak to broader institutional issues that are correlated with coaching changes but beyond the influence of the coach himself, such as dysfunctional ownership, a poor general manager or players who consistently win less than point-differential-based metrics would predict.These types of findings lend credence to the theory that NFL coaching changes offer franchises little more than the illusion of control over their future. While it may feel satisfying to fans and owners to fire a coach after a disappointing season, it’s tough to quantify the real benefits of such a move — if any even exist.
Texas Tech863-5 Syracuse100-1 Villanova515050-1 Chances based on BPIDifferences may not add up exactly due to roundingSource: ESPN Stats & Information Group West Virginia857-2 Loyola-Chicago102+1 Chances of making Final Four Gonzaga9%23%28%+20 Nevada2120 Purdue323025-8 Texas A&M2220 Kansas St.104+4 Duke423749+7 Kansas172319+2 Gonzaga’s good luck has gotten even betterChances of making the Final Four for 2018 Sweet 16 teams before the bracket was released, after the bracket was released and if we had known each team’s opponents this far in the tournament before it began Kentucky is the envy of the college basketball world for its soft Sweet 16 landing in a region that is suddenly without any of its top-four seeds. But if we’re looking for the luckiest team in the NCAA Tournament this year, a case can be made that it’s not the Wildcats. It’s Gonzaga.That’s not to say that Kentucky hasn’t been fortunate. John Calipari’s perennial powerhouse entered the tournament with just a 2 percent chance to reach the Final Four, per ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, and an 8 percent chance based on FiveThirtyEight’s projections. Looking at each model now,1BPI is one ingredient in the FiveThirtyEight projection cocktail. that number has ballooned to 45 percent on BPI and 57 percent on FiveThirtyEight. Part of that increase is because of the strong teams in the region that fell early, but part is also based on Kentucky winning its first two games — and being only two wins from the Final Four, instead of the four it was at the start of the tourney.But what if we could isolate the effect of the upsets so far on a team’s chances? What if we had known before the tournament began that Kentucky would face Buffalo and Kansas State after opening with Davidson (avoiding Arizona and Virginia) and then face either Loyola-Chicago or Nevada in the Elite Eight (avoiding Tennessee and Cincinnati)? Given that information, Calipari’s team would have had a 21 percent chance per BPI to reach the Final Four,2FiveThirtyEight’s model doesn’t have “pre-bracket” predictions. a whopping 19 percentage point increase just because the right teams lost before Kentucky had to see them.So yes, the seas have parted for Kentucky in its region, but Gonzaga has arguably benefited more from circumstances outside of its control.Let’s do the same pre-tournament exercise with the Bulldogs. If we had known before the tournament that after the first round they would face Ohio State, Florida State and the winner of Michigan-Texas A&M, the Bulldogs would have received a modest boost (23 percent to 28 percent) to their Final Four chances, thanks to the losses of regional competitors like Xavier and North Carolina. They also would have received an increase to their title game and championship chances by 11 and 3 percentage points, respectively (compared with 8- and 2-point boosts for Kentucky).What’s helping out the Bulldogs so much? First, there’s the fact that Michigan — a worse team than Gonzaga, in BPI’s mind — is the toughest remaining out in the region for Mark Few’s squad. But then there’s this: In the Final Four, Gonzaga will basically reap all the same benefits that Kentucky received, getting to sidestep Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Arizona. At worst, the Bulldogs will face Kentucky, which is 3 points per game worse in team quality than Gonzaga on a neutral court, per BPI. If the schools met up in the Final Four, Gonzaga would have a 61 percent chance to win, according to the BPI model. In the best-case scenario for the Bulldogs, they would end up with one of the even more feeble options from the South region in Kansas State, Loyola-Chicago or Nevada.Is it cut and dried that Gonzaga has been more fortunate than Kentucky? No. But