Here at FiveThirtyEight, we’ve watched Chip Kelly’s 2015 campaign as Philadelphia Eagles head coach/general manager with a combination of fascination and horror. His offseason roster-shuffling was spellbinding; the season itself, not so much. And on Tuesday night, it all came to a screeching halt with the news that Kelly had been fired in the wake of Philly’s 38-24 loss to Washington, with one game left in the season.Although Kelly had two years left on his contract, the dismissal wasn’t exactly a surprise. According to Elo ratings, our pet metric for gauging team strength, the Eagles have been one of the league’s most underwhelming teams this season. It’s telling that Philly refused to even let Kelly play out the string in Week 17, as if to emphasize the magnitude of the disappointment — this is only the seventh time since 1970 that an NFL team has fired its coach with exactly one game left in the schedule.Despite the fanfare that accompanied Kelly’s transition to the NFL in 2013, Philly couldn’t sustain the flashes of offensive brilliance it showed during Kelly’s first season as coach. The team regressed each year under his watch, to the degree that — according to our expected points added (EPA) grades, which rate teams on a scale in which 100 is average and one standard deviation is worth 15 points — Kelly’s final edition of the Eagles was below average at running the ball and stopping the pass, and downright horrible when it came to passing and stopping the run. PER PLAY, HURRY-UPPER PLAY, NON-HURRY-UP Broncos20132425.7+1.3636.5-0.17 It bears mentioning that the league-average EPA on hurry-up plays is significantly worse than it is on other types of plays (shaded both ways by manic end-of-game scenarios), so we might have predicted that the Eagles would fare much worse while in blur mode, not better. Yet Philly managed to keep its hurry-up efficiency above league average and compounded that edge by running these up-tempo plays about four times as frequently as the typical team. This should have been a tremendous advantage.And if all Kelly did was run fast plays, we might not be discussing his firing right now. But aside from Kelly’s first season, Philly’s offense has been hugely ineffective when it isn’t pushing the tempo. A freakishly efficient showing on fast-paced plays last season helped temporarily mask that issue, but the Eagles offense cratered this year when its hurry-up efficiency dipped, even though it remained above league average. It’s hard to rely solely on your hurry-up when, even at its peak, hurry-up can account for only about a third of your plays.The irony, of course, is that Kelly’s failed Eagles tenure will probably be seen as a sort of referendum on his fast-paced style. And perhaps the types of players necessary to properly execute that formula are less suited to a conventional playing style, or the allocation of practice time required for their execution precludes a team from being sharp in a standard set. But Kelly’s fast-break offense itself turned out to be one of the Eagles’ greatest strengths. The problem, it turns out, was damn near everything else the team did. Eagles20143025.1+0.4434.2-0.17 Giants20151326.4+1.2737.3-0.17 Chargers20151325.1-1.0338.8+0.13 Texans20141425.9+2.0238.3-0.36 Source: TruMEDIA The NFL teams that hurried up the most, 2013-15 Eagles201536%25.1s+0.1033.0s-0.14 201311512195117 Source: TRUMEDIA Patriots20131525.5-0.4637.5+0.14 Bills20132226.9-0.0835.3-0.06 Browns20141525.0+0.6637.6-0.18 20141039897112 Eagles20132726.0-0.0135.0+0.13 201587979791 Packers20151326.1-0.6438.7+0.12 Jaguars20131626.0-2.2837.7+0.25 Patriots20141626.1+1.3837.2-0.17 OFFENSE RATINGDEFENSE RATING The decline of Kelly’s Eagles TEAMYEARHURRY-UP %TIMEEPA VS. AVGTIMEEPA VS. AVG Ravens20131227.0-0.7437.2-0.00 Texans20151225.4+1.2737.9-0.22 NFL Avg.825.7-0.1239.5+0.01 YEARPASSINGRUSHINGPASSINGRUSHING Now, maybe this season’s ignominy was a hiccup, albeit one largely attributable to the slew of personnel changes Kelly made over the offseason. Certainly, teams this bad at passing tend to bounce back the next season. But it’s rarely enough to get back to league average,1Since 1966, only 27 percent of teams with a passing index from 85 to 90 made it to 100 the next season. and even if the Eagles did, they’d still be left with a mediocre offense overall. That’s hardly the revolution Philly had in mind when it lured Kelly away from Oregon three years ago.But here’s the thing: The “blur” offense actually worked for the Eagles. In terms of using the fewest seconds of clock time per play, the 2015 Eagles were the fastest-paced NFL team since TruMedia began tracking the statistic in 2006. They kept pushing the proportion of their plays that used fewer than 30 real-time seconds between snaps — which I’ll define as “hurry-up” plays for our purposes — and those plays largely continued to be more effective (by per-play EPA) than the league average across all plays.
