Tuesday night did not go the way the Indiana Pacers had hoped. Seeking to close out the Washington Wizards in Indianapolis, the home team instead lost by 23 points in a game that was all but over before the fourth quarter began.The Pacers were outplayed in a number of areas, but nowhere more so than in the rebounding battle. The final tally was 62-23 in favor of the Wizards, making it the largest rebounding differential in the NBA playoffs going back to the 1985-86 season.There were two challenges for the Pacers on Tuesday night: They didn’t get themselves in position to grab rebounds, and they didn’t convert those opportunities when they had them.The Pacers rely heavily on their starting five, a reliable rebounding group for most of the season. Of the 21 lineups in the league that played at least 400 minutes together this season, the Pacers’ starters grabbed 51.7 percent of available rebounds — ninth best in the league. But the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking data can give us a closer look at how well that unit usually rebounds and exactly how atrocious its performance was on the glass in Game 5.SportVU Player Tracking statistics include rebound chances, defined as any time a player was within 3.5 feet of a rebound (multiple players can meet that definition for a single shot). Rebound chances can be compared with actual rebounds to calculate a conversion percentage for each player. It’s important to remember those multiple opportunities here. Even if the Pacers grabbed every rebound, their conversion percentage might not be 100 percent because more than one teammate could have earned a rebound chance by being around the ball on a single shot.Here we can see the dramatic drop off in both rebound opportunities and conversions in Game 5. The Pacers starters put themselves in rebounding position far less often and lost far more of those individual rebounding battles than they usually do. Circling back to total rebound percentage, we find this group grabbed just 25 percent of the available rebounds in the 20 minutes they played together in Game 5.This performance can’t be pinned entirely on the Pacers; the Wizards were aggressive from the opening tip and deserve plenty of credit for forcing the Pacers into this kind of drab performance. Wizards center Marcin Gortat was a force, pulling in 16 rebounds on 24 rebound chances. But this kind of rebounding disparity requires effort (or the lack thereof) from both teams.It’s unlikely the Pacers will put up another rebounding performance this disastrous, but the damage may be done. By allowing themselves to be so thoroughly pushed around on the interior, they have given the Wizards new life.
The Brooklyn Nets lost to the Portland Trail Blazers 108-98 on Monday night at Barclays Center, handing the Blazers their seventh straight victory.The Nets scored on 19 of their first 20 possessions en route to a 40-point opening quarter, but things soon cooled off after Portland’s defense settled in.“I thought it was a testament to our guys as far as how they competed,” said Portland head coach Terry Stotts. “They never lost confidence, they kept competing and kept chipping away at it. When you have that belief that you can do something it makes it easier.”For Portland, Wesley Matthews netted 24 points in the win, while Damian Lillard contributed 19 points and nine assists and Mo Williams added 12 points off the bench.“It never felt like we were out of the game,” said Matthews. “They were on a roll and we weren’t getting any stops, we never felt out of the game.”Portland trailed 63-56 at halftime before assuming control midway through the third quarter. Matthews tied the score at 69-69 with a driving layup and Aldridge hit a jumper moments later to put the Blazers in front.In the fourth quarter, Mo Williams’ floater in the lane with four seconds left had Portland’s lead at eight points heading into the final frame. Portland quickly pushed its lead to double figures and kept it until Paul Pierce hit a layup making it 105-96 but with 1:03 left in the game the Nets never recovered.Following the game, the Nets, who fall to 3-7 on the season, held a players-only meeting. According to the NY Post, guard Joe Johnson spoke about the private huddle, stating,“Just talking about the game, and what we’ve got to figure out…We’ve just got to get some chemistry, because when we get stagnant to where we can’t get a bucket, we have to have something we can go to and we’ve just got to figure it out.”
