The Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly offered Dwight Howard a $118 million contract in addition to his own television show to re-sign with their NBA team.According to the report, Time Warner Cable and the All-Star athlete have had preliminary talks about Howard having his own TV show. Time Warner Cable is a business partner with the Lakers organization already, and have a TV deal that is projected to be worth $5 billion over 25 years.Soon, Howard will make his choice on where he’ll sign his free-agent contract. The player claimed he “had a lot of great meetings,” which included the Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, in addition to the Lakers.The Lakers offered a lucrative contract and a friendly gesture with the TV show. But will that be enough for Howard to remain in LA?
Many past Los Angeles Lakers players are upset that Dwight Howard decided to leave the team for the Houston Rockets.Shaquille O’Neal attacked the young star by accusing him of not being not being able to step up to the pressure of LA’s expectations. Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and Metta World Peace have all been vocal about Howard’s departure. Now, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has joined the criticizing the all-star player.The Lakers legend, who is the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, took to his Facebook page on Monday:“Dwight Howard is a perfect example of the fact that potential has a shelf life. Laker fans should be patient and allow Mitch & company to prepare themselves to do some serious work in the free agent market.”Dwight Howard signed a four-year, $88 million-deal with the Houston Rockets.
DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 28: Strong safety David Bruton #30 of the Denver Broncos lies on the ground in pain after a play that would force him out of the game with a reported concussion during a game against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 28, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)On an episode of the current season of the popular Netflix reality docuseries “Last Chance U,” Isaiah Wright — star sophomore running back for East Mississippi Community College — gets pulled from a game in the first half for precautionary measures, having sustained a concussion the week prior. During a dramatic halftime exchange with a coach who explains they are trying to protect him, an irate and desperate Wright shouts, “I don’t care about me, I wanna play football! I’ll die for this damn sport!”Wright’s precarious affinity for football is motivated as much by economics as his passion for the game. A foster youth abandoned by his single mother, the talented Tennessee native sees the violent sport as his one chance at “making it” in life and realizing a more fortunate existence for himself and his loved ones.Wright is not alone. For numerous young African-Americans and their families across the country, football is commonly viewed as their “one shot” at changing their impoverished reality. Despite the daunting odds — a mere 3.9 percent of Division I draft-eligible collegians of all races were chosen in the 2016 NFL draft — the potential rewards of a lucrative NFL contract often outweigh the inherent dangers of a brutal game.Unlike the mental fog suffered by a concussed baller, these dangers have recently become clear. In a new study by Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee, Mckee examined the brains of 202 deceased football players and discovered 110 of the 111 brains of NFL players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease caused by head trauma. To make matters worse, 56 percent of the brains of collegiate players studied had severe CTE, and 44 percent had mild cases, as did the brains of three high school players. Even mild cases are known to present a troubling array of progressive symptoms, including depression, behavioral abnormalities, anxiety, memory loss, impulsivity, explosive anger, cognitive issues, suicidal tendencies and abuse, both chemical and physical. The study further revealed the most common cause of death among those with mild CTE to be suicide. Such recent and revealing data has caused a number of players to walk away from the game.