Dwight Howard was running and jumping and dunking at his first Los Angeles Lakers practice, a welcome sight for a team that said it did not expect the perennial all-star center to be fully recovered from back surgery in time for the start of the regular season.Going by Tuesday, where he participated in a full practice, Howard certainly could be in the team’s Nov. 2 opener against the Los Angeles Clippers. In fact, he said h hopes to play in some preseason games to get some timing down with his new teammates.“Hopefully, I’ll be back for some preseason games,” Howard said. “I think we’re going to need it for chemistry and all that stuff. But . . . I’m not going to rush it. I’m going to continue to practice. We’ve had some great practices.”A source who witnessed Howard at the portion of practice that was closed to the media described Howard’s level of play to ESPNLosAngeles.com as “unbelievable.”“He was dunking everything in sight,” the source said. “He looks like he can play in an NBA game today.”Howard said he was not surprised to be going full tilt considering how hard he has been training leading up to the start of camp. But Howard’s effort did catch at least one of his teammates off guard.“He worked just as much as everybody else, so that was good,” Pau Gasol said. “I didn’t expect that.”Lakers coach Mike Brown said Howard had been working out six days a week at the practice facility with assistant coaches Darvin Ham and Chuck Person for the past month.“He looked good,” Brown said.As impressive as Howard was, Brown said the decision as to when Howard makes his debut will be up to the Lakers’ training staff.“Whenever he’s ready, he’ll be ready,” Brown said. “It’s our trainers’ jobs. Our trainers do a terrific job of it. They’re out here the whole practice and if they feel they need to pull him out of it, they’ll pull him out.”Ultimately, Howard tried to measure expectations as to when his first game appearance will occur. “We’re not in a rush,” Howard said. “These guys need me for the whole season, not a couple preseason games.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the Oakland Raiders confirmed that history will be made in their playoff game against the Houston Texans Saturday: Rookie quarterback Connor Cook will become the first signal-caller in the Super Bowl era to make his NFL debut in a playoff game.It’s probably not the way Cook wanted to enter the record books. Things rarely go well when a team is forced to use a backup QB, particularly in the playoffs. Since 1966, there have been 86 playoff games where a team’s primary passer1i.e., the quarterback who led the team in dropbacks during the game. wasn’t the same as the team’s usual QB from the regular season;2i.e., the quarterback who led the team in dropbacks during the season. in those games, the team in question scored 21 percent fewer points than their seasonal per-game average, and their passing efficiency (as measured by adjusted net yards per attempt) was 20 percent worse than normal.Now, it being the postseason, you’d expect less offensive output anyway (since good defensive teams tend to make the playoffs). And indeed, teams who have their usual starter also see their performance decline — but only to the tune of 10 percent in points per game, and 12 percent in passing efficiency. The penalty for starting a backup is about double the typical postseason drop-off.3That the typical drop-offs for passing and overall offense are roughly equal lines up with research that shows passing efficiency is far more correlated with offensive success than how a team does in the running game. (Plus, quarterbacks do play their own role in the running game, whether by rushing themselves, by handing off or by opening up the defense with effective passing.)Things get even worse when a rookie backup — like Cook — is called into playoff action. Here’s the subset of those 86 games from above where the backup was in his first NFL season: It’s only an 11-game sample, but offenses led by rookie backups tend to collapse even harder than those directed by stand-ins with some NFL experience. Those teams’ points per game declined by 29 percent and their passing efficiency by 49 percent when compared with their regular-season averages.The good news for Oakland, however, is that the Texans are also dealing with a quarterback crisis of their own. And although the backup QBs in my dataset above tended to play horribly, they still managed to scratch out a victory more than 35 percent of the time — as did rookie backups. So although Cook may be historically inexperienced for a playoff starter, it wouldn’t exactly be inconceivable for the Raiders to pull off the win anyway.
The NBA Finals kick off Thursday night when the Toronto Raptors host the Golden State Warriors in Game 1. Golden State is dealing with several key injuries, and in the video above, FiveThirtyEight breaks down why the Raptors should try to strike early, before the Warriors can field their full team.
