All posts by Jordan Ray

It’s the 2016 NFL Draft, brought to you by Ohio State

By Jordan Ray

Four years ago, Joey Bosa, Darron Lee, Eli Apple and Ezekiel Elliott took a picture together during an Ohio State football game. They were visiting the school as high school seniors on a recruiting trip.

“I was, like, 16 in that picture,” Apple said. “I just remember it was really cold that game. (Ohio State) put up a lot of points. It was, like, 63-20. Very great game. Very entertaining.”

The group led a massive class of 12 Buckeyes chosen in the 2016 NFL Draft that ended Saturday in Chicago.

“That’s what is expected from Ohio State,” Elliott said. “That’s why we all went to the Ohio State University, because we knew we were going to be prepared to play at the next level.”

Ohio State holds the record with 14 selected in the 2004 draft.

Among those chosen in 2016, Ohio State had five picked in the top 20 (Bosa, Elliott, Apple, Lee and Taylor Decker), including three in the top 10 (Bosa, Elliott and Apple).

“Nobody has higher expectations for ourselves than we do,” Bosa said. “Me and Zeke and Darron would always laugh about (being) first-rounders, (saying) ‘Hey, we’re going to be first-rounders one day.’ Here we are.”

Bosa, a defensive end, was the first Buckeye taken. San Diego picked him with the third overall pick.

“Right after I got called, we all shared a good moment,” Bosa said. “Big hug. I was crying like a baby, of course.”

Five more Buckeyes were picked on Day 2 (Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell, Adolphus Washington, Braxton Miller and Nick Vannett), breaking the record for the most players (10) taken in the first three rounds.

The record for Rounds 1-3 had been eight, set by Tennessee in 2000. It’s also one more than the entire Big 12 conference had selected during that timespan.

The final two Buckeyes went on Day 3. First, the Chargers took linebacker Joshua Perry fourth in the fourth round — with Bosa announcing the pick for their new team.

“He’s one of the hardest workers I know,” Bosa told Chargers.com. “An amazing leader. A physical freak. He’s a big, huge guy at the linebacker position and helped our defense tremendously over the past three years. He’ll do that here in San Diego. It’s a steal for sure to get him in the fourth round.”

The Bills took quarterback Cardale Jones with the final pick of the fourth round.

That gave Ohio State 12 picks for the first four rounds, also an NFL record for one school. That’s three more then the mark held by the 2004 and 2006 Buckeyes.

Despite winning the national title last year, Alabama had seven.

“I’m happy for those Ohio State guys,” said Alabama’s Reggie Ragland, who went to Buffalo in the second round. “We got real close during this process and (Ezekiel Elliott) told me it’s a hard few days for him. We joke about it right now,
but I’m not mad about it.”

Photo at top: Ezekiel Elliot takes the NFL Draft red carpet Thursday night. Elliot was the second of 12 Ohio State players selected during the three day draft. (Lena Blietz/MEDILL)

NFL Draft: Tide turns for Alabama trio on Day 2

By Jordan Ray

Defensive standouts Reggie Ragland, A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed were on the field when Alabama won its 16th national title in January.

All three were in the Green Room on Thursday night at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.

All three were waiting to be drafted by the NFL in the first round.

None of them were selected.

Until Friday, that is.

In the second round. Continue reading

NFL Draft: Goff, Wentz go 1-2; Tunsil tumbles to 13

By Jordan Ray

Last month, Laremy Tunsil was the Tennessee Titans’ presumptive No. 1 overall draft pick. Two late trades made it no surprise that the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles ended up selecting quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz first and second, respectively, Thursday night.

The surprise happened to Tunsil just minutes before the draft. A video apparently showing him smoking an unknown substance out of a gas mask posted to his Twitter account. And one NFL team after another passed on the Ole Miss offensive tackle at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre.

The NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reported that the Baltimore Ravens, choosing No. 6, took Tunsil completely off their draft board.

Day 1: Jordan Ray’s Winners and Losers

Winners

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags were in an interesting spot at No. 5 and benefited the most from San Diego’s and Dallas’ surprising picks. They landed my top defender in the draft in cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Miami Dolphins: Miami came out the biggest winners of Tunsil’s tumble, landing arguably the top player in the draft with the No. 13 pick. While the video is a concern, you can’t teach his combination of size and athleticism.

Losers

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders have been getting a lot of praise lately (and rightfully so) for putting together a solid team, but their pick doesn’t make a lot of sense. Taking a safety in the first feels like a reach, and I had Florida’s Keanu Neal (whom Atlanta took at No. 17) rated higher than Karl Joseph.

Denver Broncos: After losing Brock Osweiler in free agency to the Houston Texans, the Broncos needed a quarterback. They ended up trading for a guy I gave a second-round grade in Paxton Lynch. Not a fan of the pick.

Even the Titans, who had a chance to take Tunsil at No. 8, said no.

Finally, the Miami Dolphins said yes, at No. 13.

“Man, somebody hacked into my account,” Tunsil said. “I made that mistake several years ago. Somehow, somebody got in my photos and hacked my Twitter account.”

Tunsil said he has no idea who hacked his account, but owned up to the video.

“I made a mistake, a huge mistake,” Tunsil said. “Things happened that I can’t control.”

In the end, the drama over the top two picks was essentially forgotten. For days, the biggest draft question involved which quarterback would go to the Rams.

Goff was expected to get the nod.

And he did.

“They said, ‘Are you ready to be an L.A. Ram?’ “ Goff said. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ ”

Then the Eagles made Wentz he first North Dakota State player ever drafted in the first round.