“When you’re running down the field full-speed on kickoff team, they relate the impact to that of a car accident,” says Michael Peterson, an Atlanta-based entrepreneur and former defensive back and special teams player for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. A member of Tech’s 2009 ACC Championship team, the talented painter and conceptual artist has drawn attention to the violence and toll football takes on players through artwork exhibited at museums and galleries across the country. “In the late ’60s or early ’70s, there was an article in Life magazine on football, and the title of it was ‘Suicide Squad,’” says Peterson, who, during research for an art project, found that the moniker was what players of previous generations commonly used to call the kickoff team. “It kind of blows my mind that they were forecasting what’s transpiring today.”African-Americans comprise 70 percent of current NFL players. Given that a third of white NFL players occupy such low-collision positions as kicker, punter or quarterback, Black pros are far more likely to sustain concussions. While the NFL has gone to great lengths to keep a lid on the link between repetitive head trauma and progressive brain disease, its more recent commitment to minimizing such injuries can only do so much in an inherently violent sport.Especially since the trauma need not be repetitive. “When you suffer a blow — a single blow or repetitive — you may have immediate symptoms or may not have immediate symptoms,” explained Dr. Bennett Omalu in a December 2015 interview with Vice Sports. Omalu, the forensic pathologist and neuropathologist portrayed by Will Smith in the film “Concussion,” first recognized CTE as a serious concern for sports involving head trauma. “The absence of symptoms does not mean you haven’t suffered cellular injury,” he said. “CTE is neurodegenerative. It gets worse. Concussion is part of the spectrum, but it is not the underlying cause. The underlying cause is [brain trauma], the factor that initiated the cascade of events.”Still, while many acknowledge the risk, American dreams die hard. An estimated two-thirds of Black boys believe they can be professional athletes, and African-American parents are four times more likely than white parents to believe the same. Such dreams are fostered by years of propaganda, in outdated Horatio Alger references and endlessly looped depictions of urban lotto winners. They have little relation to the infinitesimal chances and stark realities they obscure. Even when presented with the grim reality of the odds they face, that athletes are exponentially more likely to get head trauma than an NFL contract, many cling to these dreams, as they are unwilling to face the spirit-breaking economics of their absence.“A lot of folks in sports are using it as their ticket out of their circumstances,” says Peterson, noting the competitive edge of teammates playing “for a way bigger reason.” For such players, concussions are mere and expected bumps on their field of dreams.“I haven’t had any recorded concussions,” offers Peterson, intoning about how head trauma commonly goes untreated at all levels of the game. “But I have had my bell rung, I have seen stars, I have been dizzy and I have had the little ones.” These are unlike a normal injury, he says, where “Someone is going to cart you off the field or you’re going to limp off. With concussions, you don’t really recognize them, especially the small ones.” In addition, says Peterson, football is “a very masculine sport, and its hard sometimes to say that you are in pain when a limb is not dangling.”Even so, football isn’t all about pain, trauma or impossible dreams. Beyond the brutality lies power, speed, strategy, technique, intellect and, yes, even beauty and grace. Those who doubt this have likely never played the game, never fully recognized its artistry, or never truly appreciated the gridiron’s storied past, nor its fast-paced present, as represented by the ballet-like fluidity of a Gale Sayers, a Lynn Swann or an Odell Beckham; the power and drive of a Jim Brown, a Walter Payton or a Marshawn Lynch; the awe-inspiring dominance of a Lawrence Taylor or a Reggie White; the skill, precision and intellect of a Warren Moon, a Steve McNair or a Cam Newton; the symphonic movement of a Barry Sanders; and the once-in-a-lifetime instincts and ability of a Sean Taylor.Undoubtedly, the game imparts its many lessons, ones particularly valuable for less fortunate youth regardless of whether they play for a year or two decades. It offers all the components of a compelling metaphor for life — active awareness, situational analysis, intense preparation, discipline, decision making under pressure, mental and physical toughness, teamwork, strategy, effective management of fear, and mastery of self.That said, it is a sport of contrasts, one as destructive as it is constructive, as expressive as it is debilitating. Outside of the kickers who occasionally prance upon the field to apply their specialty at little risk, and the zebra-striped whistle-toters who dot the field just out of harm’s way, no one can escape its violence. Make no mistake, the game has a cost, one far more pricey than the admission paid by legions of rabid weekend groupies to witness the punishing spectacle.Peterson is ever reminded of this. One of the reasons he portrays the cost and violence of the game in his art is his connection to an NFL idol who succumbed to the sport’s dark side. “I did have people that I grew up with that committed suicide because of football,” he says, citing the shocking July 2012 suicide of NFL defensive back and fellow Tampa native O.J. Murdock. Murdock’s brain was one of those subsequently studied by CTE researchers. Noting he played football with Murdock’s little brother in Tampa, Peterson details how the tragedy inspired his 2014 artwork “Pursuit of Vanity: Pistol Formation,” which consists of the jersey nameplates of famous NFL players who have committed suicide. The nameplates, including that of late All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau, are hung in the shape of a pistol.