News broke Wednesday morning that Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees third baseman who was suspended by Major League Baseball for the entire 2014 season over allegations of performance-enhancing drug (PED) use, had admitted to federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials that he used the prohibited substances from 2010 through 2012. Rodriguez’s confession came behind closed doors last January, but in public he continued to deny the charges right up until the Miami Herald released its findings in a story Wednesday.The news confirms accusations that Rodriguez had augmented his performance during the 2011 and 2012 MLB seasons, in addition to his previous admission of using PEDs from 2001 to 2003, when he was a member of the Texas Rangers. Given the current climate of baseball’s Hall of Fame voting — neither Barry Bonds nor Roger Clemens has cracked 40 percent of the vote in either of their two years on the ballot — Rodriguez’s latest admission seems like the final nail in the coffin for his Hall of Fame candidacy, assuming it wasn’t already long buried. But it’s also worth remembering that, like Bonds and Clemens before him, Rodriguez was a magnificent player before taking PEDs, and likely could have been a Hall of Famer without them.Not only did Rodriguez rank first on Baseball America’s 1995 Top 100 Prospects list, but after hitting .311 with a .948 OPS and good range at shortstop as an 18-year-old at Triple-A in 1994, he might well have been the greatest prospect in the history of the draft era. And lest the hype seem unjustified, in 1996 — his first full season in the majors — all Rodriguez did was belt an MLB-leading 54 doubles, smack 36 home runs, hit .358 (!!), post a 1.045 OPS (just the second time a shortstop had ever topped a 1.000 OPS, creating a club with the incomparable Arky Vaughan), lead the American League in total bases and finish tied as the fourth-best fielding shortstop in the AL according to TotalZone runs saved.Did I mention he did all that at age 20?Between then and 2001, when Rodriguez was said to have begun using PEDs, he would also do things like hit .300 or better in three out of four seasons, hit 40 or more home runs in three out of four seasons, set the all-time single-season record for Bill James’s Power/Speed statistic in 1998 (when he became the third member of the 40-40 Club with 42 home runs and 46 stolen bases), and become, in 2000, just the 22nd player in baseball history to surpass 10.0 wins above replacement (WAR) in a single season.Rodriguez’s supposed last season before he began using came that year, his last as a member of the Seattle Mariners. Through age 24, only two players in baseball history — Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle — produced more career WAR than Rodriguez did. Current Los Angeles Angel Mike Trout has A-Rod beat (along with everyone else who ever played the game) on career WAR through age 22, but there’s no question that Rodriguez had the pure talent to rank among the game’s all-time greatest players even before he started using PEDs.James once developed a long-term career forecast model called Brock2 — essentially a very early progenitor of a full-fledged projection system like PECOTA — which could produce an expected career stat line for a player based on his career performance through a given age. Feed it Rodriguez’s age 20-24 seasons, and it produces an absurd set of projected career totals: 3,573 hits; 668 doubles; 1,075 home runs. As mean projections for anybody, those numbers are silly (Trout through age 22 also generates a forecast of 3,646 hits, 740 doubles, and 826 home runs), but they underscore how incredible Rodriguez’s first five full MLB seasons were. (Through 20 seasons, Rodriguez now has 2,939 hits, 519 doubles and 654 home runs.)All of this, it bears mentioning, matters only if you believe Rodriguez began using PEDs in 2001, and didn’t before that. At the time of Rodriguez’s initial suspension in August 2013, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci wrote a column that included the following quote:“If you believe he started using [PEDs] in 2001, when he said he did, you’re a fool,” a former teammate said. “The likelihood is that he never played a day clean in the major leagues. Why? Insecurity. Alex doesn’t know how good he could be without drugs, and didn’t trust himself to find out.”That remains speculation at this point. But based on what we do know, Rodriguez’s early-career numbers were so great, and his potential so vast, that he had a very high likelihood of making the Hall of Fame before he ostensibly began using performance-enhancing drugs. Wednesday’s revelations only add to the disgrace he’s brought to his legacy since then.