The NBA regular season ends Wednesday, and the playoffs begin Saturday. And with that in mind, we’re going to shake things up a bit with regard to FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Power Ratings.Until now, we’ve ranked every team according to a projection of its true talent over the upcoming week — and the upcoming week only — using Real Plus-Minus (RPM) player ratings provided by Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi. (For more details on the original methodology, see our introductory rankings post.)But this week, with many teams resting key players in preparation for the playoffs, we’re ranking every team according to its projected playoff power rating. This means we’re projecting every team to be at “full strength” in terms of minutes given to players who will be available for the postseason, instead of only projecting for the next week. Playoff probabilities and expected end-of-season wins are still driven by projected minute distributions over the next few days, but the power ratings themselves have been geared to capture the talent that each team is bringing into the playoffs.With the playoffs being emphasized more in our ratings, it’s fitting that the San Antonio Spurs rank in the top two for the first time since early February. They’ve won 11 straight games, a run backed up by the underlying talent of one of the league’s best teams.The Atlanta Hawks also benefit from our switch to “playoff power” — while Thabo Sefolosha’s bizarre season-ending injury hurts their chances of winning the championship, we’ve boosted the playing time for many of their good players who have consistently been listed as day-to-day in the injury report in recent weeks.As for teams on the fringe of the playoffs, we noted last week that the Boston Celtics were basically a coin flip to make the playoffs, battling it out with the Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers for one of the two remaining postseason slots in the Eastern Conference. A week later, the Celtics have all but completely claimed their spot; our model now gives them a 98.9 percent probability of making the playoffs.By the same token, the Heat have almost completely dropped out of the race, with just a 2.4 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason. That leaves the Nets and Pacers to fight over one spot with two games left per team. Our calculations give Brooklyn the inside track largely because of the team’s possession of the tiebreaker over Indiana, in addition to an easier remaining schedule (the Nets face the No. 9 Chicago Bulls and No. 23 Orlando Magic; Indiana faces No. 7 Memphis and No. 15 Washington).Out West, the race for the No. 8 seed is between the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Pelicans have the edge in our simulations. Oklahoma City is marginally more talented, according to RPM, and is even projected to win fractionally more games on average, but New Orleans holds the tiebreaker over the Thunder.In no small part because of those tiebreakers, there’s a 45 percent probability that the Nets and Pelicans will be the final two teams to slip into the playoffs when the season ends Wednesday.
Quenton Nelson looks exactly like a franchise-cornerstone left tackle: Standing 6 foot 5, 325 pounds, Nelson is “built like a bank safe” and blessed with the athleticism and aggressiveness to be a perennial All-Pro. The quarterback’s protector is often called the second-most-important offensive position, so it’s no wonder that Nelson’s in the mix to be the first non-quarterback to be picked in this year’s draft.But one thing does separate Nelson from other highly coveted tackles on draft day: He isn’t a tackle. He’s a guard.How players at one position in the NFL’s otherwise-anonymous quintet of trench warriors became some of American sports’ most-prized athletes is a story so well-known it was turned into a best-selling book, and even a movie: The uniquely gifted protectors of “The Blind Side” emerged in the 1990s to stop the pass-rushing outside linebackers of the 1980s, like eight-time All-Pro Lawrence Taylor.For years afterward, teams trying to land the next Orlando Pace or Walter Jones had no qualms about throwing high draft picks at top tackles. Even less-than-perfect tackle prospects like Michigan’s Jake Long and Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher were deemed “safe” picks at No. 1 overall — because unlike quarterbacks, who are unlikely to play another position well, if those tackles fail to establish themselves as quality starters, teams have the option of kicking them inside to guard.As recently as 2012, guards were still afterthoughts, not worthy of the draft-value (and contract) investment that comes with a high first-round selection. Outstanding guard prospect David DeCastro, whom many evaluators deemed worthy of at least a top-10 pick, didn’t come off the board until No. 24 that year.In the 32-team era,1Since 2002. 