“When I added O.J. to the list, it felt surreal, it felt awkward,” acknowledges Peterson. “These things are continuing to occur, so I’m honoring these guys but also shedding light onto the severity of the situation.”Still, despite the established dangers, there is ever that slim chance, one steeped in the passion for and the economics of a violent-yet-lucrative sport, that a kid from the lowest socioeconomic rung of our society can separate from the pile, break free from those trying to pull him down, and win at the larger game of life. In a recent segment for “The United States of Football” — a documentary exploring the cumulative effect of repetitive head trauma and based on a father’s uncertainty over allowing his son to play — Pro Football Hall of Fame member and current commentator Cris Carter spoke openly about the inherent health hazards of his beloved game. Responding to the need for the NFL and related media to promote an awareness of these hazards, Carter clarified why many, like Isaiah Wright, will continue to brave the risk.“I believe,” said Carter, “it is also our responsibility to convey to kids that they have the right to have the same dream that I did.”
James Harden’s one weird trick: drawing contact on 3-point shots. In the video above, see just how much better Harden is than his competition at attracting whistles from beyond the arc.
If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong. Welcome to this week’s episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (for May 5, 2015), we discuss Floyd Mayweather’s win by unanimous decision over Manny Pacquiao and whether Saturday was the greatest day in the history of sports; round two of the NBA playoffs and what the Spurs’ loss means for their future; and the advent of the new baseball stat Deserve Run Average (DRA). Our significant digit this week is 0.43 — the number of goals conceded per game by Bayern Munich, the best figure of Bayern coach Pep Guardiola’s career.Plus: the latest from our crowdsourcing project to solicit ideas for fixing the NBA draft. We’re picking a winner on next week’s show.Stream the episode by clicking the play button above, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to.Below, some links to what we discuss in this week’s show:How would you fix the NBA draft and stop tanking? Tell us.The Compubox scoresheet for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.Drew Magary of Deadspin tears in to Mayweather’s “cynical” style.Advanced stats for the Spurs over their recent run.FiveThirtyEight previews the second round matchups: Clippers-Rockets | Cavs-Bulls | Grizzlies – Warriors | Hawks-WizardsBaseball Prospectus introduces its new metric Deserved Run Average.Significant Digit: How Pep Guardiola has changed Bayern Munich. Embed Code Hot Takedown More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed
RATINGAVG. SIM. SEASONPLAYOFF CHANCES Seattle has been the best regular-season team in the NWSL for the past two years, earning the most regular-season points each year, but didn’t bring home a title in either. Going into 2016, Seattle is our highest-rated team and has the greatest chance of winning the championship game (31 percent) — thanks in part to the return of two of the league’s best players, Kim Little and Jess Fishlock.The midfield duo locked up a W-League championship in Australia together in the offseason and combine to give the Reign the strongest offensive rating in the league (117.3) — 6 points clear of any other team. Added bonus: Neither of their respective national teams (Scotland and Wales) qualified for the Olympics. Sore spots for the Reign are the retirement of Steph Cox, a staple in the backline for the past two seasons, and the possible absence of outside midfielder Megan Rapinoe because of an ACL injury.FC Kansas City Houston93.187.3220.127.116.11.12594 Chicago103.9101.3107.17.97.05.1472311 TEAMOVERALLOFF.DEF.WLTPLAYOFFSFINALSWIN The league-darling Thorns have a lackluster 2015 finish to thank for their lowish 2016 initial rating. The team lost three of its final four games and failed to make the playoffs for the first time. They probably should be rated higher this