Women’s volleyball429.65.085 TennesseeW1261 At least by this metric, it’s fair to say that basketball — both men’s and women’s — requires the most “talent” (among team sports) to play at the college level.It may also be worth noting that about 22 percent of female high school athletes who play team sports play basketball, compared with 17 percent for men. Meanwhile, female college basketball players make up 20 percent of the athletes who play top team sports, while men’s basketball players make up 11 percent. With a higher relative participation and fewer tempting alternatives for women athletes, college women’s basketball is likely to be receiving a very large share of the total female athletic talent.The top NCAA women’s teams recruit about as well as the top men’s teamsOf course, the top basketball teams — the type you are likely to see when watching the championship tournaments — feature much stronger talent. To get a better sense of the relative depth of women’s and men’s basketball, we have to look at both how good the top players are and how that talent is distributed across the players’ respective leagues.ESPN maintains “top 100” prospect lists for both men’s and women’s basketball. While skill will change over time, this provides us with a pretty good snapshot of the highest-ranked talent entering college.For individual teams, one way to boil down their recent recruiting prowess is to look at the top five recruits they signed over the previous four years (corresponding to the typical college stint). This tells you the top five prospects a team could theoretically put on the floor. For example, over the past four years, UConn has recruited two No. 1 overall prospects: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (2011) and Breanna Stewart (2012); a No. 2 overall: Moriah Jefferson (2012); a No. 6: Morgan Tuck (2012); and a No. 14: Gabby Williams (2014). Or, shorthand, UConn’s four-year recruiting class was a 1-1-2-6-14. It’s no wonder the Huskies have been so dominant!Actually, the University of Kentucky men’s team has had an even more impressive recruiting haul: Its four-year 2014 class was a 1-1-3-4-5. Here are the top 10 four-year recruiting classes of 2014, by average rank of the top five players: Women’s softball364.35.962 TennesseeW134563.8 TexasM1131 RutgersW699111810.6 DukeM1234124.4 RECRUITING RANK OF PLAYERS KentuckyM113452.8 SCHOOLSEXTOP2ND3RD4TH5THAVG Last month, when my editor tasked me with looking into the stats surrounding the notorious Harvard-Stanford 16 vs. 1 upset from 1998 for ESPNW, I didn’t know much about women’s basketball. When I found that upsets are much less common in the NCAA women’s tournament than in the men’s, my mind jumped to what seemed like a logical explanation: Perhaps the lack of upsets is caused by a lack of depth in the women’s game.In particular, teams like the epically dominant University of Connecticut Huskies — newly minted winners of their third straight national title and the 10th of Coach Geno Auriemma’s reign — must be able to win so much because they get all the best players from a shallow talent pool. Even many who love and defend women’s basketball often judge it a little differently than men’s, on the presumption that it’s a less mature sport.I don’t begrudge anyone for thinking this — I would still think the same if I hadn’t had the game on my mind for the past seven weeks. (Have I mentioned my editor is patient?) And it would make sense if there were any truth to the notion that women’s basketball is less talented.But it isn’t. As it turns out, not only is women’s college basketball as strong and deep in college-age talent as the men’s game, but for the rarest talent, it is significantly more so.Women’s college basketball is drawn from a talent pool similar to men’sFirst, let’s introduce a simple proxy for “talent”: How rare is an athlete’s skill relative to her peers?Take, for instance, Serena Williams. Serena is Serena not because she has the fastest serve on Earth, but because she has taken on the best competition in the world, on the biggest stages in the world, and come out on top — 19 times. One of the reasons this is so impressive is that tennis is an extremely popular sport worldwide — among both men and women — and Serena has been better than a whole generation’s worth of opposition. That is, of the literally tens of millions of women who play tennis around the globe,1Estimates have put the total number of participants at over 75 million. she has been the best for a long time.According to the 2013-14 High School Athletics Participation Survey, around 184,000 high school girls in the U.S. played tennis last year, making it the fifth-most-popular competitive2Meaning sports in which players or teams compete head to head and are scored in wins and losses, thus excluding individual