It’s a smart and subtle way to serve in the situation, and his success rate suggests that his opponent, potentially predisposed to Nadal’s T serve, does not see it coming.Granted, it’s also a bit of a “tell” for anyone lucky enough to find himself with a pair of break points against Nadal — those guys should look for the out wide serve. But more than that, it reveals a mental game-within-the-game orchestrated by Nadal.He turns balls hit to his backhand side into forehand winnersNadal’s forehand is his biggest weapon. Opponents try to dodge it at all costs, which means avoiding hitting the ball to the ad court as much as possible against the southpaw. A good way to understand the baseline is to divide it into four vertical zones — two in the deuce court and two in the ad court. In tennis, these zones are sometimes labeled A, B, C and D, with A being the out wide in the deuce court, all the way to the D zone, which is the out wide in the ad court.If you’re Nadal’s opponent and you’re trying to avoid his forehand, you would hit to zones A and B (the ad court). And that’s where he gets you.The King of Clay is also the King of Running Around His Backhand to Hit Forehand. He’s an expert at it. Indeed, he loves to run around his backhand to hit forehand so much that in some matches, he has hit about the same number of winners from what would be his natural backhand side of the court — zones A and B — than from his normal, left-handed forehand side of the court — zones C and D. Through five rounds at this year’s French Open, 54 percent of Nadal’s forehand winners (46/85) have been hit as run-around forehands from zones A and B, according to officially recorded statistics from Roland Garros.By comparison, consider the right-handed Djokovic, the number one player in the world. Through the first four rounds at Roland Garros this year, 42 percent of Djokovic’s forehand winners have been run-around forehands (14/33).Nadal is like a spider looking to snare a rally ball, and players would be ill-advised to hit toward Nadal’s backhand unless they can be sure he’ll only be able to use his backhand. At the same time, better not hit too far out wide or the errors will flow.Just when you think you know Nadal, think again. He will bend your mind more than he bends the ball. When you think of Rafael Nadal, you might think of a player who hits balls with hellacious topspin and grinds out points on clay. His RPMs and his sweat grab the glory. But the 11-time French Open champion uses a few insidious tricks that go beyond the obvious strokes and traditional tactics.All of Rafa’s ways and means traveled to Roland Garros in 2019 — the energy, the rituals, the patterns of play — it’s all been put to use in another run to the semifinals, this time at age 33. He’ll need every tactic at his disposal, the conspicuous and the cunning, as he takes on Roger Federer and potentially Novak Djokovic after that.Here are three examples of the subtle mental maneuvers that Nadal makes against his opponents.He makes them waitStrictly from a length-of-match standpoint, Nadal is one of the slowest tennis players of this era. And there are a host of things Nadal does to extend matches — and possibly distract and annoy his opponents in the process.The ultimate creature of habit, Nadal starts managing time with his first step on court. When the chair umpire prepares to toss the coin and the presence of both players is required in the middle of the court before the start of the match, Nadal is typically the second to arrive — after a delay of several seconds while he goes through his routines with water bottles.Once the match is underway, Nadal’s pre-point rituals have been fodder for everything from complaints to comedy routines. Even the typically chilled-out Roger Federer has been critical of the time that Nadal takes between points. By rule, players are limited to 25 seconds between points. Beginning this year at most events, the sport put in formal, visible shot clocks in an attempt to keep servers from abusing the rule.According to an analysis by Melbourne, Australia-based Data Driven Sports Analytics of more than 140 matches each for Nadal, Federer and Djokovic from 2008 through this year, Rafa averaged 26.1 seconds between points when serving — the longest of the so-called “Big 3.”1Djokovic averaged 25.2 seconds, while Federer averaged 18.6. Nadal’s average time between points is over the limit — and that’s just an average, which means that he regularly serves beyond the 25-second