Jeremy Birmingham/Landof10
Former Ohio State punter Cam Johnston

Cam Johnston’s NFL path, a new Slob emerges as depth issues plague Buckeyes, and more

Jeremy Birmingham

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Today is Tuesday, March 14, and it’s time to Wake Up Sloopy.


You ain’t got no Alabi

While you may have been doing other stuff, like living life or whatever, Ohio State has found itself with a little, teeny-tiny depth issue along the offensive line thanks to an offseason that has seen the departure of Evan Lisle, Kyle Trout and Tyler Gerald, all of whom left the Buckeyes football program prematurely.

Whether these losses are part of a red-headed purge by Urban Meyer and Greg Studrawa, I can’t be sure — but I am sure of this: The Buckeyes need some help along the O-line.

To that end, Ohio State has made a personnel move that felt like it was coming years ago, moving DT Josh Alabi over to the offensive side of the ball. Alabi was a highly recruited prospect out of Detroit’s Cass Tech High School in the 2015 recruiting class and this will be his first chance to really make an impact on the Ohio State roster.

From Tim Shoemaker of Eleven Warriors:

Ohio State’s latest move is another one that signals there might be some depth concerns.

Josh Alabi has been moved from defensive tackle to offensive line this spring in an attempt to add another body to Greg Studrawa’s meeting room. The Buckeyes are trying to find some way to develop some depth beyond their starting five.

“Josh Alabi’s killing it right now,” fifth-year senior Billy Price said Thursday. “We switched him over to the offensive line from defense and kid’s just going. He’s playing hard.”

To get the perspective of Price, who came to Ohio State as a defensive tackle out of Austintown (Ohio) Fitch High School, makes sense. If there’s anyone who understands the nuances of the move and the challenges associated with it, it’s Price. However, as Shoemaker (who has, to my knowledge never crafted any footwear) points out, one shouldn’t expect a similar outcome from Alabi’s move. If that were reasonable, he may have made that transition sooner.

So while moving Alabi may eventually work out for both sides — he hasn’t played much at defensive tackle his first two seasons at Ohio State — the change feels like it was done simply to try and solve some depth concerns.

The Buckeyes return four of their five starters from last year up front in Price, left guard Michael Jordan, left tackle Jamarco Jones and right tackle Isaiah Prince. Price is slated to move from right guard to center to replace the departed Pat Elflein which means the only vacancy currently sits at right guard.

After Ohio State’s first practice of the spring last week, Meyer mentioned Demetrius Knox, Malcolm Pridgeon, Branden Bowen and Matt Burrell as candidates for that open spot. Alabi wasn’t mentioned — he appears to be working solely at tackle — but at 6 feet 5 and 300 pounds, there’s potential he could be a fit down the road, as well. After all, the Buckeyes have only had two spring practices thus far.

My money right now is on Knox holding on to the job as the starter at right guard with Pridgeon pushing him this fall.

Punter from Down Under going over the top

Disclaimer: I love special teams players. As a working photographer during Ohio State football game over the last few years, I’ve become quite fond of the kickers and holders and snappers because they’re always in a good mood on the sideline and always appreciate when they’re being photographed — smiling or giving a “thumbs up” in my direction. I appreciate them, they appreciate us. It’s a nice, give/give relationship.

That said, my appreciation for former Buckeyes punter Cam Johnston is about more than his affability off the field; it’s also about his prodigious kicking ability on it. That’s why I say, as a Cincinnati Bengals fan, I’d be thrilled to see them use a draft pick on this Australian wunderkind when the NFL draft rolls around next month.

Someone in the NFL is going to take that pick, I’d bet a dollar on it.

From Kyle Rowland of the Toledo Blade:

“My favorite punter in the 2017 NFL draft is Austin Rehkow of Idaho, and he’s the only punter I expect to be drafted in the 2017 class,” said Eric Galko, a draft analyst for Sporting News. “That said, Johnston is one of three or four punters I expect to get late-round consideration and get a strong opportunity to earn a spot in the NFL.

“One of the biggest detractions for Johnston is his size and length, which NFL special teams coaches consider as a sign of improved distances and upside in punter. But his power as a punter and reliability in Ohio State’s biggest games over the last four years should make him viewed as a ‘safe’ punting prospect.”

Hell yes Johnston is a “safe” prospect. He’s a wizard with the football and on top of that, he’s a pretty special athlete. He almost single-handedly ran down Penn State’s Grant Haley to prevent the Nittany Lions’ go-ahead touchdown against the Buckeyes last season. I assume that’s a skill he learned in the Outback chasing down crocodiles or something like that. Still, according to Rowland, Johnston is hoping that the NFL will just appreciate him for his deftness with the football and his ability to put it where he wants it when he hits it with his foot.

“I want to try and show that one of my strengths is being good at placing the ball,” Johnston said. “It’s a chance to show what you can do. You want to put your best foot forward to try and get a spot on a team. It’s really hard to make it as a punter because you only have one on each roster.”

There have been 49 punters drafted in the last 25 NFL drafts so the odds are against Johnston, but I wouldn’t bet against him.

Ohio State women fall to a No. 5 seed in NCAA tourney after abbreviated Big Ten run

I’ll come right out and say it: The NCAA Women’s Tournament selection committee clearly isn’t a fan of the Big Ten.

The league’s regular-season champion, Ohio State, earned only a 5-seed in the tournament when the bracket was revealed Monday night. Maryland, which lost two games all season (the only one that should count was against Ohio State, the other was to UConn, which doesn’t belong in the same tournament as everyone else) and the Terrapins are a 3-seed. Michigan, which went 11-5 in the Big Ten and finished third in the league, didn’t make the tournament while Purdue and Michigan State — which finished fourth and fifth — did.

Either way, complaining won’t help, the Buckeyes are a No. 5 seed and they’ll open against No. 12 Western Kentucky on Friday. One bit of good news for Ohio State?

They aren’t in UConn’s bracket. Maryland, however, is. You can check out the full bracket here.

Let your rage guide you, Big Ten fans.

B1G Happenings

• Michigan basketball players reflect on a crazy week that included a plane crash and a Big Ten title

• Wisconsin coach Greg Gard wants to know why the Big Ten waits so long for its conference tournament

• Chris Webber is still #mad at Michigan for some reason

• Penn State is hoping to turn Beaver Stadium into a Brick House

• Alex Hornibrook will be the Wisconsin’s starter at quarterback heading into the spring