sports like track. sport. With a rich history of female inclusion, stardom and even pay equity in major tournaments, tennis is probably the most female friendly sport. Yet the most popular competitive sport among young women is basketball, which was played by around 433,000 high school girls last year. Indeed, it has been the most popular women’s team sport at the high school level since people started keeping track of women’s sports in the 1970s.3It has maintained a total participation rate of around 400,000 since at least the mid-1970s, although other sports have gained in relative popularity. Volleyball and/or soccer may overtake basketball in coming years.The popularity and the competition both increase in college. As of 2012-13, the NCAA had 1,090 women’s basketball teams (the most of any sport — women or men), although getting a spot on one of them is still harder than for other sports. There are approximately 27 high school basketball players for every one spot on an NCAA roster and 87 for every spot on a Division I roster.That ratio of 87 to 1 is the highest of any of the top4“Top” here means a team sport in the top 10 most popular sports for each gender. women’s team sports and higher than any of the top men’s sports except men’s basketball: Women’s basketball433.35.087 So five of the top 10 teams were male, by this limited measure. But, of course, this has a couple of shortcomings: First, averaging ranks is probably not a great indicator of overall strength. For example, Tennessee’s recruits have a slightly lower average rank, but most people would probably take UConn’s.5Both teams have a 1 and a 6, but I’d take UConn’s remaining 1-2-14 over Tennessee’s 3-4-5. Second, the men’s recruiting prowess is slightly understated relative to the women’s considering that the top recruits come from a slightly larger pool (as I mentioned above).To adjust for all this, rather than looking at raw rankings, I’ve rated players by their percentile among graduating high school players in the year they were recruited.6I estimated each graduating class size as 28.6 percent (the ratio the NCAA uses for similar estimates) of the total high school participation for each player’s gender in the year they were recruited. This allows us to fill in the blank in the phrase, “She’s one in a ________.” For example, because Stewart was the No. 1 ranked prospect in her class, “she’s one in a hundred thousand” (OK, 124,539 — give or take).Using this method, in 2014, 71 college basketball teams had four-year recruiting classes that included at least five “one in a thousand”-quality players: 36 were men’s and 35 were women’s. Add the requirement that the team recruited a “one in 10,000” player as well, and the list whittles down to 21 women’s teams and 19 men’s teams. Require a superstar “one in 50,000”-type on top, and it’s pared down to 11 teams — six men’s and five women’s. Women’s soccer374.68.743 UCLAM1031 Men’s baseball482.610.248 SPORTHIGH SCHOOLDIVISION IHS/DI Notre DameW244212511.2 ConnecticutW1143 Men’s football1093.227.340 Men’s basketball541.1k5.4k101 ConnecticutW1126144.8 BaylorM721 North CarolinaM6810131710.8 Women’s lacrosse82.02.840 SCHOOLSEX1K10K50K DukeM1463 Of the five women’s teams, three were in the Final Four this year. (Related: Recruiting strength is a fairly good predictor of success.)One other way to look at a team’s recruited talent is to sum up all of its players’ talent pools. For example, a team with a one-in-100,000 player, a one-in-50,000 player and three one-in-10,000 players would have a total pool of 180,000. Using this method, here are the top 25 men’s and women’s teams:Note that this doesn’t correspond to any prediction model or such — it’s just a fun way to assess recruiting strength that’s easy to grasp and rewards teams for having the best players. Virtually any metric that rewards both breadth and depth will lead to the same main takeaways:All things considered, the distribution of talent to men’s and women’s teams has been pretty similar.While there’s no doubt that UConn has been the best recruiter among women’s teams over the past few years, it’s not any better at recruiting than we would expect the best recruiting team to be (unlike, say, their per-possession advantage, which is way higher than we would expect the highest per-possession advantage to be).Of course, one of the reasons that Kentucky’s men’s team is so good at recruiting is it has a lot of slots open up.More of the best college-age women actually play college basketballAs you may have anticipated by now, the main thing that has an impact on competitive balance — and it’s a doozy — is the number of top players on the men’s side who leave college early, generally to enter the NBA draft. The 2015 NBA draft could see more than 50 early entrants; the WNBA draft this year had only