rule. Chair umpires can use their discretion in starting the clock, so, clearly, Nadal is getting some wiggle room.Nadal finds a way to play on Rafa time when he’s returning as well, going through a catalog of rituals and often turning his back on the server or lifting his racquet until he’s ready to receive.The overall effect is that Nadal asserts his own pace of play, which can be legitimately discomfiting for opponents.He conditions them like PavlovOne of the hardest things to do in professional tennis is return serves. Speeds regularly top 125 mph, and then there’s the spin. Professional tennis players also excel at “spot serving” — landing serves in precise locations. They most often hit close to the lines of the service box, placing the serve at angles to inflict the most damage. Those most-visited, go-to spots are either up the T, which is the middle of the court, or out wide, which is on the outer edge of the service box. Servers work hard to place their serves effectively on both the deuce side (serving from the right side to the servers’ left and returners’ right), when the game score is usually tied, and on the ad side, when one player is always ahead.Nadal has a curious modus operandi when serving on the deuce side. The effect is Pavlovian: It conditions his opponents for one thing and then kills them with another.Because Nadal is a left-handed server, the natural play for him in this situation is to serve up the T. The ATP Tour has collected serve placement data from 2011 to 2019 for Masters 1000 events, which are just beneath Grand Slams and the Tour Finals in terms of stature, ranking points and prize money. According to that data set, on clay, Nadal’s first serve has been up the T 56.4 percent of the time on the deuce side. His success rate for this location — meaning how often he wins the point — is a healthy 68.5 percent. Much less often — 27 percent of the time — Nadal takes his first serve out wide from the deuce court on clay. And in that spot, his success rate is eye-popping, 74.8 percent. In 2019 alone, it’s up to 79.2 percent.Why would Nadal use a serve that is statistically so successful for him so infrequently? It’s possible that the tactic is about mentally conditioning the returner, greasing the tracks as it were, and then flipping his pattern when he really needs it.Indeed, data from that same set of ATP Masters tournaments reveals this morsel about Nadal on clay: He habitually hits his first serve from the deuce court up the T on nearly all scores. The most notable exception: when he’s down 15-40. When Nadal faces two break points against him, his primary service pattern switches to his secondary, “money” spot — the out wide. At 15-40, he goes T only 39.7 percent of the time, and his primary pattern becomes out-wide, at 44.9 percent.How does the King of Clay perform with that deuce court, out-wide serve down two break points? Put simply, he crushes: 82.9 percent of the time he wins the point.
Former OSU guard Evan Turner (21) is set to have his number retired on Feb. 16.Credit: Courtesy of TNSA fifth number will soon be hanging from the rafters of the Schottenstein Center to signify Ohio State men’s basketball immortality: Evan Turner’s No. 21.The former three-year OSU guard made Columbus his home from 2007-2010, winning the Naismith Award for the top player in the country for his final 2009-10 season. In that year, he averaged 20.4 points per game on 51.9 percent shooting and added 6.0 assists and 9.2 rebounds per contest.Turner left for the NBA after his junior season, where he went second overall to the Philadelphia 76ers. After parts of four seasons there and a brief stop in Indiana, the Chicago native now comes off the bench for the Boston Celtics, averaging about 27 minutes per game.The 6-foot-7 Turner was the fourth individual OSU player to win the national player of the year award. He finished his collegiate career 18th in OSU scoring with 1,517 points and ninth in assists with 414.The No. 21 is scheduled to be lifted on Feb. 16 in a halftime ceremony during a game against Michigan, the same opponent Turner hit a famous buzzer-beating 3-pointer against in the 2010 Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.Turner’s number will join John Havlicek’s No. 5, Jerry Lucas’s No. 11, Jim Jackson’s No. 22 and Gary Bradds’ No. 35 in the Schottenstein Center rafters. All but Havlicek won a national player of the year award.The game against Michigan is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Feb. 16.
