Nationals

Meyer excited to be on sidelines for The Game

Meyer excited to be on sidelines for The Game

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) In the Meyer household in the 1960s and `70s in Ashtabula, Ohio, it was a virtual holiday when the Michigan-Ohio State game came along each November.

Now Urban Meyer, removed from the rivalry for so long, is back home and an integral part of ``The Game.''

``This is all I knew growing up; it's all anybody knew,'' Meyer said Monday as he spoke for the first time about his No. 4-ranked and unbeaten Buckeyes game on Saturday at Ohio Stadium against the 20th-ranked Wolverines.

``In the era when I grew up, there really wasn't much other than three channels on your television,'' said the 48-year-old Meyer. ``There was this game. It was Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes, Pete Johnson, Archie Griffin. That's all.''

Those memories still burn brightly for Meyer, in his first year coaching at Ohio State (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten).

When he ended a year-long hiatus from coaching (he wasn't far away, working as an ESPN analyst) to take over a downtrodden Ohio State program coming off a loss to Michigan, he made a point of hiring coaches who knew how ingrained The Game is in the culture and consciousness of Michigan, Ohio and the Midwest.

``When I put the staff together, I wanted to make sure that I didn't have to sit there and teach people about (the rivalry),'' Meyer said. ``I wanted this to be close to home. And it is.''

Suddenly, The Game has taken on a new tenor. When Brady Hoke - himself an Ohio native - took the Michigan job two years ago, he slammed his fist down repeatedly on the podium as he emphasized that the annual showdown with the Buckeyes would no longer be an afterthought to the games against Notre Dame and Michigan State.

``Growing up in (Ohio) you knew Bo and Woody and the great fights they had,'' Hoke said on the day he was introduced. ``It is the most important game on that schedule. Not that the others aren't important, but it is the most important game on that schedule. It's almost personal.''

Perhaps the ascension of Meyer and Hoke will reinvigorate the rivalry, much like Schembechler's hiring did. Ohio State was coming off a 50-14 victory in 1968 on the way to winning the national championship. Schembechler, yet another Ohio native with deep roots in the rivalry, came on the leafy Ann Arbor, Mich., campus and reminded his players daily of the shellacking they had taken the year before.

The Wolverines stunned the top-ranked Buckeyes 24-12 in '69, touching off what is commonly called ``The Ten-Year War'' of games contested between the mercurial Hayes and his former Ohio State assistant.

Meyer took the opportunity to take a not-so-subtle shot at Hoke on Monday.

``He was born in the state of Ohio - which I still don't get,'' Meyer said of Hoke. ``That's another story. But I guess it adds to the intensity.''

So the battle lines are already being drawn in a new, updated version of those clashes from 1969-78.

Both sides play silly yet serious word games. Meyer makes it clear that he doesn't want any of his Buckeyes to even utter the word ``Michigan'' - if they do he sends an icy stare their way. His prefers the phrase, just like Woody did, of ``That Team Up North.''

Hoke refuses to call Ohio State by its rightful name. He, along with all his players and coaches, instead call it simply ``Ohio.'' That drives the Buckeyes and their fans, who see it as a sign of disrespect, stark-raving mad.

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was asked Monday what happens to freshmen who slip up and accidentally say Ohio State instead of just Ohio.

``They don't,'' he said.

Hoke implemented the rule when he arrived on campus.

``And, that's just how it is,'' Gardner said.

Meyer has ordered guests wearing a blue shirt at practice to leave and put on something scarlet. Hoke doesn't allow anyone wearing the Buckeyes' colors inside Schembechler Hall.

Both have placed reminders about the rivalry throughout their training facilities.

``It's not just like another week. The intensity is even higher than it normally is,'' Ohio State defensive lineman Garrett Goebel said. ``There are signs all around the weight room saying `Beat That Team Up North.'''

Two coaches of the same generation, from the same state, Meyer and Hoke were steeped in the legends and lore of the series, of playing for bragging rights in November and despising your rival the other 51 weeks of the year, too.

They know that winter seems colder and longer for the loser, while the winner's season is looked upon fondly no matter its record.

``UCLA-USC or Alabama-Auburn or Florida-Georgia, everybody has their rivalry,'' said Meyer, who was the coach at Florida 2005-2010. ``This is home. If you ask me what makes (The Game) unique, it's the fact that I grew up in this state, and this is all you know growing up.''

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

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Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

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USA Today

Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

Stephen Strasburg had the best hitting performance of his career against the Braves Thursday night, going 3-3 at the plate with two singles and a 420-foot three-run bomb. 

He didn't just set personal records but reached rare air in baseball history. He's the second pitcher ever with at least three hits, a HR, and five RBI since the DH debuted in 1973 and the fifth pitcher in the last 50 seasons to get two hits in an inning including a home run. 