two — and that was two more than it usually has.7Before this year, only two women who had remaining years of eligibility had entered the WNBA draft and only one had gone before her fourth year in college (Kelsey Bone, who left Texas A&M after her junior year in 2012).While virtually all the best female players of college age are playing college basketball, only a fraction of the best male players are. Here’s how the chart above looks with all the players who departed for the NBA draft excluded:By this measure, Duke leapfrogs Kentucky for the strongest recruits on its roster on the men’s side, and sure enough, Coach K is once again proven to be a genius. (Related: Recruiting strength is a fairly good predictor of success.) But with the men’s teams having lost 39 one-in-5,000 or higher players to the draft, the UConn women pull ahead of all of them as the team with the best recruiting pedigree overall.More importantly, essentially the entire men’s line drops significantly below the women’s. And while recruiting strength is a reasonable proxy for talent levels overall, note that the actual loss of talent to the NBA probably has a much larger effect, as many of the most-talented players who weren’t highly ranked coming out of high school depart as well.And here’s the bottom line: In women’s basketball, there is far more talent actually on the court in a typical game, season or championship tournament:Which is to say, more of the best female college-age players play college basketball.The “downside” of having every great player stick around for four years is that teams get good. And they play together for long periods of time and get better. The effects of good recruiting — as well as good coaching — are more pronounced and last longer. In the women’s tournament, we have a much better sense of who the best teams are, and they play like it. You don’t get the “madness”-engendering scenario in which talented teams with no experience face off against experienced teams with less talent.The irony is that the lack of upsets in the women’s tourney is frequently cited as a sign of the sport’s immaturity or inferior talent. But the chalk likely results from the opposite: The women’s game is the more mature of the two.No doubt, the women’s tournament has a very different character than the men’s — and I don’t just mean the scarcity of dunks. Big upsets are extremely rare, and teams perform relatively closer to their expectations. But you don’t tune in to witness madness; you tune in to witness greatness. South CarolinaW1021 KentuckyM18133 DukeW2369106.0 Men’s soccer417.45.773 DukeW1461 KansasM1152 KansasM13611147.0 Notre DameW1031 ArizonaM4479157.8 ONE IN …
The Oklahoma City Thunder star has gone to his left almost three-quarters of the time when driving one-on-one this season, a career-high rate and an 11 percent increase from last season, according to data from Synergy Sports Technology. Yet despite going to his left on 74 percent of his drives — more frequently than any other NBA guard or small forward — and doing so without nearly as much scoring help as he had before, Westbrook has managed to increase his efficiency when in isolation scenarios. He’s scoring on one-on-one tries 40 percent of the time this season, up from 35 percent in 2015-16.I went to Oklahoma City this week, hoping to get more insight on what’s changed from Westbrook himself. I gave him a sheet with stats on it that showed which direction he has favored over his career and told him that he could keep it. He glanced down at it briefly and then handed the sheet back, saying, “I don’t want it!”Westbrook said he goes left so often because he’s simply taking what defenses give him. “People send me left, man — I can’t really tell you much about [why],” said Westbrook, who is ambidextrous but shoots with his right hand. “People send me that way, and if that’s the way they want me to go? I guess they’re seeing the numbers differently than you are. Maybe they think it’s better for them if I go left. I have no idea.”Defenses, eager to slow Westbrook down any way they can, could indeed be a major part of it. Opposing teams may have picked up on a longstanding tendency of Westbrook’s; throughout his career, he’s been far more likely to drive all the way to the basket when going to his right, while he has more frequently pulled up for jumpers when going left, according to the Synergy data.1Westbrook wouldn’t be alone in this regard. All-time great Michael Jordan noted in an ESPN The Magazine profile that LeBron James has the same tendency. If you’re a defense, you’d rather have Westbrook take a jumper than explode at the rim. Yet defenders’ potential knowledge of Westbrook’s tendencies would make it even more surprising that Westbrook has been able to boost his isolation efficiency so often.Westbrook’s leftward lean may also be happening because Oklahoma City has a left-handed big man — rookie Domantas Sabonis — who usually operates from the right block. That might be limiting Westbrook’s ability to go toward his right at times.The other big change for Westbrook this season, of course, is Kevin Durant’s departure. It’d be natural to think that maybe his absence provided more opportunity for Westbrook to roam left. But during Durant’s final season with the Thunder, a greater share of his shot attempts came from the right side of the floor, meaning that there should be more room for Westbrook on the right side this season.