You might know that William Buford is the starting guard for the No. 1-ranked Ohio State basketball team, but you might not know that he is a quiet student, a below average ping-pong player, loves the kids’ meal at Raising Canes and his car could use a trip to the shop. Buford arrived at Central Classroom Building at 10:32 a.m. Monday. He walked briskly up the stairs on the right to get to his 10:30 a.m. class, Swahili 102. Even though he arrived a few minutes after the bell, students were still settling in and Buford found his seat in the middle of the room without causing a disruption. He is not the only recognizable athlete in the class, as football players Jaamal Berry, Mike Adams and Michael Brewster were also in attendance. Buford talked with Berry while the professor distributed a graded quiz. “Most of the athletes, we stay together and try to be close,” Buford said. As the last quiz was handed out and class lecture began, the talking stopped. Buford took notes and did not talk again until the opportunity to work in groups arose. “I’m pretty shy in class. I really don’t say too much,” Buford said. “I try to stay out of the way and get my work done.” As class came to a close, Buford checked with a classmate to make sure he was clear on the assignment for the next class. “Seventy-two sentences?” he said, shocked at the amount of work. With only one class on Mondays and Wednesdays, Buford had finished his academic load for the day. His obligations, however, were far from over. He made the short walk from Central Classrooms to the Tuttle Parking Garage and climbed into his silver 2004 Pontiac Grand Prix, which has been on campus since his sophomore year. The “check engine” light was on as he left the parking garage. Buford drove to Parks Hall and picked up his teammate, senior guard David Lighty. Buford moved to the passenger seat, which was already as far back as the car would allow, and let Lighty drive while he made a call about getting the car serviced. The two starters pulled into the Schottenstein Center parking lot and made their way to the player’s entrance. Buford slowed down and waited for Rob, his barber, who cuts his and Lighty’s hair in the locker room. Rob has been coming to the arena to cut Buford’s hair since the player’s freshman year. With a prime-time game against Purdue to be aired on ESPN the following evening, the timing couldn’t have been better. “I just really needed a haircut since last week, but it worked out that way,” Buford said, smiling. A chair was set up in the bathroom portion of the locker room and Rob opened his bag and went to work. Buford played music on his phone, the EVO, while barber and client rapped along. Buford wandered to the upper bowl of the arena after the 35-minute haircut, in search of an ATM so he could pay Rob. After compensating the barber, he dropped some things off in his locker, which stands between Lighty’s and freshman guard Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s. Buford then retreated to the team’s ping-pong table to pass the time. “Everybody plays,” he said. “We compete a lot at ping-pong.” After 30 more minutes, Lighty’s hair was cut and the two tried to decide where to get food. They agreed on Raising Cane’s and Buford left to pick up the order while Lighty studied. Buford walked into the location on Ackerman Road and ordered a kids’ meal for himself and one for Lighty. “We always get the kids’ meal,” Buford said. “We got practice so we aren’t trying to get too full.” Numerous patrons and employees stared at the basketball player as he placed his order and waited for it to be filled. “I don’t pay attention,” he said of the added attention. “I try not to make eye contact with people.” After returning to the locker room, Buford ate his lunch while watching SportsCenter. At 1:40 p.m., he left the locker room and headed to the training room for treatment on an ankle injury he suffered against Illinois on Jan. 22. With Tuesday’s game looming, Buford needed the ankle treatment in order to play. Under the guidance of team athletic trainer Vince O’Brien, Buford iced his ankle for three different increments of five minutes with stretching exercises in between. After an hour in the training room, Buford returned to the locker room for more ping-pong before the team film session. Strength and conditioning coach Dave Richardson challenged Buford to a game. “I’m about to Forrest Gump his ass,” Buford said. Richardson swapped out the traditional paddle for a small block of wood with an Ohio State emblem on it. “If I beat you with this, you’re not allowed to play anymore,” Richardson said, laughing. Richardson won, 21-8, and Buford retired to the couch to watch his teammates play. “Coach Rich got a ping-pong table at his house so he’s pretty good,” Buford said. “I suck. I just play it to have fun.” During the following game, Smith, a spectator at the time, was called for “hands.” Every player in the room slapped Smith hard on the back of the hand. Buford slapped twice after Smith flinched the first time. You get called for hands “if you say something dumb,” Boston College transfer Evan Ravenel said. “Something real dumb.” At 3 p.m., the games stopped as the team convened to watch film on the Purdue offense. Buford’s eyes were fixed on the screen for the entire 25 minutes while he rotated his ankle, trying to keep it loose. No one spoke as coach Thad Matta and his assistants broke down the footage. As the team left for the court, Buford returned to the training room to have his ankle taped a final time before entering the gym. Buford did not participate in the practice because of his injury and instead did individual shooting and dribbling drills. “It was kind of frustrating because I’m not used to it,” he said. “What is