62 tackles have been drafted in the first round compared to just 14 guards. On average, those tackles were taken with the 14th pick, while the average guard went between 23 and 24. In fact, after “The Blind Side” was released in September 2006, NFL teams went on a four-year tackle binge, drafting 19 first-round tackles compared to just three centers and two guards.Last season, though, the market for elite tackles seemed to dry up. Only two — Garett Bolles and Ryan Ramczyk — went in the first round, and both were picked in the back end of the round (20 and 32 respectively). After Alabama’s Cam Robinson was taken with the second pick of the second round, which was lower than most expected, no tackles were taken until pick No. 85. To get a sense of how high in the draft tackles have tended to go over time, we can quantify pick position using Jimmy Johnson’s draft-pick value chart, which assigns a point value to every pick in the draft based solely on how early the pick is, not on which player is taken. Last year, the picks used on tackles in rounds one and two were worth a total of 2000 points, the lowest sum since at least 1994. By comparison, the picks used on the six tackles taken in the first two rounds in 2013 were worth more than 10,000 points. The trend of devaluing tackles seems certain to continue in the 2018 NFL draft. After Nelson, tackle Mike McGlinchey (average mock draft position: 22.2) is the next offensive lineman projected to go. But then it’s a run of interior linemen: Center James Daniels (28.5) and guards Isaiah Wynn (28.8) and Will Hernandez (28.9) are all set to be drafted ahead of the only other tackle who’s projected to be taken on the draft’s first night, Kolton Miller (31.2).If Miller doesn’t make it into the first round, it’ll be the first time that fewer than two tackles have been drafted in any first round since “The Blind Side” was released, and it would match the 2005-2006 nadir for high-pick tackles — only three tackles were taken in the first round in each of those two back-to-back draft classes.It’s not like NFL teams suddenly decided that the offensive line isn’t important, it’s more that the value pendulum is shifting away from left tackle. If Nelson goes as high as he’s expected to, he’ll be the third guard picked in the top 10 in the last six seasons (the fourth if you count Washington’s Brandon Scherff, who was drafted as a tackle but has since become a Pro Bowl guard2Washington initially tried Scherff at tackle before switching him to guard in his first training camp.). Before Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper went in the top 10 in 2013, no guard had been picked that high in a dozen years.3Leonard Davis went No. 2 overall in 2001 as a guard, though he went on to play both tackle and guard in the NFL.But it’s not just draft capital that teams are investing in a previously neglected position.This spring, All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell signed a five-year, $66.5 million unrestricted free-agency deal that briefly made him the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman. Though former New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder’s four-year, $62 million contract with the New York Giants topped Norwell’s $13.3 million average annual value, Norwell remains No. 2.In 2016, the five biggest free-agency deals4In terms of contracts’ average annual value. given to offensive linemen went to left tackles. In 2017, half of the eight offensive-line contracts worth at least $10 million per year went to left tackles — but the other half went to three guards and a center. In 2018, Solder’s was the only one of the top six offensive-line deals that did not go to a guard or center.So why the sudden change? For starters, the evolution of the left tackle was a response to a defensive revolution that’s been over for a long time; Taylor’s 10-season Pro Bowl streak ended 27 years ago. From Dick LeBeau’s zone blitzes to Jim Johnson’s and Jim Schwartz’s aggressive 4-3s, Wade Phillips’s one-gap 3-4 schemes to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia’s hybrid/multiple fronts attack, defensive coordinators have as many different ways to send pass rushers at quarterbacks as there are gaps between offensive linemen.According to ESPN Stats & Information Group, 36 percent of the 1,082.5 sacks by front-seven players in 2017 were registered by a player lined up at right defensive end or right outside linebacker. That means even a Hall of Fame left tackle can’t possibly help with at least two-thirds of the pressure that defenses are generating.Then there’s the fact that quarterbacks don’t really have a “blind side” anymore. The heavy use of shotgun formation in today’s NFL allows quarterbacks to keep the whole defense in front of them. According to ESPN Stats & Info, just 13,319 of 32,436 offensive plays (41 percent) were run from under center in 2017– and of those, a quarterback dropped back to pass on just 4,201 plays (13 percent of all offensive plays).The average left tackle, then, will only be called upon to keep his quarterback clean during a traditional dropback about 1/8th of the time he’s on the field.But don’t tell Nelson, Wynn, Hernandez or any of the other guards set to be drafted this weekend that the value of offensive linemen has crashed. They’re about to prove that the NFL has finally figured out that anyone who can get keep a pass-rusher from getting to a quarterback is worth an awful lot — regardless of where he’s positioned on the line.