year after snagging the No. 1 draft pick, former University of Virginia defender Emily Sonnett, and making arguably the biggest international signing in the NWSL to date, French midfielder Amandine Henry.The Thorns roster is stacked again, but the Olympics are going to hurt this team. Lindsey Horan, Christine Sinclair, Tobin Heath and Meghan Klingenberg will all be gone for much of the summer. And even Allie Long is back dabbling with the national team, meaning that the Thorns could lose some of their usual non-national-team-player firepower too.Sky Blue FC W. New York96.718.104.22.168.85.134135 Two less-than-great seasons into the Dash’s existence, any residual sympathy for the expansion team will dry up for good this season with the addition of Orlando. Our model gives the Dash a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs; the team finished last season just outside of playoff contention, in fifth place, after ending the previous year dead-last. Houston has the solid midfield of Morgan Brian, Carli Lloyd and now Amber Brooks, but defender Meghan Klingenberg was traded in the offseason — a move that, combined with an outstanding hole in central defense, could bring down the team’s defensive rating of 100.4.Orlando Pride Seattle115.7117.3113.810.34.94.978%52%31% Washington99.1102.095.57.37.65.137167 The National Women’s Soccer League will enter its fourth season this weekend, a feat that the previous two professional women’s soccer leagues in the U.S. never achieved. The games begin amid controversy over U.S. women’s national team player salaries and will be disrupted by a mid-season Olympic break. But there are some bright spots too — a salary cap increase and the addition of a 10th franchise, the Orlando Pride, which is trying to break the NWSL attendance record with its home opener against Houston.And for the first time, FiveThirtyEight is forecasting a women’s professional league — complete with offensive and defensive ratings, projected wins, losses and ties, and the chances of each team reaching the playoffs and beyond. To perhaps no one’s surprise, our predictions feature two clear leaders — Seattle Reign FC and FC Kansas City — atop a cluster of teams in the middle (six teams are within 2 points of another team). Below are our initial ratings for the 2016 season: Kansas City113.0110.922.214.171.124.0724425 Sky Blue98.694.3104.07.27.65.136157 The back-to-back champions might feel slighted by their second-place ranking, but personnel changes mean this team is going to look a little different this year. Two national team attackers won’t be around — Lauren Holiday retired, and Amy Rodriguez is pregnant. Sydney Leroux, who was signed in the offseason, will also miss most of the season due to pregnancy. The defense went through an overhaul too, and Kansas City will be looking to fill holes left by the retirement of two veterans, Amy LePeilbet and Leigh Ann Brown. However, Becky Sauerbrunn, the league’s defender of the year in 2015, returns to give FCKC the league’s highest defensive rating (115.7).Chicago Red Stars Now for the gory details: The model we’re using for our NWSL forecast is similar to the one we used during the Women’s World Cup, but it’s built using data from the three NWSL seasons — not the most robust, we know, but it’s what’s available — as well as results from NCAA games between top teams to inform some decisions.Each team has an overall rating made up of its offensive and defensive components. The initial 2016 team ratings are the ones from the end of the 2015 season reverted to the mean by one-third. After each match, a team’s rating will change relative to its expected performance; that is, a strong team could win against a weak team, but if the win wasn’t convincing enough, the team’s rating could decrease.1We use poisson distributions to forecast individual matches. This method tends to undercount the likelihood of ties, so we’ve added some diagonal inflation to push the number of ties up to expectation. Because the Orlando Pride are a new team, we start them with a below-average rating (just like how we handle new franchises in our historical Elo ratings for other sports), and if it turns out that they’re significantly better or worse than this rating, the forecast will adjust quickly.Our model, unfortunately, doesn’t yet use any player ratings — there’s not much good player-level data available. So we wanted to take a look at each team’s personnel strengths and shortcomings, and weigh in on which teams will be most affected by players who will be heading to the Olympics and missing some games — something our model can’t do. It’s not a perfect model, but it’s a good start. And we’ll be fine-tuning it as the season goes on.Seattle Reign FC From a fan perspective, the newest addition to the NWSL looks exciting, but beyond Alex Morgan, who is injured