that, my second time (missing practice) in three years? It didn’t feel normal.” Buford stuck his head into the first-team huddles during full-court drills. “I was just seeing what they were running,” he said. “I didn’t want to be left out.” After practice concluded, the team stayed on the floor, shooting around and playing games. Buford placed second to assistant coach Brandon Miller in one game involving 3-point shooting. “I had to let him win,” Buford said, laughing. Buford, freshman guard Jordan Sibert and senior guard Eddie Days left the court at 5:20 p.m., the last three players to leave. Buford returned to the training room for treatment. After five minutes with his ankle in the hot tub to loosen the muscles, athletic trainer Chalisa Fonza began to administer a Sound Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (SASTM) massage, a technique involving small instruments that Fonza has been working with for three years. “I’m going real easy because he has to play tomorrow,” Fonza said. The grimace on Buford’s face would suggest the opposite. Buford jokingly bit a towel and asked freshman guard Aaron Craft to talk to him while he got the massage. “You feel that crunchy-crunch?” Fonza said while rubbing a small purple instrument on the ligaments on the front of his ankle. “That’s the problem.” For Buford, the entire technique was a problem. “That was my first time ever getting it. I don’t want to get that thing no more; that thing hurts,” he said. “She said she has to give it to me again on Wednesday, so it is what it is.” After the massage and a round in the ice tub, Buford changed into his street cloths, got taped up again and left the arena. At 6:35 p.m. Buford stepped into his car, ready to head home to the apartment he lives in alone at Olentangy Commons. He planned on studying, icing his ankle and resting in preparation for the next night’s game. Buford started in Tuesday’s game against Purdue. The junior logged 23 minutes and a team-high 19 points in the team’s 87-64 victory.
Success against Seattle Sounders FC is rare for the Columbus Crew and, for now, they have to be content with a tie. Seattle took an early 1-0 lead Saturday at Crew Stadium after forward Fredy Montero’s headed goal in the seventh minute. Columbus responded with a 67th-minute penalty kick goal by forward Emilio Renteria. Despite Columbus’ persistent offensive attack, the game ended in a 1-1 tie. Seattle (3-3-4) made itself comfortable in the rainy conditions early in the first half when midfielder Erik Friberg served a cross into the Columbus penalty area. Montero gave Seattle its lead when he leaped to head the ball, which deflected off the post and went past Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer. Crew defender Chad Marshall said the ball played into the Crew’s penalty area by Friberg was “weird.” “It was just a weird cross,” Marshall said. “It was a good finish by (Montero). It’s just gotta be better organization by us.” Columbus (3-1-4) took four shots on Seattle’s goal in the first half, forcing two saves by goalkeeper Kasey Keller. One of the two on-target shots belonged to Crew midfielder Robbie Rogers. Rogers came close to leveling the score in the 32nd minute when a seemingly harmless clearance by Columbus skipped through Seattle’s defensive line. Rogers sprinted to collect the ball, but had minimal time to get a shot off as Keller met him at the top of the Seattle penalty area and kicked the shot aside. “(Keller) made a great save,” Rogers said. “He got it with his hand. Of course, I would like to score that.” The Crew went into halftime trailing, 1-0, but came out firing in the second half. A corner kick by forward Eddie Gaven in the 65th minute eventually resulted in a game-tying goal for Columbus. After Gaven hit his corner, Seattle defender Patrick Ianni pulled Marshall to the ground inside the Sounders’ penalty area. As a result, referee Mark Kadlecik awarded a penalty kick to Columbus. Marshall, who pulled his shirt up to expose scratch marks on his chest as he talked to reporters after the game, said he was glad the referee awarded the penalty. “(Gaven) hit a good ball in,” Marshall said. “I got away from (Ianni) and he had to foul me, I guess. The ball was coming right to me. I’ve got freaking marks all over me.” Renteria took the penalty attempt for the Crew and knocked it passed Keller to tie the game, 1-1. With the goal, Renteria has now scored all four of his goals this season in Columbus’ last three matches. The Crew’s pressure on the Sounders’ defense — and Keller — did not subside. As play continued into the final minutes of the match, Columbus had accumulated 13 second-half shots, while Seattle managed only one shot on Hesmer in the half. Columbus also failed to convert on a flurry of opportunities in stoppage time, which began with a diving save from Keller. Midfielder Andres Mendoza came on in the 61st minute as a second-half substitute for the Crew, and took the kick from just outside the Sounders’ penalty area, which Keller parried over his goal. The Crew’s chances in stoppage time also included three corner kicks, none of which resulted in a goal. Kadlecik blew his whistle to end the game in a 1-1 tie after Seattle cleared the last of Columbus’ corners. After the match, Crew coach Robert Warzycha said Columbus responded well to the Sounders’ early goal. “Second half, completely different game,” he said. “We pushed for the goal, and we obviously scored one and we’d like to have scored another one. (We) created numerous chances in the end, and we didn’t get lucky. The most important thing is the result.” The Crew next will travel to California for a Saturday match against the San Jose Earthquakes. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 p.m.