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/russgsw.mp400:0000:0000:08Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Regardless of why Westbrook is favoring his left, the spike is noteworthy. It’s a statement that Westbrook has come a far way from how he played when he was young. He favored going to his right as a freshman at UCLA, and for good reason: Westbrook was in college basketball’s 98th percentile on right-sided isolation efficiency but in the bottom 1 percent when isolating left, according to Synergy. As a rookie in the NBA, he went right 60 percent of the time. But each season since, Westbrook has played to his left more.Normally a player would be forced to address an imbalance as extreme as Westbrook’s to keep opponents on their toes. Between intricate film breakdowns and advanced numbers, defenders in today’s NBA have more weapons at their disposal than ever before. But given how well Westbrook has fared in one-on-one situations this season, there may not be a reason for him to change much.Check out our latest NBA predictions. 2008-0940.359.7 2016-1773.7%26.3% 2012-1367.432.6 SEASONDRIVES LEFTDRIVES RIGHT 2009-1051.848.2 No one has figured out how to stop Russell Westbrook this season, as evidenced by his season-long triple-double. Perhaps the most interesting thing about his dominance: He’s accomplished much of it while being more predictable than ever on offense. 2011-1266.933.1 2014-1567.132.9 Source: Synergy Sports Technology 2013-1464.435.6 2010-1154.245.8 Which way Russell Westbrook drives in one-on-one situations 2015-1666.433.6
OSU redshirt junior Josh Fox wrestles against Nebraska’s Aaron Studebaker during a match at St. John Arena on Jan. 17. OSU won 21-17. Credit: Muyao Shen | Asst. Photo EditorAs the Big Ten and NCAA Championships rapidly approach the Ohio State wrestling team, the Buckeyes are gearing up to travel to Indiana for a pair of conference matchups.No. 9 OSU (7-2, 4-1) is first set to travel to Bloomington to square off against the No. 22 Hoosiers.Indiana (6-2, 3-2) is coming off a tough loss against Michigan in which the Hoosiers struggled to produce any points.No member of the team produced more than 10 points in the meet.The Hoosiers are not likely to be an easy foe, though, and the Buckeyes are well aware of the fact.OSU coach Tom Ryan noted that with both conference and national tournaments right around the corner, it’s sometimes a struggle to maintain a certain level of play.“It’s really challenging with so many competitions in a sport like this,” Ryan said. “But every team goes through it.” It’s no secret that longevity is key to a successful program, and Ryan understands that better than anyone.“Those (teams) that understand it and manage it best have an advantage,” Ryan said.The Buckeyes have had success against Indiana in the past, winning each of the last five meetings between the programs.Led by 125-pound freshman Elijah Oliver, the Hoosiers will be looking to set the tone early and buck that trend on Friday.Oliver is currently 24-4 on the year, with a dual-meet point differential of plus-29, and is currently ranked 19th in the InterMat 125-pound rankings.Redshirt junior Nate Johnson will also pose a significant challenge to the Buckeyes.Johnson dropped a decision against Michigan for his first in-conference loss of the season, but he is still ranked eighth in the InterMat polls at 174 pounds with a 24-3 overall record.Indiana holds some nostalgic significance to Ryan, as it is the school where his coaching life began.