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Today is Thursday, Nov. 10, and this is your Ohio State Wake-Up Call.
K.J. Hill’s swagger is back
Ohio State may have the answer to their wide receiver problems. Yes, Curtis Samuel is a part of that answer. So is Noah Brown. Now, fully healthy after a knee injury in the third week of the season, K.J. Hill could be the third option.
The turning point came in the game against Northwestern. Hill only had one catch of the day, but it was a big one. He had a 34-yard reception late in the game to seal the 24-20 win. Hill said that that was just the tip of the iceberg.
KJ Hill sparks the offense with a huge 34 yard gain on the winning drive pic.twitter.com/JgGtEEpJWY
— Josh Winslow (@jwinslow7) October 29, 2016
“I’ve been hurt, so I was just trying to get my momentum back going,” Hill said.
That momentum showed up against Nebraska. Hill was second on the team with five catches for 66 yards in the 62-3 win over the then No. 10-ranked Cornhuskers. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is impressed with Hill’s work and thinks he is on the right track.
“He’s coming up the ranks,” Meyer said. “I think we redshirted him last year, so he is a first-year player. It’s typical progression of a young person that takes his role pretty seriously. Typical transition from a young player to get some playing time.”
With playing time comes confidence. Coming back from injury, that’s one thing Hill has gained through his performance last Saturday.
“It changes a lot,” Hill said. “It changes my confidence on the field. I didn’t have anything going into it because of the injury to my ankle against Oklahoma. I feel more like myself like I have my swagger back.”
With swagger hopefully comes statistics. That’s what the Buckeyes hope.
Jerome Baker makes most of opportunity
Coming into the 2016 season, LB Jerome Baker’s goal was to make his teammate Chris Worley better. However, when teammate Dante Booker went down with a knee injury against Bowling Green, it was Baker’s time to step up.
“You just have to be prepared that you are going to play,” Baker said. “Whenever it was my time to actually play, I took advantage of it.”
And step up he did. Baker is third on the team in tackles with 51 and is tied for third on the team with Des Sam Hubbard and Nick Bosa with six tackles for loss.
Buckeye Linebackers Jerome Baker, and Raekwon McMillan have both been named semifinalists for the Butkus award.
— 97.1 The Fan (@971thefan) October 31, 2016
Another unlikely success story — former Buckeye Darron Lee — has been giving Baker tips. Lee was recruited by Ohio State as a 3-star safety, but after suffering an injury in his freshman season, he switched to linebacker and was a stud. In his career at Ohio State, Lee had 147 tackles, including 27.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. Lee was drafted as the 20th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft by the New York Jets in 2016.
Lee’s advice to Baker has been surprisingly simple.
“He told me go out there, week to week, and just play your ball,” Baker said. “The rest is going to handle itself. That’s the approach I took from it, is play my ball and have fun.”
Fun is a great word to describe the kind of season the Ohio State defense has been having. It has given up an average of only 13.8 points per game and only three rushing touchdowns all season while opponents average just 119.2 rushing yards per contest.
According to Baker, part of the reason why he has been so successful is because of the players around him
“It’s more of a pride thing,” Baker said. “You are playing with 10 other guys that’s going out every play and going hard. You got to hold your end of the bargain. Playing along Worley and Raekwon [McMillan], you are expected to play good ball.”
The expectations are high for this defense. Baker fits right in just fine.
A look at Maryland’s pass offense
Like Wednesday’s Wake-Up Call mentioned, the Maryland quarterback situation coming into this week’s game is uncertain. The Terrapins’ starting QB, Perry Hills, came out of last Saturday’s game against Michigan because of an undisclosed injury and is currently questionable for the matchup against Ohio State.
Hills has had a solid season up to this point. He has thrown for 1,143 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions. Averaging 7.9 yards per pass attempt, he has a completion rate at a career high 67.4 percent. Before he came out of the game because of a hit by Michigan defensive end Chase Winovich, Hills was on a roll. He was 4-for-4 for 73 yards, including one for 32 yards, before he left.
The hit on Perry Hills that knocked him out of the game.
On replay, it looks late but was not callee that way. pic.twitter.com/bsrmvHTiQE
— Due (@JDue51) November 6, 2016
If Hills can’t go Saturday, the Terrapins have two other options. The first option is Caleb Rowe, who Maryland coach DJ Durkin brought in to replace him against Michigan. In his first taste of action this season, Rowe threw for 203 yards with a completion rate of 52.2 percent. He threw for two interceptions in the contest and did not throw a touchdown pass.
What Rowe does have going for him is experience. In his five years at Maryland, he has played in 23 games and has thrown for 200 yards or more in seven in those games. He also has thrown 18 career touchdowns. However, he has thrown 27 interceptions in that span.
Maryland QB Caleb Rowe has thrown multiple interceptions in a game in the years 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016.
— Daniel Gallen (@danieljtgallen) November 5, 2016
If not Rowe, then it’s freshman Tyrell Pigrome. He has had playing time in all but one game this season, but had significant passing numbers only in Maryland’s 31-10 loss to Minnesota. He threw for 161 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in that game, throwing at a 48.6 percent rate. Pigrome is more of a dual-threat, with two games this season where he has eclipsed 50 yards rushing.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 15, 2016
No matter whether Durkin goes with the veteran or the unproven freshman, it’s pretty obvious who they will be throwing to. Wide receivers D.J. Moore, Teldrick Morgan and Levern Jacobs have made 64 percent of the Terrapins’ receptions this season. Also, this trio has brought in nine of the team’s 12 passing touchdowns.
— Maryland On BTN (@MarylandOnBTN) October 23, 2016
The Maryland pass offense has shown Ohio State which receivers the Silver Bullets need to keep an eye on. Now it just comes down to who will be behind center. No matter who it is, no quarterback is safe from the turnover-friendly Ohio State secondary.
Greg Schiano goes back to school
When Greg Schiano took the job of co-defensive coordinator and associate head coach, people were wondering why a former head coach in both at the college and the pros would take a so-called demotion. According to an article from the AP, Schiano wanted to learn from the best.
“I have kind of gone back for a master’s degree in coaching under someone I’m very close with,” Schiano said.
That coach? Urban Meyer, who has been friends with Schiano since his huge turn-around at Rutgers. According to Schiano, Meyer has taught him a lot about being a head coach, including empowering assistant coaches.
With teams such as LSU and Purdue looking for head coaches, Schiano may have his pick of jobs this offseason. However, according to Schiano, this Ohio State job is all about personal growth no matter how long he stays.
“At 50 years old. you say, ‘well I’ve done this, but there’s some many things that if I ever do it again as a head coach, that I will incorporate into what I do,’ ” Schiano said. “And I think we’ve done a lot of good stuff over the years, but I think meshing the two together will be really powerful.”