the numbers since the tournament began aren’t the whole story. See, Gonzaga’s chances also received a healthy bump from the selection committee’s layout of the bracket, which paved a relatively easy path for the Bulldogs en route to a possible trip to San Antonio — even if the bracket played to form. Before anyone had taken the court, Gonzaga’s chances to reach the Final Four increased by 14 percentage points over BPI’s pre-selection projections based on the teams it needed to get past in its region, so its Final Four chances in total have increased by 20 points (after rounding) overall. Meanwhile, the selection committee actually hurt Kentucky quite a bit, knocking its pre-selection Final Four chances down by 6 percentage points, meaning that outside forces improved the Wildcats’ Final Four chances by only 13 points. Clemson554-1 Florida St.111+1 Michigan131315+3 Kentucky8221+13 TeamPre-BracketPost-BracketPost-Bracket with Opp.overall Diff. So while the Wildcats have been lucky since the tournament began, they started out at a disadvantage. The same is true for a team like Duke, of course, whose current projection has benefited from Michigan State’s loss to Syracuse but whose original projection was hurt an awful lot by the Spartans’ nearby placement in the bracket. Duke and Villanova have seen slightly larger increases to their respective championship chances based on the bracket selection and other contenders’ losses relative to Gonzaga, but neither has been as positively affected as the Bulldogs in their chances to reach the Final Four or national championship game.If Gonzaga’s good fortune ends up helping to send the Washington school to the title game, it would not be unprecedented. Among all teams to reach the NCAA Tournament championship game since 2008, none benefited more from other teams losing than the 2017 Bulldogs, which faced No. 11 seed Xavier in the Elite Eight and No. 7 seed South Carolina in the Final Four. So while no one will feel sorry over Kentucky’s cushy path to the Final Four, it’s Gonzaga that — at least in the past two years — has had more luck on its side.Check out our latest March Madness predictions.
OSU junior forward Marc Loving (2) celebrates during a game against Air Force on Dec. 8 in Columbus. OSU won, 74-50. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorThe Ohio State men’s basketball team extended its win streak to six games Sunday, as it defeated Illinois 75-73 in a close-fought conference matchup in Columbus. OSU survived the Fighting Illini’s 3-point barrage in the second half, narrowly escaping as Illinois’ last-second heave bounced off the left side of the backboard. After the game, OSU coach Thad Matta said he was impressed by Illinois’ performance, as the visitors played OSU tough up until the final whistle.“I thought Illinois played very, very well,” Matta said. “They hit some of the (timeliest) shots that I’ve ever seen. Give our guys credit, (because) a few weeks ago we would have probably crumbled, but we kept our composure, we kept fighting.” The Buckeyes were led by the play of junior forward Marc Loving, who had 27 points and seven rebounds. The win pushes the Scarlet and Gray’s record to 10-5, including a 2-0 mark in the Big Ten.Matta said getting high-level play from Loving, the most experienced player on the team, is essential to the team’s success. “Marc was very, very efficient tonight,” Matta said. “I think he kind of had a huge three in the corner, but also was able to put the ball down on the floor, got to the foul line. Marc has had a really, really good focus the last few games and, as your lone upperclassman on a basketball team, you hope that’s something we can continue to ride on.” OSU was able to ice the game at the free throw line, shooting 28-of-39 from the stripe for the game. Both teams were in foul trouble early in the second half, much to the disdain of Illinois coach John Groce.“We’ve got to play a lot harder without fouling,” Groce said. “That’s the highest number of free throws an opponent has shot against us all year and that was the difference in the game.” Groce’s team only made 12 of 32 3-point attempts, and overall OSU held Illinois to 40 percent shooting from the field. Matta said although the defense is not be where he ultimately wants it to be, he is happy with the way the defense is playing.