Strasburg set franchise firsts with his performance, dating all the way back to the Expos. 

An extraordinary milestone for the Nationals' ace, hopefully Strasburg's performance will inspire the team during a crucial four-game series with Atlanta. 

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‘The Redskins love Alabama guys’: Washington could run old draft playbook in 2020 to fill huge need

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‘The Redskins love Alabama guys’: Washington could run old draft playbook in 2020 to fill huge need

Perhaps no position group on the Redskins has more questions or uncertainty than the wide receivers.

Josh Doctson enters the final year of his rookie contract, and has yet to record over 550 yards in any of his three professional seasons. Washington signed Paul Richardson to a five-year deal in 2018, but he just played in just seven games for the Burgundy and Gold in 2018 before having season-ending shoulder surgery. Second-year receiver Trey Quinn is expected to fill the role in the slot after Jamison Crowder departed for the New York Jets this offseason but has yet to prove anything on the NFL level. 

The Redskins addressed the position during the 2019 NFL Draft, selecting Terry McLaurin in the third round and Kelvin Harmon in the sixth round. But it's unclear how much either one will contribute to the Washington offense in 2019.

So, it's likely the Redskins will need to address the position during the 2020 NFL Draft, and probably very early on it. Well, this works in Washington's favor, because the 2020 wide receiver class is loaded. 

On a recent episode of the Redskins Talk podcast, J.P. Finlay and Pete Hailey spoke with NFL Draft expert Jordan Reid (no, not the Redskins' tight end) about the top wide receiver prospects heading into next year's draft, and which players the Redskins could potentially target.

Before diving into the top 2020 prospects, Reid gave an initial assessment of the current Redskins' receivers.

"The Redskins just don't have that headliner, top go-to guy," Reid said. "They were expecting Josh Doctson to be that when they did draft him in the first round of 2016. But he's had some injuries, and he's already come out and said he's looking forward to free agency. That just not something you want to hear."

Reid was high on McLaurin, though, the first receiver the Redskins selected in 2019.

"They drafted Terry McLaurin in the third round, I liked him a lot even going back to the Senior Bowl," he said. "I think he's going to have a really good year, not just as a receiver but the special teams phase as well. He's going to flash in a lot of ways."

As far as the 2020 draft wide receiver class, one school stands on top, and it's a school the Redskins are very familiar with: Alabama. The Redskins used their first-round picks in 2017 and 2018 on 'Bama guys and signed another Crimson Tide alumni this offseason in safety Landon Collins.

"We know the Redskins love Alabama guys, and there's a lot of [wide receivers] coming out this year," Reid said. "It's not just Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs is another guy that's getting a lot of steam. They're going to have the chance to get the receiver they want. This is a very special wide receiver class."

Crimson Tide receiver Jerry Jeudy is the consensus top receiver in next year's class, but Reid believes his speedy teammate could challenge him for that spot by season's end.

"With Ruggs, I think he's a bit more as far as polished a route runner [than Jeudy]," he said. "I think his hands are a bit better, and I wouldn't be shocked if he runs below a 4.3 at the combine. He can absolutely fly."

If the pair of Alabama receivers currently hold the top two spots for best wide receiver prospect, there's another guy who's right on their heels: Oklahoma's Ceedee Lamb.

"He reminds me a lot of DeAndre Hopkins coming out," Reid said on Lamb. "He's not a thick guy, but he plays much stronger than what he indicates. Very reliable hands, and his body control is out of this world. He had a one-handed catch against UCLA, it didn't count, but it's truly amazing."

As a true sophomore, Lamb totaled 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018. Sure, it may have helped to have Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray under center, but Lamb has proven he's an elite talent.

Two other prospects Reid is keeping an eye on are Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. and Texas' Collin Johnson.

"He's not as polished as some of these other guys, but he's more of a do-it-all type of receiver," Reid said on Shenault Jr. 

Where Shenault may be a do-it-all receiver, Johnson plays to his 6'6 size.

"He's a really good route runner," Reid said on Johnson. "It's just a matter of how consistently can he separate, and how fast he is. If he goes to the Senior Bowl, I think he can light it up."

While many of these guys seem like sure-fire guys, there's still a full season of football to be played before the draft. Players will rise, but just as many, if not more, will fall off.

"You just have to let this play out, that's what happens with the draft process," Reid said. "Guys fall off, and then you have guys that come out of nowhere. Quinton Williams from last year is a prime example. He was a 270-pound defensive end at this time last year; we had no idea who he was and he ends up being the No. 3 overall selection."

But if everything plays out close to how it's expected to, this wide receiver draft class will be one to remember. 

"This class is special man," Reid said. "I think it's going to rival 2014, with Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and all those guys, Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams too. It's going to be very similar to that. It's very special."

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