Jeremy Birmingham/Landof10
Ohio State captain Billy Price may have his biggest challenges in the 2017 season in practice drills.

J.T. Barrett’s bravado, a way-too-early Top 25, Jeffrey Okudah is blazing fast, Matta’s big challenge

Jeremy Birmingham

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Today is Friday, March 10, and it’s time to Wake Up Sloopy.


In case you missed it…

J.T. Barrett isn’t trying to ruin Ohio State football you guys

Football is back and with that, discussions that will make you scratch your head will return to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center at Ohio State. On Thursday, QB J.T. Barrett had a chance to address one of this past winter’s most incredible topics: Buckeyes fans who wanted Barrett to leave Ohio State for one place (the NFL) or another (a grad transfer to another college.)

For Barrett, it is still hard to consider, but he has passed off the irrational thinking as just good old-fashioned, terrible human being behavior.

From Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com:

“People in society, we want the new and latest thing,” Barrett. “I’ve been here for a minute. … When you think about it, we just want something new. When the iPhone 7 comes out, everyone has to get that because it’s the new and the latest thing.

“I’m not the new and latest thing anymore. But I am still trying to enhance and get myself better in order for us to be where we want to be.”

Wanting change at quarterback isn’t really the root of the issue for some Ohio State fans. Now, there is a portion of the fan base that believes for some reason that the all-time Ohio State leader in nearly every single quarterback statistical category just isn’t good at football.

It’s a bad, and totally irrational, take. Barrett, like the Honey Badger, don’t care.

“If they think that I’m a bad player, I don’t know what you want me to say? I’m not trying to be. I’m trying to be the best I can be at Ohio State in order for us, the Ohio State Buckeyes, to win national championships, ball games. That’s the purpose.

“If there’s somebody out there that was better than me at Ohio State, they would be playing. Right now, I have been a starter for three years, like I am doing the best I can. Is it going to be perfect time all the time? No. Being the quarterback, you get a lot of the blame, which I’m OK with. I’m going to accept it.

OK, fine, J.T. We get it. You’re not trying to be bad, but you are trying to mess things up for the guys behind you, right?

Believe it or not, Barrett says that isn’t what he’s trying to do.

“My whole heart is into it. This is all that I do. I am here to play football, I come from Texas. This is why I came. It’s all in good nature. It’s not like I am trying to mess up the Ohio State backup. I read sometimes, it was like I was the enemy, I was the bad guy. Guys, I’m not trying to do that to the Buckeyes. I love the Buckeyes.”

Romance isn’t dead, you guys.

Way too early Top 25 for 2017 because why not

It’s March 10 and that means it’s time to start breaking down every team in a ridiculously early Top 25 poll for the 2017.

You won’t be surprised that Ohio State made one poll Wednesday.

From ESPN.com, which believes that the greatest strength of this new version of the Buckeyes will be Larry Johnson’s defensive line.

The Buckeyes were going to be loaded on the defensive line no matter what Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard or Jalyn Holmes decided to do when pondering an early departure to the NFL draft. But with all three returning alongside Nick Bosa, Dre’Mont Jones and a recovering Tracy Sprinkle — among others — Ohio State could boast the deepest, most talented unit up front in the nation.

It’s hard to disagree with this assessment. To add Sprinkle back to the mix, a player who was set to be a major contributor in 2016, will provide a major boost in the middle of the Buckeyes defense. An incoming freshman, DE Chase Young, is going to be hard to keep off the field, as well. And you can’t forget sophomore Jonathon Cooper, redshirt junior Darius Slade or former ESPN No. 1 overall prospect Jashon Cornell.

Big Ten quarterbacks, beware.

Thad Matta’s greatest challenge

So, Thad Matta is going to get another year (at least) coaching the Ohio State basketball team. Good. He has earned that.

However, everyone knows that 2017-18 is going to be make or break for Matta’s program and so it’s time for the all-time winningest Ohio State head coach in history to make some tough decisions about his staff and his approach.

From Bill Landis of Cleveland.com:

For at least two seasons now, Matta’s players have often seemed disinterested in the urgency of the moment. They’ve often lacked the fortitude to withstand a run — you know the issues by now. We don’t have to go around in circles here.

It’s a poor reflection on Matta. He’s not connecting with this group in a way that would elicit real change. But he feels like he’s still that guy who can rally his team, get them to buy into a plan and ultimately be successful.

The disconnect goes both ways.

These are facts that my good friend Bill is spreading. I think it’s easy to look at Matta and say “he deserves a chance to fix this” and you’d be right — I’ve been saying that for weeks — but there are some serious concerns. First among them for me? If Matta is such a player’s coach, why do his leaders (at least on this team) not appear to care one bit about the outcomes of the basketball game? I’ve never seen a four-year player care less than Marc Loving (outwardly, in fairness) appears to.

Matta, for his part, acknowledges that the growth he expected didn’t occur. He stops short of accepting responsibility for that, though.

“This team coming back, I thought we’d mature a little bit more, I thought we would be a little bit more competitive,” Matta said.

That they didn’t is a knock on Matta. He puts a lot on his players, and his answers to questions about inconsistency issues often sound like he’s passing the buck.

“Teachers can’t teach until the student wants to learn,” he said.

Matta is going to be forced to adjust his teaching style. There will not be a convenient fall guy like Loving to pin the blame on next season if leadership off the court doesn’t begin to reflect the play on it.

Jeffrey Okudah can absolutely fly

Those in Ohio State’s strength and conditioning program — now more accurately discussed as an “athletic performance” department — loves them some science. Sports are all about numbers and there’s no reason that the meatheads shouldn’t be thinking about numbers too, you know?

So here’s a number: 23.2.

That’s the MPH — or miles per hour for the uninitiated — that early-enrolled freshman Jeffrey Okudah reached while sprinting during a practice this week for the Buckeyes.

That’s really fast for a person, though it would only rank Okudah about 50th or so in the animal world (did you know a giraffe can reach more than 32 MPH??). So he’s got a lot of work to do still.

B1G Happenings

• After surviving a plane crash scare on Wednesday, Michigan beat Illinois while wearing pajamas in the Big Ten tournament

• Nebraska signee Tyjon Lindsey’s search for home led to Lincoln — and not Ohio State — like he thought it would

• Beat down by Indiana, Iowa now likely finds itself out of the NCAA Tournament

• Michigan State throttles Penn State in Washington, D.C.

• Nebraska QB talks upcoming battle to replace Tommy Armstrong