“I think that we’re getting there,” Matta said. “The thing that I would say that I’m not pleased with is we made some mistakes and they made us pay for them tonight. Those are things that are happen. I do think we’re understanding scouting more. We’ve got to continue to build it, but I like the direction we’re headed with our defense.” For OSU, the first half was one to forget, as the team was held to only 32 percent shooting from the field, thanks to the 2-3 zone Illinois employed. The rough first half, however, could perhaps be attributed to the absence of freshman point guard JaQuan Lyle, who picked up two fouls in the opening two minutes of play. The Buckeyes clung to a 30-26 lead going into halftime, looking for improved results in the second frame.OSU found those results with Lyle back on the court. With their starting point guard leading the offense, the Buckeyes returned to form in the second half — seeing a near-instant improvement. With Lyle running the show, OSU shot 52 percent from the floor in the second half.“I couldn’t be happier with the way (JaQuan) played,” Matta said. Lyle said he was disappointed to pick up two quick fouls and put his team in a bind early on, but knew when he came back in the second half, he would have a chance to lead his team to victory. “My mindset was that I was fresh,” Lyle said. “Everyone else had been playing the whole first 20 minutes so I took advantage of that. My legs were fresh and I made a couple of layups. Then I just started making plays.” Lyle poured in 14 points and a team-high 5 assists — all in the second half — for OSU.The Buckeyes, now on a hot streak with six straight wins, will move to face Northwestern on Wednesday in Evanston, Illinois, which Matta said will be a good test for his basketball team.“We’re going to see where we are,” Matta said. “The last road game against (Connecticut), we were awful. It will be interesting to see how we come out to start that game. Northwestern is playing some great basketball right now and it’s always a tough place to play.”Tip-off against the Wildcats is set for 9 p.m.
The Ohio State wrestling team went into the weekend looking to salvage the remainder of its season and upset No. 19 Illinois and No. 4 Minnesota. It failed on all counts. The Buckeyes fell to the Fighting Illini, 21-12, on Friday. After the loss, the team boarded a bus back to Columbus to get ready for its dual with Minnesota. In that dual, the Buckeyes fell, 31-9. “There is just too many tough people in this sport to not be prepared to walk on the mat,” OSU coach Tom Ryan said. “They’re young people and they’re learning, and sometimes you have to hurt real bad to learn, and hopefully that one stings.” After Friday’s loss at Illinois, the Buckeyes did not arrive in the Columbus until about 4 a.m. Saturday. But they were already in the gym at 2 p.m., preparing for the Golden Gophers. Redshirt sophomore captain C.J. Magrum, 184 pounds, said it was difficult to come back on such little sleep, trying to maintain weight and get prepared for a second dual in less than 24 hours. “We got in at 4 (a.m.), and it was hard to go to sleep for some reason,” Magrum said. “Plus the fact we had to keep our weight down before the match, that was the worst part. You know guys were coming in to practice today at 2 (p.m.) with not a lot of sleep. Plus you’re cutting five pounds before your match.” Magrum faced two tough opponents last weekend. On Friday, he defeated Illinois redshirt freshman Tony Dallago, 3-1, but lost to Minnesota redshirt freshman Kevin Steinhaus, who is ranked No. 8 in the 184-pound weight class. Some matches that night ended controversially. During the 149-pound match between OSU redshirt freshman Mike Fee and Minnesota redshirt freshman Danny Zilverberg, Fee appeared to injure his right knee, and yelled in pain. The late stop by the referees for the injury time allowed for Zilverberg to score two points on a reversal. Ryan was upset with the referees and heckled them from the bench. After he shouted his complaints, the referees gave him a warning. Ryan approached the referees during a break after the match to discuss what happened. Ryan said after the match he might have gone too far. But, while Ryan said Fee should have been protecting his own health and knee, the referees did not make matters better. “I went a little crazier than I