Recruits have taken varying stances on Meyer’s hire. Washington, who is out of Cincinnati Taft High School, committed to Ohio State Nov. 22 and told The Cincinnati Enquirer that he hoped Meyer would be his head coach. Meanwhile, Canton GlenOak’s Dunn told The Repository Monday that he didn’t want to play in a spread offense, which Meyer will be implementing. Dunn has been wavering back and forth between OSU and Michigan, but tweeted Monday that he spoke with Meyer after the press conference. Finding the athletes to transition from the “Tressel-ball” pro-style and I-formation offenses to a spread won’t be much of a problem recruiting-wise, Helwagen said. “I don’t know that it will be as big a transition as some people think it might be,” he said. “I think he’ll play to his team’s strengths on the field next year and take it on a year-to-year basis. He and his staff are obviously going to be looking for guys who fit what they want to do.” In fact, Helwagen said transitioning offensive schemes will have more positives than negatives. “You’re talking about a coach who won two national championships in the last five years,” he said. “There aren’t many guys out there in coaching that can say they even have one.” Some students said they looked forward to the kinds of prospects Meyer could bring to OSU. Dustin Stinson, a third-year in sport and leisure studies, is interested to see if Meyer can lure some “Florida speed” to OSU. “I think he’ll recruit speed,” he said. “I’m interested to see his Florida contacts and what he can bring from the speed state.” Kyle Becker, a second-year in exploration, believes recruiting will be solid with current coach Luke Fickell still around. Fickell will remain on Meyer’s coaching staff next year, though his role is not yet known. “Recruiting will jolt,” Becker said. “I think we need to keep Fickell because he is honestly a good defensive coach and I heard he is a good recruiter.” David Gerad and William Hessler contributed to this story. Now that Urban Meyer has been confirmed as Ohio State’s next head football coach, he’ll turn his attention to the recruiting trail. Meyer will take the reigns on a 2012 recruiting class currently ranked No. 14 by Scout.com and not ranked in the top 25 by ESPN. The class is led by five-star defensive end Adolphus Washington and five-star running back Bri’onte Dunn. Meyer made it known during his introductory press conference Monday that he was going to put a heavy focus on recruiting, even saying he was looking forward to recruiting the state of Ohio and making calls to recruits soon after the press conference was over. “I can’t wait to get back involved in that,” he said. Meyer, who was called an “outstanding recruiter” by OSU athletic director Gene Smith in Monday’s press conference, has a history of raking in highly ranked recruiting classes. Meyer’s recruiting classes from 2005-2010 at Florida were ranked No. 15, No. 2, No, 1, No. 3, No. 11 and No. 2, respectively, according to Rivals.com. Steve Helwagen, managing editor of Bucknuts.com, said Meyer might be able to salvage a top-10 class by National Signing Day, which is set for Feb. 1, 2012. “He’s got a national name,” Helwagen said. “He’s right with (Alabama head coach) Nick Saban right now (as) probably the most famous college football coach out there. I think that’s going to open doors.” Saban, for example, has garnered the fourth-ranked recruiting class for the Crimson Tide for 2012, according to Scout.com. Still, Helwagen said it’s best to wait for 2013 for an elite recruiting class at OSU. “I really wouldn’t get too wrapped out or worried about this class,” Helwagen said. “Where you’re going to see his impact is next year. My guess is he’ll have a top five class next year and probably stack one on top of another is my guess.” Part of boosting the talent in those classes is pulling talent out of places Meyer locked down while at Florida. That includes the state of Florida, which is known for its “SEC speed.” Meyer said it will be tough to recruit the South, especially with powerhouses such as Alabama scooping up talent. “The SEC is hot right now,” he said. “And I’ve recruited against Alabama as well. They’re hot. But so is Ohio State.” Helwagen also said it might be difficult for Meyer to easily sign those players, but his history there will help him. “It’s going to be more of a challenge to get some of those guys to come up to Ohio and play in the Big Ten but he’s got the ties back there in Florida to really go in there and try and get some good players,” he said.