“I feel great. It’s exciting. It was awesome,” Wentz said. “I didn’t have to sit there very long either.”

Last season, quarterbacks also went 1-2, with Jameis Winston going to Tampa Bay and then Marcus Mariota heading to Tennessee. Both decided to skip the draft’s return to Chicago after 50 years in New York.

Goff and Wentz opted for Chicago.

“Initially, I wanted to just be back with my family – that type of attitude,” Wentz said.“Then I realized it’s a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. … I’m glad I came.”

Before the draft, the San Diego Chargers had appeared a good bet to take Tunsil, but they chose Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa third overall.

“Talk is talk,” Bosa said. “I’m sure (when) you look at the mock draft, there’s very few that actually guess right.”

The Dallas Cowboys followed with Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott at No. 4. Three Buckeyes (Bosa, Elliott and cornerback Eli Apple) were taken in the top 10 five in the first round.

“That’s what is expected from Ohio State,” Elliott said. “That’s why we all went to the Ohio State University, because we knew we were going to be prepared to play at the next level.”

The Titans bypassed Tunsil in favor of Michigan State offensive tackle Jack Conklin. Then the Chicago Bears traded up two spots to No. 9 with Tampa Bay, giving up a fourth-rounder and the No. 11 overall pick, and took Georgia
linebacker Leonard Floyd.

Eventually, the Dolphins ended Tunsil’s slide.

“It just gives me a chip on my shoulder when I get into the league,” Tunsil said. “They (Miami) said they’re excited to have me.”

Photo at top: Jared Goff heard “California Love” by Tupac play as he shook Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand Thursday night at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. (Hannah Gebresilassie/Medill)

NFL Draft: Goff, then Wentz? Wentz, then Goff? That’s for Rams to decide

By Jordan Ray

Which will it be?

When the Los Angeles Rams are on the clock April 28 at Roosevelt University’s Auditorium Theatre in Chicago for the 2016 NFL Draft, which quarterback’s name will they send in as the No. 1 overall pick?

“We know (it will be a quarterback),” ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said April 14 on his weekly podcast. “We just don’t know which one it will be.”

Will it be Cal’s Jared Goff? Continue reading

Why Michigan State’s Connor Cook is the key to stemming the Crimson Tide

By Jordan Ray

Connor Cook has done a lot of winning at Michigan State.

He has won a Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, a Rose Bowl, a Cotton Bowl and two Big Ten championship games.

He has won 34 games as a starter, more than any quarterback in Michigan State history and more than any active quarterback in college football.

He has won the 2015 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for the nation’s top senior quarterback as well as MVP honors in the Rose Bowl and both Big Ten championship games.

Continue reading

Outback Bowl seems inevitable for Northwestern football

By Jordan Ray

After his team beat Illinois last weekend, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald made it clear he wasn’t happy with how the College Football Playoff committee has been ranking his team.

“I saw a team (Stanford) ranked X amount of spots ahead of us that we beat,” Fitzgerald told reporters. “I don’t get it. Pop on the tape, and watch the film. Our kids dominated that game, and I don’t think they get any credit.”

Maybe he’ll feel better about Tampa.

Continue reading

Northwestern, Illinois battle for Chicago at Soldier Field

By Jordan Ray

For Northwestern, it’s a chance to get one step closer to making program history.

For Illinois, it’s a chance to prove Chicago isn’t just the domain of one Big Ten football team.

The Wildcats and Illini face off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Soldier Field for the first time in the rivalry’s 123-year history. The teams played in Chicago in 2010, but that was at Wrigley Field in a bizarre game that required offensive possessions for both teams to go in the same direction for safety concerns.

Continue reading

Northwestern survives Purdue, awaits Wisconsin showdown

By Jordan Ray

Northwestern entered its game against Purdue as a 14-point favorite.

So it was a little surprising when the score was tied with five minutes left.

“You’re not just going to walk on the field and blow a team out,” Northwestern sophomore running back Justin Jackson said. “It’s not how it works, especially in the Big Ten.”

NU Justin Jackson
Northwestern running back Justin Jackson. (Big Ten)

It’s certainly not how it has worked lately for Northwestern, which now has won its last three games by a total of 11 points. This one wasn’t pretty, but Northwestern (8-2, 4-2 Big Ten) eked out a 21-14 win Saturday against Purdue (2-8, 1-5 Big Ten) at Ryan Field, thanks to big days from Jackson and the Wildcats defense.

The win sets up a top-25 matchup against Wisconsin next weekend that will likely have major postseason implications as Northwestern pursues a New Year’s Six bowl game, as well as its first 11-victory season.

Continue reading

Game-winning field goal leads Northwestern past Penn State

By Jordan Ray

In the first quarter, Northwestern kicker Jack Mitchell missed a field goal.

In the second quarter, he missed an extra point.

In the third quarter, he missed another field goal.

In the fourth quarter, he won the game.

Continue reading

Northwestern football’s turnaround a matter of time

By Jordan Ray

In Northwestern’s first five games, it allowed only 35 points.

The Wildcats gave up 106 in their three games since.

The defense that carried the Wildcats to a 5-0 start and No. 13 ranking in the Associated Press poll unraveled down the stretch as the team lost two straight and almost a third entering the bye week.

“When you don’t play well for a couple of weeks, everybody kind of casts you aside,” coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “You look at the way people are talking about Stanford. We shut ’em down. … We went to Durham, and we shut them down. That’s the team that we’re capable of.”

Continue reading