needed to,” Ryan said. “Our guys got to protect his knee better when he feels it happening. It’s your job to protect it; it’s the official’s job to protect it. We didn’t do it. It just adds to the entire frustration and poor preparation of the group.” Senior captain Colt Sponseller, 165 pounds, won both of his matches, defeating Illinois sophomore Conrad Polz, 3-2, and Minnesota redshirt sophomore Cody Yohn, who is the 11th-ranked wrestler at 165 pounds. Sponseller, the No. 7-ranked wrestler at 165 pounds, improved to 17-3 and notched his sixth straight victory. “Well I think Colt Sponseller, he’s in the same group, the same workouts; he never steps backwards,” Ryan said. “He’s always a positive here; he’s always been. It’s the way he represents us. It’s the way he prepares for competition.” Sophomore captain Ian Paddock suffered an injury Friday night against Illinois junior Bernard Futrell in his 16-6 major decision loss. In his place, redshirt freshman Jacob Vaughan made his first-ever varsity start for the Buckeyes on Saturday. Vaughan faced a tough challenge and started strong, leading 5-4 after the first period. However, his opponent, Minnesota redshirt freshman David Thorn, took the match, 19-11. Vaughan, though disappointed with his loss, was excited to get the start. He said he had found out he would get the start Saturday because if he had known Friday, he would not have been able to sleep. “I was so excited to wrestle today, and nervous,” Vaughan said. “Once I realized I wasn’t going to throw up, I started relaxing a little bit.” Vaughan will get the next two starts at 133 pounds, as Paddock will miss the remainder of the regular season with an injury. Redshirt freshman Peter Capone, 197 pounds, had the highlight of Saturday’s dual, pinning Minnesota redshirt senior Joe Nord at 2:30 in the first period. The Buckeyes will head to Madison, Wis., to take on the No. 3 Badgers at 2 p.m. Sunday. Ryan said the goal for his team for the rest of the season is one thing: “Fight.”
Men’s Tennis falls in indoor championships The No. 3 Ohio State men’s tennis team advanced to the championship match in the ITA National Team Indoors after defeating No. 2 Virginia, 4-1, Sunday, but fell to No. 1 USC, 4-3, in the final match. The loss was the Buckeyes’ first of the season as their record drops to 12-1 overall. OSU returns home to face Kentucky for a match scheduled for Feb. 25. Baseball’s Dezse named Big Ten Player of the Week Ohio State sophomore first baseman and pitcher Josh Dezse was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for his performance in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge. Dezse went 7-for-14 overall including a home run, five RBIs and four runs. In all three games Dezse had at least two hits as OSU won two out of the three contests. Many publications named Dezse a preseason first-team All-American. This is the third time in Dezse’s career that he’s been named the conference’s player of the week. The baseball team will travel to Atlanta, Ga., for a three-game series against No. 10 Georgia Tech this weekend. Spooner in contention for player of the year honors in women’s hockey Senior forward Natalie Spooner is one of 30 final candidates for the 2012 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, which is given to the top player in women’s college ice hockey. Spooner helped lead the Buckeyes to a 16-14-4 regular season record while averaging 0.94 goals per game. Men’s Lacrosse upsets No. 5 Denver The Ohio State men’s lacrosse team beat Denver, 10-9, Sunday to bring their record to 3-0 on the season. Junior attackman Logan Schuss had five goals in the contest which helped him earn ECAC Lacrosse League Offensive Player of the Week honors. Schuss has had at least one point in every game of his collegiate career. He has totaled 15 points and 10 goals on the season, which brings him to 123 points in his career. That total makes him 20th in Ohio State history. Dean earns Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Week honors Junior gymnast Colleen Dean was named Big Ten Co-Gymnast of the Week along with Nebraska freshman Jessie DeZiel Monday. Dean won first place in the all-around competition in a dual meet with Denver Saturday. The team combined for a program record 197.625 points. The team next competes at home against Penn State Saturday at 4 p.m.