Facing difficulty in balancing classes, work and social life is commonplace for college students. Add in conditioning and training, and you get a combo that leaves little time for sleep. Just when there is a moment to get a few hours of rest, it is time to wake up and do it all over again, said John Laing, a senior pommel horse specialist for the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team and a civil engineering major. The life of a male gymnast is a balancing act between the achievement of perfection and time management while working toward competing on a collegiate level and being a college student. “It’s tough balancing the workout schedule and all the stuff outside the gym,” said Michael Newburger, a redshirt junior pommel horse specialist and a mathematics and physics major. “I spend a lot of time in my classes and you always want to have a social life, too, but you always think about putting the team first.” Rustam Sharipov, the OSU men’s gymnastics coach, said he thinks learning is the most important part of being a student-athlete. “Gymnastics is one of the sports where you never waste your time,” Sharipov said. “As long as the kid got his education and he doesn’t have any regrets, I’m fine with that and that means I did my job. And that’s what it is all about.” While some naive onlookers may not realize it at first, men’s and women’s gymnastics have different sets of rules and regulations, even though both sports are fundamentally based on perfection and physical and mental strength. “People think we use a lot of music like the girls and it’s really choreographed,” Newburger said. “Although it is an artistic sport, we try to keep that perfection and that performance attitude, but it is a very physical, very serious athletic sport.” After tying for second in the 2013 Windy City Invitational Jan. 19 in Chicago and earning second place in the Metroplex Challenge Friday in Dallas, some members of the No. 5-ranked men’s team said they still are striving for more. “Things don’t just happen by themselves, you have to make things happen and not sit back and wait for things to happen,” Laing said. While sports like football and basketball enjoy relative levels of popularity nationally, Laing said gymnastics’ relevance in major college athletics isn’t quite as clear. “There are 17 Division I colleges that participate, and it is slowly getting less and less popular with everyone in general,” he said. “The average person can’t come in here and do a flip, which to us is very basic, but it’s not something where someone off the street can just come in here and mess around and do.”
It’s been almost two weeks since Ohio State men’s basketball forward Deshaun Thomas announced he is leaving early to enter the 2013 NBA Draft. Being one of Thomas’ biggest supporters this past season, my heart sank when I heard about his decision, but it is one that I fully understand and respect. Something that I am struggling to understand is all the so-called “experts” saying that he will not have much success at the next level. Some say he is not quick enough to defend at an elite level and earn playing time. Some say he is too selfish and takes too many bad shots that will frustrate coaches. Some say that he is a “me first” player who will get frustrated when he does not get shots. This madness needs to stop now. Thomas led the Big Ten in scoring this past season at 19.8 points per game and scored in double digits in every game. He shot 83 percent from the free throw line, 34 percent from behind the arc and an impressive 45 percent overall. Thomas made all of that happen while being the main scoring option on a limited offensive team and thus getting the opposing team’s best defense thrown at him every game. Sure, sometimes he forced some outside shots that were cause for frustration and he was not as good as of a defender as some people might have liked. But when you play on the same team as junior guard Aaron Craft and sophomore guard Shannon Scott, you are never going to look as good defensively as you want. The truth of the matter is Thomas improved the defensive part of his game immensely during his three years at OSU. He never visibly got upset when he was not getting the ball, and when his shots were not going in, he wasn’t afraid to keep firing away with confidence. Take the NCAA tournament, for example. In both the third-round game against Iowa State and Sweet 16 matchup against Arizona, it was Craft and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross, respectively, who made game-winning shots to help the Buckeyes advance. I will admit that I wanted Thomas to be the one with the ball in his hands at the end of the game, but after both of the shots went in, he was among the first to hug his teammates in excitement. I’ve never seen a player who enjoys playing basketball as much as Thomas. He rarely seems to be upset and is usually smiling. I know that I am biased, but after watching the OSU episode of “The Journey” on Big Ten Network, I could not help but think that Thomas is tremendously positive and has the right outlook toward life. I think those qualities will translate well to the NBA. At 6-foot-7, Thomas most likely will play wing in the NBA. His critics say that he is not quick enough to play on the outside and too short to play on the inside. However, Thomas possesses an exceptional mid-range jump shot and has proven that he can get it off thanks to a quick release. He also excels in isolation situations, a trait that will work well at the next level. The topic that is rarely mentioned is how much Thomas has matured in comparison to his freshman year at OSU. For example, during the Wisconsin game in Columbus on Jan. 29, he got the ball in transition with an opportunity to try and score against three defenders. He chose instead to wait for his teammates to get down the court to set up the offense. Two years ago, Thomas might have tried to be the hero and score in that situation. Something as simple as that shows how much he has grown and how smart he is as a player. I’m not saying that he should be a lottery pick. What I am saying is that the team that drafts him will get a player who loves the game, is willing to work hard and can score from anywhere on the court. I think he deserves to be selected in the first-round, and after going through the adjustment period that nearly every player goes through when he makes the jump from the college to professional ranks, he will be a productive player. No matter how you feel about it now, I’m sure Thomas will be fun to watch, and I know that I will certainly be tuning in. Eric Seger is a Big Ten Network Student U intern.