OSU sophomore Keita Bates-Diop (33) takes a free throw in a game against Louisiana Tech on Nov. 24 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost 82-74. Credit: Maria Martello | Lantern PhotographerIn Ohio State coach Thad Matta’s head coaching career, he has stood on the sideline for 531 games.He has won 403 of those, while dropping 128. But in none of those 531 contests has his team had more losses than wins in the record column.That will change on Tuesday, as the Buckeyes (2-3) are set to welcome No. 10 Virginia (5-1) to the Schottenstein Center for a 7:30 p.m. matchup as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.OSU’s season started off without any noteworthy results, grabbing 20-plus-point victories over a pair of unspectacular opponents. The wheels came off from there, however, as consecutive home losses to Texas-Arlington and Louisiana Tech dropped OSU to .500, before an overtime loss to Memphis in Miami gave Matta a losing record for the first time in his career.Sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate said having a losing record comes as a shock when a player comes to a school like OSU, but the team has to keep its composure and keep getting back on track.“None of us expected to be 2-3, but we’ve just got to stay the course,” Tate said. “We have to learn how to grow, how to improve every week in practice.”Tate and fellow sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop each offered the same two culprits for the Buckeyes’ struggles: turnovers and poor free-throw shooting.“We’re not losing games by a lot. They’re close games. It’s just the turnovers, we have to cut back on those, and make our free throws,” Bates-Diop said. “We could be getting different questions right now if we’re doing that.”The Buckeyes are turning the ball over 16.2 times per game, ranking 323rd in the nation out of 346 qualifying Division I schools. Virginia, on the other hand, ranks second with just 7.5 turnovers per game.Matta said the praise for the Cavaliers’ efficiency lies with coach Tony Bennett, who is now in his seventh season in Charlottesville, Virginia.“I think Tony Bennett has done a tremendous job in terms of coming in and establishing that program … I don’t think Virginia gets the respect of other schools, but they’re as good as any of them, that’s for sure,” Matta said.For the Buckeyes, Tate said it is never easy to snap a losing streak, and the team is unlikely to get any help against a team like the Cavaliers. Still, he said the team is trying its hardest to keep its focus one game at a time.“Any loss will have an impact on your confidence, but coach is doing a great job telling us to stay the course,” Tate said. “Teams go through losses all the time, it’s just how you bounce back the next game.”A glance at the CavaliersVirginia comes into Tuesday night’s matchup 5-1, with the lone loss coming in a second-game hiccup at George Washington.While the quality of its other five opponents hasn’t been the strongest, Matta said he has been more than impressed with what he’s watched.“They’re as good of a basketball team as I’ve seen this year … They’re such a great blend of the positions, inside, outside,” Matta said. “It’s definitely a veteran basketball team that’s going to be a great challenge for us.”Virginia — which earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament a season ago but was ultimately upset by Michigan State in the Round of 32 — uses a balanced offensive attack rather than relying on a go-to scorer.Redshirt senior guard Malcolm Brogdon leads the team with 16.7 points per game. The 2014-15 AP All-American Second-Team recipient has also chipped in 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.The Cavaliers have shot exceptionally well this season, shooting the ball at a 51.7 percent clip from the field while holding opponents to 39.1 percent. Those marks rank 13th and 74th in the nation, respectively.“They’re a great defensive team,” Tate said. “They run a lot of offense through their post, so post defense will be really key. We’ve just got to execute and take care of the ball.”Up nextAfter the Cavaliers, the Buckeyes are set to resume action on Saturday against another school from the 10th state — Virginia Military Institute. Tip is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.