With just two games left on its slate of regular season games, the Ohio State women’s basketball team is back on the hardwood to face Illinois Thursday in Champaign, Ill. After taking down Michigan State, 67-60, at home Monday night, the Buckeyes might be looking to salvage what’s been an otherwise disappointing season. “We played great Monday night and the win was important,” said OSU coach Jim Foster. “The team just needs to keep getting better and Illinois will be a tough test.” The Buckeyes (15-12, 5-9 Big Ten) have struggled in conference play this year. But the victory against the Spartans has OSU motivated heading into its contest with the Fighting Illini. “Winning games, especially the other night, helps a lot in terms of confidence,” said senior guard Amber Stokes. “This season has been somewhat of a struggle, but winning our next two games would be huge and we’d have some momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament.” Illinois (16-10, 9-5 Big Ten) head into the game coming off of a 13-point win against Indiana on Feb. 23. The game against OSU is Illinois’ final home game of the season and, as such, it’s Senior Night for the likes of senior forward Karisma Penn, who averages 19.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. In a 79-73 win against OSU on Jan. 6 at the Schottenstein Center, Penn scored 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. “That was really a bizarre game,” Foster said. “We sent them to the foul line over 30 times and we dealt with some injuries. It was very strange, but since then, I think we’ve gotten a lot better.” In that contest against the Illini, Stokes suffered a sprained MCL in the first half that sidelined her for four additional games. Stokes, who returned to action in a 71-56 loss to Penn State on Jan. 27, is relishing her time back on the court. “It was a tough loss, and spraining my MCL in the first half, then not returning, was terrible,” said Stokes. “I really want this win, it would be huge.” Senior guard Tayler Hill, who is averaging 21.2 points a game, has been a consistent force for the Buckeyes in spite of their ups and downs. “We have to take one game at a time and play as a team,” said Hill. “Everybody needs to play their role and we just have to play defense.” Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. Thursday at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson talks during an interview on National Signing Day Feb. 5 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor Co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash talks with media on National Signing Day Feb. 5 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorWhen Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer gets into recruiting mode, it isn’t all about the players. He finds a way to woo coaches, too.After the departures of co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Everett Withers and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, Meyer had two vital positions to fill on a defense that allowed an average of 377.4 yards per game and ranked No. 47 in the country.Now after hiring two new coaches — both of whom spent time at rival schools — Meyer said he is pleased with his new hires.“We replaced (Vrabel and Withers) with Larry Johnson and Chris Ash, but a couple of comments with those gentlemen we hired. First, they wanted to be here, they both had very, very good jobs and they wanted to be here,” Meyer said to the media Wednesday.Johnson, who takes over as defensive line coach after 18 years with Penn State, inherits a unit that is set to return all four starters and helped spearhead the country’s ninth ranked running defense.Johnson said he can’t wait for a chance to work with the group of players.“Just watching from afar and watching it on videotape, I think it’s a very talented young group,” Johnson said Wednesday. “I can’t wait to get my hands on them. I’ve had two chances to watch them and I’m like a little kid. It’s like I’ve got some new toys to play with. I’m really excited to impart my wisdom to these guys and see how they respond.”Junior Michael Bennett, sophomores Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington and freshman Joey Bosa totaled 24 of OSU’s 42 sacks this past season.Meyer said he took notice of Johnson when putting together his initial staff at OSU, but didn’t hire him at the time because of Vrabel.“Larry Johnson is a guy (I have) had great respect for (for) many years,” Meyer said. “Made a phone call two years ago when I was hired here in December whatever year that was, I called Larry. We discussed Ohio State, but then I made the decision to hire Mike Vrabel. We just didn’t have a spot. Noah Spence’s dad called and said Larry (Johnson) would like to talk to you about a position … And the communication was great. We went and met in Indianapolis … and it was a no-brainer on our end.”Although Johnson’s pedigree as a coach is impressive, his abilities as a recruiter find a way to be noticed.Johnson said it is his “brand” that allows him to recruit players well.