“Indiana, ironically, was my first job,” Ryan said. “The head coach there now, Duane (Goldman), gave me the opportunity to coach at this level.”OSU’s match against Indiana is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in the University Gym.After the dual meet with the Hoosiers is completed, OSU is set to get on the bus and drive a little over two hours north to West Lafayette to battle with the No. 24 Purdue Boilermakers.Purdue (7-4, 2-3) will be having just its third match of the season in a home environment, as the Boilermakers have competed at six away matches and three neutral sites.The last home meet for the Boilermakers saw a complete domination by the Black and Gold, with the team ultimately taking home a 32-6 win against Maryland.Redshirt senior Chad Welch is the key member of the Purdue lineup that OSU will have to account for.The 165-pound Welch leads the team wins, major decisions and falls this season.Last year, Welch competed in the Big Ten Championships and went on to earn a berth in the NCAA Championships.Currently, the redshirt senior is ranked seventh at 165 pounds in the InterMat rankings.Purdue has struggled at times this season and is coming off a close loss to Minnesota.Ranked opponents have been a thorn in the side of the Boilermakers, giving Purdue just a 13-38 mark against wrestlers ranked in the top 25.The Buckeyes’ match against Purdue is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the Holloway Gymnasium.Quick recoveriesAfter missing the previous match with a sore back, redshirt freshman Micah Jordan is expected to return to the lineup this weekend.Jordan was scratched from the lineup and replaced by redshirt junior Stanley Hendrix.The Scarlet and Gray will be competing in matches very close to each other, with limited time for recovery in between. However, Ryan’s wrestlers are well-versed on how to maintain their health and stamina.“The biggest thing is making sure you’re getting sleep and making sure you’re eating really well,” redshirt freshman Jake Ryan said. The OSU team has been fairly lucky in terms of health this season, after struggling at times to put a healthy unit on the mat last season.Challenges aheadAfter the stay in Indiana, the Buckeyes are scheduled to travel to State College, Pennsylvania, to meet the current unanimous top team in the country, Penn State.The Nittany Lions have not lost a dual meet all year and are in a dead heat for the top spot in the Big Ten.The dual meet between OSU and Penn State, which is arguably the biggest and most important meet of the year for the Scarlet and Gray, is set to take place on Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.
It takes confidence to know confidence. Linebacker Brian Rolle has brought some southern swagger with him to Ohio State. “It’s just playing confident. I look back at the early University of Miami teams,” Rolle said. “They get on the field and those guys are jumping around, playing around, having fun. Then you get teams that just line up and play football. That’s maybe more traditional, but playing with swagger means you’re confident, your team’s confident.” Rolle isn’t the prototypical OSU linebacker. The senior from Immokalee, Fla., stands out from a line of elite ‘backers of Buckeye past who excelled with a hard-nosed, physical style. “The only person I kind of had an idea about was Chris Spielman,” Rolle said. “I had never heard of James Laurinaitis or any of those guys because I wasn’t an Ohio State fan when I got recruited. But then looking at it after I committed here, I learned about the long line of great Buckeyes.” Unlike Spielman, Laurinaitis, Andy Katzenmoyer or A.J. Hawk — all big, physical specimens — the diminutive Rolle — at 5-feet-11-inches — plays off his speed and instincts. “I tell everyone I’m 6-foot-4, 230 (pounds),” Rolle said. “Why not? I play like it. I do see myself as a little different, maybe a little faster than past linebackers we’ve had, maybe a little more instinctive.” But perhaps the most identifiable characteristic Rolle brought to OSU is his expertise on playing confidently. “Some of the coaches don’t agree with me jumping up and down, being jacked before games,” he said. “But some coaches do agree with it. I feel like we fall in the line of playing with swagger.” Growing up in Florida, Rolle developed a passion for Miami Hurricane football. He said it was the only school he considered attending — until it didn’t offer him a scholarship. “I just feel like people know who they want and what they want,” Rolle said. “But as we saw in the second week of the season, they missed out on a great player and a great season.” Rolle got the last laugh when the Buckeyes knocked off Miami, 36-24, on Sept. 12. “We expected those guys to come out here and jump up and down and they did,” Rolle said. “But we have a little swagger ourselves and I feel like our defense, if I may say, we ‘out-swagged’ theirs and came up with the win.” For a player so focused on confidence, it comes as no surprise that Rolle listed a play in which he quieted an opponent’s swagger as the most memorable moment of his career. “I would say the (2009) Illinois game, the interception, playing in the rain, something I love doing,” Rolle said. “I wish it rained every game, and then to get the interception, that was a lot of fun. Those guys were talking a lot during the game, so it was nice to seal it with the interception and let those guys know the trash-talking is not needed.” Rolle would be the one to know.