but had been off to a great 2016 with the U.S. national team, there aren’t many players on this team to get really excited about. English forward Lianne Sanderson hardly played at last summer’s World Cup, midfielder Becky Edwards has dipped in and out of national team favor and bounced around NWSL teams, and goalkeeper Harris looks like she’s moved into the third spot on the USWNT. The team’s automated expansion-team rating of 92.3 might seem lower than expected, but then again, the Olympics are going to strip this team of half a dozen of its best players.Boston Breakers Boston88.897.5126.96.36.199.01652 Orlando92.389.2188.8.131.52.12383 With 11 new players this year, the Flash look like a completely different team from last season’s. That’s probably a good thing — the team finished with the second-worst goal differential in 2015. The roster has four federation players — two Canadian and two American — along with five international players, including Colombia’s maligned Lady Andrade and New Zealand team captain Abby Erceg. The Flash also picked up the discarded Thorns head coach Paul Riley.Houston Dash A sixth-place rating for New Jersey’s Sky Blue might be a bit optimistic for a team whose most notable players include a 40-year-old defender recovering from knee surgery (Christie Rampone) and a 32-year-old relic of Sky Blue’s 2009 championship team (Natasha Kai, back after a five-year hiatus from professional soccer). Nonetheless, the team’s initial 2016 rating is bolstered by its strong finish last year — the Sky Blue beat Portland and tied Seattle late in the season (although they did not make the playoffs) — along with a tendency to play better against stronger teams — they posted some of their biggest wins on the road last year. The team has strength on offense in outside-back-turned-NWSL-forward Kelley O’Hara (Disclaimer: another friend), Australian international Sam Kerr and the No. 2 draft pick, Costa Rica’s Raquel Rodriguez — but the Sky Blue lost goalkeeper Brittany Cameron, whose 87 saves last year led the league.Western New York Flash Our model has the Spirit barely edging out the Portland Thorns for the final playoff spot this season, with a slightly higher overall rating that is mostly the result of league-MVP Crystal Dunn’s season-record 15 goals last year. The model gives the Spirit an offensive rating that is even stronger than that of the Red Stars, but the team will have to rely less on Dunn this year because she’ll likely be a part of the U.S. Olympic roster. The Spirit lost head coach Mark Parsons to the Thorns and starting goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to Orlando. Parsons has been replaced by Jim Gabarra, who won just five games with the Sky Blue last season, and Harris will be replaced by Canadian national team keeper Stephanie Labbé.Portland Thorns Portland98.9100.197.37.07.95.132146 That the Boston Breakers are projected to be at the bottom of the pack will not surprise anyone who’s followed the club. It won only four of 20 games last season and six out of 24 in 2014; the team broke even in 2013 (eight wins and eight losses) after firing its coach midseason and opting for a player-coach. The Breakers picked up much-needed defender Whitney Engen (the Breakers allowed 43 goals last season; the regular-season league average was 28) and added two solid non-national-team players to the midfield, Sinead Farrelly and McCall Zerboni. There still isn’t a ton of talent up top, but both Stephanie McCaffrey and Kristie Mewis can score goals if Boston isn’t spending entire games defending. The Red Stars were a surprise in 2015 after back-to-back mediocre seasons, earning their first playoff berth last season before a resounding 3-0 loss to FCKC in the semifinals. Aside from Lori Chalupny, most of the Red Stars’ core players returned this season, including national team forward Christen Press, who tallied 10 goals in just 12 games last season. (Disclaimer: Press is a friend.)Danielle Colaprico, the league’s 2015 rookie of the year, received her first national team call-up this winter and should be a bright spot in the midfield behind Jen Hoy and Sofia Huerta, two pacey forwards that can be very dangerous up top when they’re not struggling to adjust to Press’s style of play. The offseason addition of goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, the likely backup keeper for the national team, will further strengthen a solid Red Stars defense anchored by Julie Johnston.Washington Spirit