“I think obviously it’s my niche but I think the brand that I have is, I’m a teacher, I’m a fundamental development kind of guy,” he said. “I want to develop players into outstanding people and players and I think that all goes together.”Although the defensive line heads into 2014 with momentum, the Buckeyes’ secondary — which is now headed by former Arkansas defensive coordinator and secondary coach Chris Ash — doesn’t have quite the same hype.The unit finished the year ranked No. 112 in the country with an average of 268 yards per game and also loses four regular contributors in redshirt-senior safeties Corey “Pitt” Brown and C.J. Barnett, senior safety Christian Bryant and redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby.Meyer said it is Ash’s job to work on the pass defense.“He’s got a serious responsibility. That’s to improve our pass defense. He’ll be in charge of the entire back end of our defense,” Meyer said.Ash — who was named co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach upon his arrival in Columbus — said Wednesday he understood what Meyer wanted out of him as a coach.“When we met first, he discussed his vision for the defense and what he wanted to see when the film was turned on … There has been a great tradition of outstanding defenses here at Ohio State, (but) the last couple years it just wasn’t to the level that they wanted. Coach wanted to make some changes and go a different direction,” Ash said.Ash added that he expects his team to play one way: at full throttle.“Well, you play fast, you play with reckless abandon, you’re fast, you’re physical, you throw your body around. You play without hesitation,” Ash said. “There’s no confusion, you know exactly what you’re doing. You can react to your key and there’s only one speed: it’s full speed. And that’s the way we gotta play.”In each of his last two seasons at Wisconsin, before he took the job at Arkansas for what ended up being his lone year there this past season, Ash coached defenses that finished in the top 20 in passing yards allowed per game.Even with the new additions to the coaching staff, Meyer said he plans on taking a more involved role in the defense in the coming seasons.“I’m going to be more involved than I ever have been, just to make sure that we get up to standard at Ohio State on (the) defensive side of the ball with emphasis on pass defense,” Meyer said.The Buckeyes are scheduled to get their 2014 season underway Aug. 30 against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.But before the season kicks off, there are some things the coaches need to learn about being a part of the OSU program.“There’s so much to learn. I walked in the first day and someone said, ‘Hey coach, no blue pens,’ and I didn’t know that,” Johnson said. “So there’s a lot of little things that I’ve got to learn pretty fast when you’re talking the team up north … As far as football and all those things, that’s easy. The learning (of) the ins and outs of Ohio State football, that’s the challenge for me.”But even with all of the new things he has to learn, Johnson said at least one aspect of the change is a plus.“My wife said I look good in red, so that’s a good start.”
Junior center Amir Williams (23) reaches up for a shot. OSU beat Illinois, 48-39, Feb. 15 at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Ill. Courtesy of Brenton Tse / The Daily IlliniAs March approaches and college basketball teams look to build their résumés, perhaps the most important thing any team can have is a short memory.Just four days after having a three-game winning streak snapped at home by archrival No.15 Michigan, 70-60, the Ohio State Buckeyes got back to their winning ways against Illinois, beating the Fighting Illini, 48-39.Despite a tough first half where the Buckeyes trailed by as many as six points — including a three-point margin at halftime — No. 22 OSU (20-6, 7-6, fifth in the Big Ten) would manage to fight its way back in the second half.Five points from junior forward LaQuinton Ross — who finished the game with nine points — followed by a 3-pointer from senior guard Aaron Craft was enough for OSU to take a 28-25 lead with 15:14 remaining. The Buckeyes would never trail again.Although the Fighting Illini (14-12, 3-10) would cut the lead to one at 30-29 with 12:19 left, OSU would score the next 12 points and secure its 20th win of the season. It is the ninth consecutive season OSU has won at least 20 games.Despite not playing in the final 10:13 of the first half, Craft finished the game with a game-high 14 points.Freshman forward Marc Loving and sophomore guard Amedeo Della Valle would contribute for OSU off the bench, scoring eight and five points respectively.Illinois junior center Nnanna Egwu continued to hurt OSU on the glass, recording a career-high 13 rebounds on the night to go with six points.OSU’s 48 points were its lowest total of the season, but managed to hold Illinois to just 16 points in the second half. The 39 points by Illinois were the second fewest allowed by the Buckeyes this season, with only the 35 scored by Marquette Nov. 16 being less.Next up, OSU is scheduled to return to the