Jeremy Birmingham/Land of 10
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has some people thinking his 2017 club could be the nation's best.

ESPN shows Ohio State some love, Kam Williams denies NBA draft decision, and more

Ryan Ginn

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Today is Tuesday, May 2, and it’s time to Wake Up Sloopy.

ESPN makes Ohio State No. 1

ESPN put out its post-spring football way-too-early top 25 on Monday, and there’s a new team at the top.

Ohio State leapfrogged three other teams — including previous No. 1 Alabama — to overtake the top spot in the rankings. What’s weird is that ESPN seemed to justify putting Ohio State in the top spot because the Buckeyes aren’t losing as much talent to the NFL.

A year ago, the Buckeyes had 12 players selected in the first four rounds of the round, the most in NFL history. This year, six Buckeyes were picked in the first three rounds, including three in the first round.

[Ohio State coach Urban] Meyer won’t face quite as much turnover this offseason, and with QB J.T. Barrett and 14 others starters expected back, Ohio State has supplanted Alabama as the No. 1 team in the third edition of the 2017 Way-Too-Early Top 25. Florida State remains No. 2 and Alabama is No. 3, followed by USC, which gets the coveted fourth spot.

That’s actually not a bad line of thinking. Ohio State does lose less talent than most teams at the top of the list this season. As a result, it’s not hard to envision the Buckeyes being great in 2017. But here’s my gripe: That information was already known the last time ESPN published a top 25 this spring, so what’s the deal with the change? It’s not like the NFL draft changed anything as far as returning talent — you can’t come back if you’re in the draft regardless of what happens there.

A far better explanation would have involved belief in new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and tangible improvement shown by Ohio State this spring. That topic was briefly discussed (along with praise for some players), but it didn’t seem as prominent as the overall theme of returning talent.

New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson seems determined to have quarterback J.T. Barrett throwing the ball down the field more often. That will require better protection from the offensive line and more consistency from the receiver corps. On defense, the Buckeyes will have one of the best front sevens in the country, but three starters must be replaced in the secondary. Cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette and safety Damon Webb emerged as possible replacements this spring.

Still, I doubt you’ll hear Ohio State complaining about its new spot at the top.

Kam Williams: Will he or won’t he?

On Monday, news came out that Kam Williams was planning to return for another season at Ohio State.

The report came from FanRag college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, who cited Ohio State head coach Thad Matta as the source of the news.

That development wasn’t a surprising one given that Williams isn’t considered a likely draft pick and wasn’t invited to the NBA combine. He averaged 9.4 points and 2.1 rebounds for Ohio State as a redshirt junior in 2016-17.

Still, Williams went to Twitter after the report and posted what amounts to a denial (at least for the time being).

That may be technically true, though it’s not an outright denial because the news was that he’s going to return, not that he’s already made it official by withdrawing his name. In any case, all signs (including the reported words of his head coach) point to Williams returning to Columbus for one more season.

Taking a moment to appreciate OSU’s draft success

Here’s something to consider: Even in a year with virtually no senior class, Ohio State still managed to get seven players drafted — three in the first round.

That made 19 draft picks in the last two years, more than any other school. At this point, no team is turning out NFL talent quite like the Buckeyes. As it turns out, that’s been the case for quite some time. Ohio State doesn’t have the overall lead for players taken in draft history (that belongs to USC), but the Buckeyes do have the most in the current format.

That’s a big deal for a couple reasons. First of all, current high schoolers couldn’t care less which school pumped out draft picks in 1963. This period much more accurately conveys what’s happened during the lifetime of current college recruits. What they’ve seen is Ohio State outperforming every other school in this category.

Secondly, the old draft format, with more than a dozen rounds, was a joke. Does stockpiling 16th-round picks actually mean anything? Come on. Seven rounds is a much better gauge of top-end talent.

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I know y’all love my fellow Ohio State writers Jeremy Birmingham and Ben Axelrod, so we’re putting together a way for y’all to ask them everything you’ve ever wanted while also giving you a way to never miss our work.

If our @Landof10OSU Twitter account gains enough followers, both Birm and Ben will do a Q&A on that account. It’s a good follow regardless, because it posts every Ohio State story that appears on Land of 10, but life’s more fun with rewards.

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B1G happenings

• San Francisco 49ers coach calls C.J. Beathard “tough as s—“.

• Paul Finebaum said something nice about Michigan.

• My Iowa colleague Scott Dochterman wrote a tremendous profile of Iowa’s 5-star recruit.

• Which recruits will Michigan and Alabama battle for in 2018?

• Michigan players still traveling the globe.