Ohio recruiting battle heats up

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel celebrates with his team after their NCAA football game against Indiana University in Columbus, Ohio in this October 9, 2010 file photo. The Ohio State University announced on May 30, 2011 that head coach Tressel had resigned and that Fickell will take over as interim head coach for the 2011 season. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan/Files (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Things have changed dramatically in the Big Ten since Ohio State defeated Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl last year behind Terrelle Pryor and other Buckeyes who were set to start suspensions at the beginning of the 2012 season. The ensuing scandal has claimed Jim Tressel’s job, sent Terrelle Pryor to the NFL supplemental draft and has added uncertainty to Ohio State’s 2012 recruiting operation. Ohio State vacated last season’s wins and Gene Smith is hoping the NCAA won’t impose more sanctions, but there’s uncertainty and it’s impacting Ohio State’s recruiting.

Meanwhile, the powers that be at Michigan came to their senses and parted ways with Rich Rodriguez. They hired Brady Hoke, and now they’re going after 300-pound linemen again. At Michigan State, Mark Dantonio continues to turn that program around as well.

With the problems at Ohio State, Hoke and Dantonio are going after the talented recruits in the state of Ohio that were mostly locked up during the Tressel years. Michigan just landed Kyle Kalis, a huge lineman from the Cleveland area who is a top-150 recruit according to ESPN. He had originally committed to Ohio State, but then changed his mind in the face of potential sanctions.

Detroit News columnist Bob Wojnowski is giddy in his recent column as he explains the potential for Michigan and Michigan State to turn the tables on the Buckeyes if more Ohio recruits shun the Buckeyes. As he points out, “since 2001, Michigan and Michigan State are a combined 1-15 against Ohio State.” Part of it was coaching, but recruiting was very important as well as Tressel did a great job of keeping the best Ohio players in Ohio.

There’s no doubt that the Michigan schools will get a boost, but even Wojnowski admits it will likely be temporary, and it might not affect the balance of power much at all.

First, consider that Ohio State had a monster recruiting class last year, and they were already loaded with young talent. The Buckeyes picked up two quarterbacks last year that could make them set at the position for the next six years! Braxton Miller was a top-ranked recruit last year, and many think he can start this year as a true freshman. He’s a mobile quarterback, but he’s also a pure passer with great instincts as well. He’s not a physical specimen like Pryor, but he’ll likely be a better all-around quarterback.

The Buckeyes also picked up Glenville’s Cardale Jones who many see as a Pryor clone. He’s big, strong and fast, and many think he has a better arm than Pryor. He’ll be grayshirting as he needs to go to a prep school to work on academics. If that works out, he can redshirt the following year and then be available for the following four years.

Next, Ohio State is still getting recruits. Kalis was a huge loss, but the other nine 2012 commits have decided to stay with the Buckeyes. They are all Ohio kids but they aren’t top-150 stars, and the Buckeyes aren’t getting an national recruits. Instead, they’re getting kids who bleed scarlet and gray. Just this week they added two more recruits, Luke Roberts and Patrick Elfein. Neither of these guys were snagged away from top programs like USC or Alabama, but they are solid recruits from the state of Ohio. Ohio State has plenty of blue-chippers from the previous three recruiting classes, having one “down” year where they load up on high-character kids who love the Buckeyes can actually be a positive.

This brings us to Luke Fickell, Ohio State’s “interim” head coach. Fickell is determined to infuse the team with values like toughness and character, and he recently brought on Mike Vrabel as an assistant coach. This was a real coup, as Vrabel brings his three Super Bowl rings and a ton of credibility to the coaching staff. Wojnowski had a peculiar reaction, calling the hiring of the “inexperienced” Vrabel an act of “desperation.” This is where the optimism in Michigan might be getting a little overblown. Vrabel played with Fickell, and hiring a 14-year NFL veteran with three Super Bowl rings as linebackers coach is hardly a desperate move. Also, Vrabel will be a huge help in recruiting, as Luke Roberts stated when he committed to OSU this week.

Unless Ohio Sate gets massive additional penalties from the NCAA, I doubt the recruiting landscape will change much as a result of the scandal after this year. Ohio State will get back to landing the best recruits out of Ohio, and that will give them a big edge against their rivals.

The factor that will have an effect on the balance of power is coaching. Michigan made a huge mistake going to RichRod and getting away from physical football. They panicked when Tressel was racking up wins against Lloyd Carr, so they made things worse by bringing in a coach who thought he could win with Big East tactics and players. With Brady Hoke, Michigan has a good change of at least getting back to a competitive rivalry just by playing Big Ten football. Hoke is taking advantage of the current situation, so that will help speed up Michigan’s anticipated comeback. Dantonio will keep Michigan State competitive, and Ohio State will be fine either with Fickell if he proves himself or another coach next year.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Mike Vrabel arrested for theft at Indiana casino

Denver Broncos running back Correll Buckhalter (R) gets past Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel for a gain during the first half of their NFL football game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri December 6, 2009. REUTERS/Dave Kaup (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)

We knew that the lockout would affect some players in profound ways, but who knew it would result in one player robbing a casino? And a player who is just days away from appearing on the players’ behalf for Wednesday’s antirust lawsuit against the owners, no less?