OSU freshman Luke Fletcher celebrates his first varsity victory over Missouri’s Zach Synon. Credit: Sam Janicki. Courtesy of OSU AthleticsFollowing a dominant 30-12 victory at Maryland on Jan. 22, the No. 4 Ohio State wrestling team will take on No. 3 Iowa on the road this week and top-ranked Penn State at home next week.The absence of junior Kyle Snyder, the returning national champion at heavyweight, this week could spell trouble for OSU late in the dual. He is currently representing the United States in the Ivan Yarygin Memorial Grand Prix in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.“There are no better opportunities in our schedule than these opportunities to really learn a lot about where we are,” OSU coach Tom Ryan said. “You’ve got a great team in Iowa, in an away venue, and then you’ve got another opportunity at home, in front of the home crowd, to wrestle (against Penn State).”The matchup against Iowa will feature a plethora of marquee matchups, including fifth-ranked 149-pounder Micah Jordan (OSU) against second-ranked Brandon Sorensen (Iowa), tenth-ranked 184-pounder Myles Martin (OSU) against fifth-ranked Sammy Brooks (Iowa) and first-ranked 133-pounder Nathan Tomasello (OSU) against fourth-ranked Cory Clark (Iowa).Micah Jordan missed last week’s action against Maryland due to illness, along with his brother — 174-pounder Bo Jordan — and 125-pounder Jose Rodriguez.“I haven’t wrestled anyone (ranked) at one or two yet,” Micah Jordan said. “The next two weeks I have No. 2 and then No. 1, so I’m really excited to see where I’m at.”In addition to the tough team matchups, many of the wrestlers will face their most talented opponents yet.“We’ve wrestled some tough teams, but I’m just really looking forward to these next couple of matches,” Martin said. “Especially for me, a lot of the guys I have are top five in the country.”Over the next four matchups, all of Martin’s projected opponents are ranked in the top 13, including No. 5 Sammy Brooks (Iowa) and No. 2 Bo Nickal (Penn State).Bo Jordan did not compete against Maryland, but could have wrestled if needed. Ryan held him out in order to give him another week to recover from injury, and prepare for the tough task ahead.“If we needed him to step in there to win the dual, we could’ve wrestled him,” Ryan said. “But, logically, it made no sense to risk further injury when you’ve got Iowa coming up next weekend.”The Buckeyes look to be in good health, as the only starter expected to be out is Snyder in the heavyweight division.“Kyle (Snyder) gives you a sense that, of the 10 weights, we’re getting bonus points in this weight, so we’re going to need for (redshirt senior heavyweight) Josh Fox to really step up,” Ryan said. “There’s much less room for error, so it’s just compete to the best of your ability.”The match will start at 8 p.m. on Friday in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.
Near the midway point of its 2009-10 campaign, the Ohio State men’s hockey team will host the team up north.This weekend, the Buckeyes (4-5-1 CCHA, 6-9-1 overall) will host the Michigan Wolverines (3-5-0 CCHA, 7-7-0 overall) in a vital CCHA rivalry matchup. The contests aren’t only significant because of the schools’ historic rivalry, but because they provide an opportunity for both teams to move up in the CCHA standings as both squads move closer to the main stretch of the season.Ohio State trails the all-time series with Michigan, 29-64-11, and has lost six of the past 10 meetings.Michigan currently sits near the CCHA cellar in 11th place, while OSU checks in at the eighth spot. The Buckeyes will be storming into this series riding one of their finest victories of the season after defeating No. 6 Bemidji State in overtime 2-1 on Nov. 28. OSU also improved its record to 5-2-1 in Saturday’s contests. The Buckeyes will look to turn around their abysmal 1-7-0 record on Friday.Coming off of a 29-12-0 overall record and a 20-8-0 CCHA record, in which it led the CCHA in overall team offense and was tied for the best team defense, Michigan was skating into this season with dreams of a CCHA championship.It looked as if the Wolverines would follow the coaches and media poll predictions of being in the top spot in the CCHA as they started 4-2. But contests versus elite opponents such as Miami University and Michigan State humbled Michigan as it fell in five consecutive contests.However, the Wolverines have turned the page, as the team has won its past three contests while outscoring its opponents 13-3.Both schools’ coaches have left a significant mark on their school’s program. Red Berenson is in his 26th year as the coach of the Wolverines. He has also accounted for two of Michigan’s NCAA-record nine NCAA Division I championships.John Markell is in his 14th season behind the Ohio State bench. He has led the Buckeyes to the NCAA tournament five times, the only appearances in program history.Michigan will enter this weekend’s contests hosting a number of the CCHA’s best offensive players. Junior forward Carl Hagelin leads the Wolverines with 12 points and seven goals. Fellow junior forwards Matt Rust and Louie Caporusso have scored 11 and 10 goals apiece, respectively.Junior goalie Bryan Hogan has started between the poles every contest for the Wolverines and hosts an impressive .903 save percentage and a goals allowed per game average of 2.30.Zac Dalpe is the Buckeyes’ lead scorer. The junior has a team-high nine goals and 17 points.Ohio State has two goaltenders who stand in the crease every other contest. Sophomore Cal Heeter currently holds a superior record to senior goaltender Dustin Carlson, at 5-2-1 compared to 1-7-0. But Carlson actually holds a better save percentage, .908 to Heeter’s .907.This weekend’s matchup between the two schools will add another chapter to one of the most historic rivalries in collegiate sports. OSU will host Michigan at the Schottenstein Center Friday at 7:05 p.m. and Saturday at 8:05 p.m.