Schottenstein Center for a matchup against Northwestern (12-13, 5-7, seventh in the Big Ten) Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The OSU women’s volleyball team celebrates after a win against Michigan State on Oct. 22. The Buckeyes won the match 3-0. Credit: Luke Swartz | For The LanternThe No. 25 Ohio State women’s volleyball (7-4) hosted the Buckeye Invitational this weekend, losing on Friday to Western Kentucky, 3-0, at St. John Arena before bouncing back that night with a win against Northern Illinois, 3-1, and another victory the next day versus Dayton at the Capital Center in Bexley. Western KentuckyOhio State returned to St. John Arena Friday to play its first game of the weekend against Western Kentucky, who picked up an early lead in the first set.Middle blocker Madison Smeathers contributed five of her team’s 13 kills, but the Hilltoppers took the first set 25-17.The Buckeyes began the second set with with four matched points, but could not hold on to the lead as Western Kentucky pulled ahead to take the second set, 25-20.Setter Taylor Hughes and outside hitter Ashley Wenz each tallied four kills in the third set, but WKU won 25-16, defeating Ohio State in a 3-0 sweep.Despite the loss, outside hitter Ayanna Swan was responsible for eight kills in the first start of her career. Alongside Swan, Smeathers assisted her team with 10 kills.“Western Kentucky is a great team and you’ve got to give them credit for coming out with a bang,” outside hitter Luisa Schirmer said.Northern IllinoisThe Buckeyes returned to St. John Arena Friday night to play their second match of the day, this time taking on Northern Illinois.Ohio State battled back-and-forth with the Huskies early in the first set with three early ties and two lead changes, but the Buckeyes quickly found their tempo.Swan carried her momentum from the previous match into this one, recording seven kills in the first set, leading the Buckeyes to their first victory of the day, taking the set 25-19.The Huskies started the second set strong, but the Buckeyes were able to match the Huskies’ high energy with 13 kills and 19 digs. Ohio State took the second set 25-21.The Huskies picked up the lead in the third set and the Buckeyes trailed with only one tied score. The Buckeyes did not find their momentum fast enough to catch up to the Huskies, as Northern Illinois’ middle blocker Chrystal McAlpin contributed four kills to the set. The Huskies had a total of four blocks against Ohio State.Northern Illinois took the third set 25-22, sending the match to its fourth set.The Buckeyes took the lead to begin the fourth set and never looked back. Middle blocker Lauren Witte was responsible for five kills, with a total of 17 for the Buckeyes.With a .394 hitting percentage, 13 digs and four blocks, Ohio State took the set 25-18, beating the Huskies 3-1.DaytonThe Buckeyes’ final game of the weekend seemed the most intense as both Ohio State and Dayton fans enthusiastically cheered each team on at Capital Center in Bexley, Saturday afternoon.With a win and a loss under their belts, the Buckeyes played an energetic first set against the Flyers. Both teams played a close game, but with 23 digs and 18 kills, Ohio State took the set 25-22.The Buckeyes picked up the pace in the second set, leaving the Flyers behind them with a 17-10 score by the middle of the set. Although the Flyers tried to catch up, the Buckeyes took the second set 25-18. Despite the loss, Dayton saw a strong performance from its outside hitter Lauren Bruns who tallied six kills with a .385 hitting percentage.Tensions rose in the third set as both teams battled back-and-forth for the win in a match filled with 12 tied scores and nine lead changes. The Buckeyes were able to pull through 25-21, sweeping the Flyers in a 3-0 match.Outside hitters Ayanna Swan and Luisa Schirmer contributed 12 and 11 kills, respectively, to the match against Dayton, both earning spots on the Buckeye Invitational All-Tournament team.Schirmer said she believes her success is a product of team effort the Buckeyes supplied her with this weekend.“Taylor is a great setter and she puts us in really great situations so I can’t thank her enough for all she does for the team,” Schirmer said. “Our passers stick their necks out to make really good passes … I wouldn’t have been able to do that without them.”Coach Geoff Carlston said he was proud of the two players for their accomplishments this weekend as well as the entire team.“We’ve had a lot of people contribute to what we’re doing, and we’re going to need that going forward,” Carlston said. Although the Buckeyes lost their first match of the Buckeye Invitational, Carlston said Ohio State’s non-conference schedule is the fifth-toughest in the country and was built to help challenge the team.“We’ve had some adversity, but I think in the end it’s going to bode well,” Carlston said. “It’s built some calluses, a little bit of toughness and all that resiliency.”The Buckeyes will head back to St. John Arena on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to face Maryland in their first conference game.