The Ohio State field hockey team made an early exit from the Big Ten Tournament after being upset by Penn State Thursday in East Lansing, Mich.The Buckeyes had high aspirations, entering the tournament as the No. 2 seed after finishing 4-2 in the Big Ten. But the Buckeyes lost to the No. 7 seed Penn State, 2-1, in the first round of the conference tournament.Freshman forward Berta Queralt, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, scored the Buckeyes’ lone goal at the 49:01 mark. The goal cut the Nittany Lions’ 2-0 lead in half, but the Buckeyes failed to score again, coming up empty on five penalty corners.Penn State also edged out the Buckeyes during the regular season, winning 2-1 in overtime Oct. 2. Penn State’s two wins over the Buckeyes serve as the team’s only two wins in conference play this season.Out of contention for a Big Ten title, the Buckeyes now hope to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which starts Nov. 14. The selection show for the tournament is at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Baseball is a funny game sometimes. What might seem like the tiniest change in a swing, arm release or stance might make the biggest difference in a player’s game. For Ohio State’s Tim Wetzel, a simple drop in the batting order, from leadoff to second, meant comfort and success. The freshman center fielder started the year as the Buckeyes’ leadoff hitter, and through nine games was only hitting .182 with a .300 on-base percentage. The most important task for a leadoff hitter is to get on base, and Wetzel was not accomplishing that, resulting in just five runs. In the ninth game, against Illinois State, Wetzel was hit by a pitch and injured his wrist, keeping him out of the next six games. When he returned on March 25, he batted second. Since the change, Wetzel’s stats have skyrocketed. He is now hitting .311, and his on-base percentage has risen to .415. In the 15 games since his injury, he has 10 RBIs and has scored 12 runs. More importantly, Wetzel now feels comfortable with where he is hitting. “I’ve never really been a leadoff-type guy, and I’ve always actually thought I should be in the two hole, so when coach said I was going there I got real excited real quick,” Wetzel said. “Now that I get to play a little more and not have to be relied on to get on base, it has just made my confidence go up.” Coach Greg Beals said another factor in Wetzel’s surge has been time. He said it takes at-bats for freshmen to get used to the game’s speed and rhythm, and Wetzel’s wrist injury slowed that process. “Timmy’s just been getting better and better. You are starting to see the college baseball player he is going to be,” Beals said. “He’s starting to be aged and matured and starting to play like an everyday player and not like a freshman.” Wetzel said he was not sure he would be a starter coming into the season but that he knew if he worked hard he had a chance. “I knew it was going to be a lot of competition and it was going to be tough to do, but early on in the fall they gave me a shot, and they moved Brian (DeLucia) to right field,” Wetzel said. “Brian took that like a champ, which is awesome, especially for a senior who wanted to play center field. It speaks volumes about him and the coaching staff having confidence in me.” Senior right fielder Brian DeLucia was Wetzel’s replacement in the leadoff spot. While Wetzel has soared in the No. 2 slot, DeLucia has also filled his new role well, leading the team with 24 runs scored. DeLucia said OSU has several young players who can come through for the team and that both starting freshmen, Wetzel and first baseman Josh Dezse, have been unbelievable. Dezse hits cleanup for the Buckeyes and is the hitter usually knocking Wetzel in to score. Dezse said the two became close last quarter after having two classes together and spending time with each other. He said his faith has remained in Wetzel throughout the season. “He started out a little bit slow, but he’s a kid where that doesn’t affect him,” Dezse said. “He knows that he’s going to perform. We all expected him to come out of that slump, and he obviously has.” The two freshmen finished up a 2-1 series win this weekend against Michigan State in which they provided a big impact for OSU. Wetzel finished the weekend hitting .538 with four RBIs and four runs. He also provided the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the eighth inning in game two of the series. “Being a freshman in the lineup, everyone expects a lot out of you every day,” Wetzel said. “It feels good just to compete like that and help the team.” Wetzel looks to continue that type of success and propel his team for the rest of the season. He said the more games he plays, the easier it gets. But there might be more changes to come. Beals said he sees Wetzel as a leadoff-type hitter, and with DeLucia graduating after this season, he might not always be hitting second. “I like having a left-handed guy (Wetzel) in the two hole to protect the base-stealer in the leadoff spot,” Beals said. “But I’m not sure it’s always going to work out that way in the future.” For now, Wetzel will just have to enjoy the two spot while it lasts.