In a lawsuit filed with the Supreme Court of Ohio on Monday, the ESPN Inc., has sued Ohio State for withholding public record documents. In the suit, ESPN says OSU wrongfully cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as a reason for withholding various documents. ESPN stated in the complaint that producers at ESPN had made public records requests for all emails sent or received by President E. Gordon Gee, athletic director Gene Smith, compliance officer Doug Archie and former head coach Jim Tressel, that included the keyword “Sarniak.” Ted Sarniak is a businessman in Jeanette, Pa., closely associated with former OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor. OSU described the two’s relationship in an email to the Columbus Dispatch. “Mr. Sarniak is someone who Terrelle has reached out to for advice and guidance throughout his high-school and collegiate career,” Archie said in an email. OSU’s media relations department cited FERPA as a reason for not supplying the record to ESPN. However, ESPN argues that FERPA does not apply in this case. They said that FERPA protects maintained student files as they relate to finances, but it does not protect against the requested files. OSU spokesperson Jim Lynch told the The Lantern in an email that they normally do not comment on pending litigation, but due to the circumstances, made a statement regarding the case. “The university believes that it has adhered to all applicable state and federal laws,” Lynch said in the email. “The university has been inundated with public records requests stemming from its ongoing NCAA investigation and the university. These include voluminous requests from ESPN, which in turn has received a voluminous amount of information. “We are disappointed that ESPN decided to file this suit on Monday,” Lynch continued. “Notwithstanding this, we will continue to work cooperatively with ESPN and all media in responding to their numerous requests on these matters.” ESPN also said OSU denied other requests about the events leading up to former head coach Jim Tressel’s resignation. ESPN said some of the requests were sent back because they were too broad. According to the Ohio Revised Code, all denied public records requests citing that the request is too broad have to have legal reasons for the denial and be accompanied with a suggestion to make the appropriate request. “While the university often receives media requests that are overly broad, given Ohio’s public record laws, we generally try to work with reporters to help them find the information they are seeking, working within the boundaries of the applicable laws,” Lynch said in the email. A representative for ESPN declined to comment on the matter, saying ESPN does not comment on pending litigation.
The march to the NFL Draft for some former Ohio State football players continues Friday. Twelve players from the senior classes of 2010 and 2011 — Mike Adams, Dionte Allen, Mike Brewster, Nate Ebner, Donnie Evege, Aaron Gant, Daniel “Boom” Herron, Tony Jackson, DeVier Posey, Grant Schwartz, J.B. Shugarts and Andrew Sweat — will take to the field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center under the watchful eye of NFL scouts. The workout sessions, which wlll be led by new OSU strength coach Mickey Marotti, will serve as a second chance for Adams, Brewster, Herron and Posey to show their athleticism after the NFL Combine, which took place Feb. 22-28. Posey measured 6-foot-2 and weighed 211 pounds on the scale at the NFL Combine. A state-champion sprinter in high school, Posey ran the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds, posted a 36.5-inch vertical jump and managed 14 reps in the 225-pound bench press. Herron measured 5-foot-10 and weighed 213 pounds. He ran a 4.66 second 40-yard dash and got 22 reps on the bench press. He also posted the second best time for running backs, 4.04 seconds, in the 20-yard shuttle, which measures speed and change of direction over a short distance. Adams has the size of a prototypical NFL left tackle at 6-foot-7 and 323 pounds, and many project him as a first-round draft selection. Adams ran a 5.40 second 40-yard dash and had 19 reps on the bench press. Posey, Herron and Adams were all involved in NCAA violations at OSU and served suspensions during the 2011-12 season. Posey was suspended for a total of 10 games, Herron was suspended for six and Adams was suspended for five. Brewster weighed in at 312 pounds and measured 6-foot-2. He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.35 seconds and had 29 reps in the bench press. The NFL Draft begins April 26 and ends April 28. Follow @Lanternsports on Twitter Friday morning for live OSU Pro Day coverage. Look for a recap of the players’ performance shortly after the workout sessions conclude.