User ID
  Forgot User ID
or Register Today!
Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on Google+ VI Mobile Scores and Betting Odds
Betting Tools

To start for Buckeyes, you begin on special teams

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Outside of their friends and family, almost no one notices the often anonymous players running headlong downfield or muscling aside opponents on special teams.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer sure does.

``We kind of have a rule around here that you can't play unless you're involved in special teams,'' Meyer said.

So before you can be a starter, let alone a star, for the Buckeyes, you have to put on a hard hat, pack your lunch pail and join those sweating it out on the teams that take the field when the offense and defense don't.

Almost every well-known Buckeye has played his way onto the first team based on what he did on those grunt squads - and several have cost themselves a starting job by not committing to them.

Have an awful game? Get into trouble off the field? Skip a class or two? The first step in redeeming yourself in the eyes of the coaching staff is to contribute when you're not in the spotlight, when you're blocking for or defending against kicks and punts.

``Nothing is given to these guys,'' running backs coach Stan Drayton said. ``It starts with special teams. We have a philosophy that if you want to play your respective position, you have to provide some value to this team on special teams.''

It's democracy in action. Players work their way up the depth chart and nobody elbows in ahead of anybody else without first serving on those often-overlooked groups.

Front-line players such as Bradley Roby, Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde are rediscovering that right now as the third-ranked Buckeyes prepare for Saturday's home game with San Diego State. Up-and-coming tailback Bri'onte Dunn is, too.

Roby, an All-Big Ten cornerback and Smith, a backup tailback, first caught the eye of coaches by their work on special teams. They went on to be solid players at their positions. Then each was suspended for the opener, Roby for his role in an Indiana bar skirmish and Smith for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Now both are back with the commoners this week, trying to get back in the good graces of the coaches by showing they're team players on kick teams.

Hyde won't return for another couple of weeks, the result of a three-game suspension for his involvement in an alleged conflict with a female this summer. Even though he was Ohio State's leading scorer and second-leading rusher last year, he'll have to work his way back into the lineup.

Dunn is considered a promising runner, but the coaches have not been enthralled with his effort or attitude when called upon to do anything other than play his position. As a result, Dunn didn't get into the opener against Buffalo.

``The head coach is very clear and in fact there were some guys who probably didn't get to play as position players on Saturday because they didn't start or play on special teams,'' said Kerry Coombs, the Buckeyes' assistant who oversees both cornerbacks and kick teams. ``If you don't perform in those areas, you're not going to play.

``So the competition on special teams units is high.''

Playing on those selfless squads not only helps the team, it shows that a player isn't in it strictly for the glory or the playing time. He wants to win.

One player who did not have a stellar game in the 40-20 win over Buffalo on Saturday was Armani Reeves, who started his first collegiate game in place of Roby at corner. He had a pass-interference penalty, was frequently beaten on routes and was clearly picked on by Buffalo's offense.

But he also played 68 plays on defense and 12 more on special teams on a hot, humid day when several teammates were overcome with leg cramps.

Reeves' willingness to play anywhere and everywhere didn't go unnoticed.

``Armani (was) a tremendous special teams player for us a year ago,'' Meyer said. ``He played a lot of football for us in that heat. That helps with our depth.''

Wide receiver Chris Fields was a seldom used junior a year ago who ended years of grumbling about being bypassed and instead threw himself into special teams. He became a favorite of the coaches, and gradually worked himself into the receiver rotation.

On Saturday, he contributed all over the field, catching two touchdown passes and also running with abandon to make stops and blocks on kicks.

``Special teams is very critical,'' Fields said. ``Coach Meyer suggests that if you're able to play you have to play special teams. I've been playing on kick return and punt block and kickoff teams. I've been trying to (raise) my value on the team as much as possible. And everybody knows that.''

Coombs regrets that several players, such as Fields, had to do double-duty in the opener. But he realizes that younger players see what is gained by taking one for the team.

``We need kids who can run down the field and take the load off of some of the starters and, unfortunately, on Saturday we had a couple of guys who had to catch a touchdown pass and then go cover a kickoff,'' Coombs said. ``We try to avoid that if we can. At the same time that will be our priority.

``And if (a player) can't cover the kickoff then he can't catch the touchdown pass.''

Meyer doesn't mince words: You don't play special teams, forget about starting.


``You just don't play,'' he said. ``You don't need your uncle calling, you don't need anybody calling, you just need to go get on the special teams and then all of a sudden you find yourself playing.''


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2016
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

Edwards: Handicapping CFP Odds
Nelson: Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh
Williams: ACC Report - Week 9
Williams: Big 12 Report - Week 9
ASA: Big Ten Report - Week 9
Edwards: Navy at South Florida
Williams: Pac-12 Report - Week 9
Marshall: Tech Trends - Week 9
Hokies trying to end Heinz Field curse
Why Buy Picks From
NCAAFB College Football Handicapper Sports Picks Records
NCAA FB Hot Streaks
30-9 Totals, 37-15 L5 Sat., +1,265
17-9 L26 G-Plays, 60% +911 TY
10-5 CFB Record This Month
3-0 Friday, 14-7 Run, +2,089 Totals
5 Wins in a Row, 7-3 L10 Totals
9-3 Record Saturday
5-2 Saturday, 7-2 Week 8
13-6 Saturday, 12-6 L18 Totals
5-2 CFB Picks Saturday
7-4 Saturday, 18-8 L26 Totals
4-1 Last 5 CFB G-Plays
9-2 L11 CFB Guarantees
5-1 L6 Guaranteed Plays
2-0 Record Last Thursday
4-2 Saturday, 5-1 L6 Guarantees
NCAA FB College Football Expert Picks - Ohio Bobcats at Toledo Rockets
Money Leaders
Handicapper Money
Kyle Hunter + 1265
Scott Rickenbach + 911
Pat Hawkins + 550
Last Week's Leaders
Handicapper Money
Bruce Marshall + 825
Paul Bovi + 675
Jimmy Boyd + 485
Percentage Leaders
Handicapper Pct
Scott Rickenbach 60 %
Kyle Hunter 59 %
Michael Black 56 %
Guaranteed Leaders
Handicapper Money
Scott Rickenbach + 620
The Gold Sheet + 570
Marc Lawrence + 340
Over-Under Leaders
Handicapper Money
NeiltheGreek + 2089
Kyle Hunter + 1470
Joe Williams + 817
Member Leaders
Handicapper Money
Bruce Marshall + 661
Scott Rickenbach + 380
Andy Iskoe + 156
corner graphic
With a VI Gold Membership, you can SAVE 10% off a Live Odds subscription, SAVE 20% off Daily Pick packages, and receive access to up to 1,000 Member Plays each month!
VI Gold Membership