John Simon’s legacy might be finally cemented. After helping guide Ohio State to a perfect 12-0 season, the senior defensive lineman and captain was named the Big Ten’s Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year Tuesday. “It means a lot to win this award,” Simon said in a released statement. “It is truly a great honor, but first and foremost, it is a team award. “I wouldn’t be given this award if it weren’t for the great play of my teammates.” Simon, who earned the conference’s Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year honor Monday, was also named a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection. But OSU first-year coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes were forced to finish the 2012 campaign against Michigan without Simon – a player Meyer called the “heart and soul” of the team. “I think everyone knows how highly I think of John Simon,” Meyer said in a released statement. “He is absolutely one of the finest young men I have had the privilege to coach. His determination and effort and selfless approach are second to none, and there is no better player or person to be honored with this player of the year award.” While OSU topped the Wolverines, 26-21 to seal its first undefeated season since 2002, Simon, who missed the contest with a knee injury, seemed to struggle with missing his final game as a Buckeye. “It was extremely tough to have to stay on the sidelines that last game and to watch your family go out there and play,” he said. “But they stepped up and got the win and I’ve never been more proud of a group of guys in all my life.” Simon, however, likely had a large role in putting his teammates in such a position. The senior led the conference with nine sacks this season and notched 44 total tackles-14.5 of which were tackles-for-loss. Simon made his last start as a Buckeye against Wisconsin on Nov. 17. He took down Badgers redshirt senior quarterback Curt Phillips four times to tie the program’s single-game record for sacks.
Then-junior midfielder Arielle Cowie looks for an open teammate during a game against Michigan State Oct. 5, 2012, at Buckeye Varsity Field. OSU lost, 1-0.Credit: Courtesy of FacebookOhio State’s field hockey team is set to take to the field against two ranked squads as it heads to Syracuse, N.Y., to play No. 7 Massachusetts and No. 6 Syracuse.The team dominated in its home opener against Missouri State, winning 5-1, but fell in overtime to Bucknell 3-2 last weekend as part of the Buckeye Classic.Coach Anne Wilkinson said the team has stepped up in practice and has been preparing well for this weekend’s matchups.“This week I saw some improvements,” Wilkinson said. “We kind of took a step back this weekend against Bucknell. I think that was definitely a game we could have won … but we’ve been working hard this week.”Despite the improvement Wilkinson said the team still needs to work to be better in other areas.“I think our ball movement, and to control what we can control, and how we move the ball whether it is out of the back or through the midfield, finding different options and being creative, we were working on that,” Wilkinson said. “We were also working on our deep defense, being really responsible for your mark and stepping up and playing low.”Sophomore back Emma Royce said the team is looking at different angles of the game in order to be ready for their top 10 opponents.“We’ve been preparing, just like building up out of the back and now that we are a few games in, we just have that experience under our belts,” Royce said. “We are looking to just hit the main stream of our season.”The Buckeyes are also looking at this weekend in a different way than they have with their previous opponents. Senior midfielder Mona Frommhold said they are going to handle the games with a more relaxed approach.“I think we should calm down,” Frommold said. “The last games we were too sure we were going to win, so since both teams are very good, we should just focus on our game.”Royce said the team is looking forward to the upcoming games and believe they are prepared to handle the competition.“UMass and Syracuse have a really good record, and I’m just like, excited to play some really top teams,” Royce said. “They both have a reputation of having a fighting spirit, so I’m really looking forward to it.”The Buckeyes will take on UMass Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and Syracuse Sunday at 2 p.m.