Ohio State junior guard Kelsey Mitchell drives to the basket and attempts a layup against Purdue in the Big Ten tournament semifinal in Indianapolis on March 4. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Sports DirectorThe Ohio State women’s basketball team (26-6) has been selected to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament as the No. 5 seed in the Lexington region and will play No. 12 seed Western Kentucky on Friday.The Big Ten regular-season champion Buckeyes will play the first two rounds in Lexington, Kentucky with a possible matchup against the No. 4 seed Kentucky Wildcats in the second round.This is OSU’s 24th appearance all-time in the NCAA tournament and the program’s third straight appearance. Last season, OSU lost as a No. 2 seed to No. 6 seed Tennessee in the Sweet 16.OSU finished at No. 11 in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll.The Buckeyes are coming off a Purdue upset in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament on March 4. The Boilermakers halted OSU’s momentum, ending their 12 game win streak. Big Ten Player of the Year Kelsey Mitchell leads the charge for OSU with 23 points per game, which ranks sixth nationally. Mitchell also averages 2.8 assists per game and is shooting 44 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3.Senior forward Shayla Cooper averages 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Redshirt sophomore guard Sierra Calhoun is one of OSU’s top outside threats, splashing in 39 percent of her 3-point attempts this season.It’s still a question whether or not redshirt junior forward Stephanie Mavunga will be available for the NCAA tournament. The Big Ten’s leading rebounder went down with a foot injury in the final month of the season and hasn’t played since Feb. 4 at Wisconsin.
It is imperative that inciting individuals to support terror organisations including so-called Islamic State is includedHarry Fletcher, Voice 4 Victims Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Ministers have pledged to close a legal loophole which prevents them reviewing soft jail terms for hate preachers such as Anjem Choudary.There was outrage last week when Choudary was given a five-and-a-half-year term for inviting support for the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).He was convicted at the Old Bailey after backing the group in an oath of allegiance published online.Under good behaviour rules, Choudary, 49, could be released after serving half of that term – just 33 months. Yet despite receiving scores of complaints about his sentence, ministers are powerless to do anything. Robert Buckland QC, the solicitor general who reviews soft jail terms with Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General, said: “It is a manifesto commitment to extend the unduly lenient sentence scheme so that a greater number of offences can be considered.” The amendments are to be tabled in the House of Lords next month by Baroness Brinton, and will amend the 1988 Criminal Justice Act that lists the offences allowed to be reviewed. Peers also plan to table amendments to the Police and Crime Bill to bring about the change next month.Harry Fletcher, a spokesman for the Voice 4 Victims campaign, said: “The list of offences for appeal on the grounds of leniency is too short. It needs to be brought up to date.“It is imperative that inciting individuals to support terror organisations including so-called Islamic State is included.” Under the unduly lenient sentence scheme, members of the public can call for a sentence to be increased, allowing ministers to then review the sentence.However, the scheme is currently limited to violent and sexual offences.Choudary’s crime of supporting Isil, under Section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000, is therefore not covered.Last year’s Conservative Party election manifesto pledged to expand the scope of these unduly lenient sentences which ministers can review. It said: “To tackle those cases where judges get it wrong, we will extend the scope of the unduly lenient scheme, so a wider range of sentences can be challenged.”