ESPN.com is reporting that free agent Mike Vrabel was arrested for felony theft at an Indiana casino on Monday. He was booked at 5:28AM and was released at 10:39AM after posting $600 bail. The rest of the details are sparse, but the 35-year-old Vrabel has already released a statement through his agent:

“It was an unfortunate misunderstanding, and I take full responsibility for the miscommunication,” Vrabel told ProFootballTalk.com in a statement through his agent Neil Cornrich. “I feel comfortable that after talking with the appropriate parties, we will resolve this matter.”

I was being facetious with my “robbing a casino” comment in the first paragraph, but it is a rather humorous situation. Not for Vrabel of course, but for fans that have had to put up with daily reports about how the lockout will never end and how there will never be another football season ever. EVER.

Make no mistake: this is an embarrassing situation for Vrabel. He’s two days away from having to appear in court and he’s out getting arrested for felony theft. Even if it was just a huge misunderstanding, he was still arrested and he’s still one of the faces for the players during their ongoing battle against the owners. So in essence, it’s not just embarrassing for him but for all of the NFLPA as well.

2010 NFL Question Marks: New England Patriots

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 12: Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches his players during the preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on August 12, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing the Patriots’ pass-rushing concerns.

Bill Belichick is notorious for being able to mask a defense’s weaknesses due in large part because he to his schemes. Even if a player is lacking in physical tools, as long as they do their jobs within his schemes, the Patriots are usually fine.

But a defense’s ability to generate a pass rush is something not even Belichick can scheme for. And pass rush is by far New England’s biggest weakness on defense, if not the team’s biggest weakness on a whole.

The Pats busted out their checkbooks in 2007 to sign former Ravens’ outside linebacker Adalius Thomas, who turned out to be a dud for most of his time in New England. Now he isn’t even on the roster and once again outside linebacker is an area of concern for Belichick’s Patriots.

After recording 9.5 sacks last season, Tully Banta-Cain is virtually ensured the starting right outside linebacker spot. But can he duplicate the success he had in 2009? If he can’t, then his limitations against the run will be expounded and Belichick might be left scrambling for a replacement mid-season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Patriots trade Cassel and Vrabel to Chiefs for second round pick

Scott Pioli is quickly turning the Kansas City Chiefs into the Patriots of the AFC West after he was able to acquire quarterback Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel from New England in exchange for a second round pick (No. 34 overall).

NFL.com’s Adam Schefter, who first reported the story, claims that the two teams have agreed on the compensation, but details are not yet available. Rotoworld.com, however, confirms that the compensation for Cassel and Vrabel is a second round pick, which seems incredibly light for a starting quarterback and linebacker.

Did Bill Belichick do his old buddy Pioli a favor by only letting Cassel go for only a second rounder? Did Pioli have incriminating photos of New England front office members and was set to release them unless they agreed to trade Cassel for as little as possible? How they hell could the Pats only get a second rounder for Cassel and Vrabel?

Read the rest after the jump...

Patriots trade Vrabel to Chiefs – will Cassel and Peppers eventually be part of the deal?

In a surprising move, the Patriots traded veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for an undisclosed draft pick. Vrabel was expected to take a lesser role with New England next year, so this move allows him to start in KC and be a mentor for a young Chiefs team.

On a related note, Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss is speculating that the Vrabel-to-KC-trade could be part of a bigger trade involving quarterback Matt Cassel.

2) Could this be part of a larger deal with the Chiefs that might involve Matt Cassel? The 33-year-old Vrabel was entering the final year of his contract in 2009. He was due to earn $2.2 million in base salary, would receive a $1 million roster bonus, and count $4.3 million against the salary cap.
Given Vrabel’s contributions to the Patriots — on the field and in the locker room — that doesn’t seem like much to digest.

So why make the deal?

From a Chiefs perspective, they had one of the youngest rosters in the NFL last season, and new general manager Scott Pioli understands the importance of veteran leadership in the locker room. Vrabel will provide that in Kansas City, likely as a team captain.

The question is why the Patriots would trade Vrabel.

Well, the Pats only save $3 mil in cap space with this move, so it couldn’t have just been about money. New England might have been toying with the idea of cutting Vrabel, so once they found a trade partner they jumped. At least they get compensation.

Read the rest after the jump...

Related Posts