Parents always tell their children to appreciate the little things people do: hold the door open for a stranger, say “please” and “thank you,” don’t underestimate the power of a smile. It’s time for Ohio State fans to start appreciating the little things that men’s basketball coach Thad Matta does for the OSU program.Matta has put Buckeye basketball on the map. He keeps the program’s image clean and clear of the NCAA’s compliance department. Even when courting high profile high school prospects, Matta follows the rules. There’s never been a whisper of recruiting violations since he’s been at the helm. There’s no baggage attached to him like a John Calipari or Kelvin Sampson.With regard to recruiting, Matta is a regular Rembrandt. His ability to recruit is second to none, from finding diamonds in the rough (see Evan Turner) to bringing in superstar classes such as the “Thad Five” and this year’s “Super Six.” He doesn’t just recruit players, he recruits good people. Matta’s players regularly stay out of trouble.Before taking over as the head of Buckeye basketball, Matta enjoyed an incredible run of success at Butler and Xavier. In his first and only season at Butler, he coached the Bulldogs to 24 wins and to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. At Xavier, Matta posted three consecutive 26-win seasons and an Elite Eight appearance, the furthest the Musketeers have ever advanced in the tournament. In five-and-a-half seasons in Columbus, he’s posted a record of 141-52, already good for third all-time in OSU history, and guided the Buckeyes to a National Championship game in 2007. He’s one of two coaches to win 20 or more games in each of his first nine seasons as a head coach.Matta’s personality also stands out. Watch him during a game. He’s the polar opposite of Jim Tressel. He looks like he’s in a Richard Simmons video, jumping around and shuffling up and down the sideline. Matta does his share of yelling and screaming, both at his players and the officials, but he’s also not afraid to crack a smile or dish out encouragement. He’s also a bit of an oddball. Last year in a home game against Wisconsin, Matta was chewing a piece of gum when it subsequently dropped from his mouth to the gym floor, which of course had been dirtied for the past hour or so by the player’s sneakers. Laws of sanitation be damned, Matta, an obvious follower of the five second rule, quickly picked up the wad of gum, popped it back into his mouth, and started chomping away. Tell me another coach that would have done that. Certainly not The Vest.Matta is under contract through 2016 and makes $2.5 million a year, which makes him the fourth highest-paid college basketball coach in the country. Presumably, the job is his for life, which is pretty good job security for a guy who turns 43 in July. But Ohio State is the epitome of a football school. If jobs opened up at schools where basketball reigns supreme such as Kansas or Duke, Athletic Director Gene Smith might get a little nervous. A little appreciation goes a long way. Start by heading to the Schottenstein Center sometime this season and supporting Matta and his troops.
The Senior Bowl, held in Mobile, Ala., is an opportunity for senior football players to showcase their talents in front of pro scouts and coaches. And Former Ohio State football players Ross Homan and Dane Sanzenbacher were invited to the field. Homan and Sanzenbacher understand the importance of the opportunity. “The best players in the nation are out here, competing and trying to showcase their skills,” Homan said. Being at your best and separating yourself from the rest is something Homan said is crucial in a game like this. “It’s very important. You’re always being evaluated every time you step on the field,” Homan said. “It’s a huge job interview; that’s the way I look at it.” Sanzenbacher agreed. “It’s an opportunity for you to show your talents and stand out from everybody else,” he said. Since the Sugar Bowl, Homan and Sanzenbacher have been training for the NFL draft process. Both were recently invited to the NFL Combine, and both said they plan to attend. During practice, Homan said coaches and scouts have been telling him to keep doing what he is doing and to relax and play to his ability. Sanzenbacher, who was a late addition to the Senior Bowl, had his first day of practice Tuesday, and said the competition there is one of a kind. “You can’t really replace that competition. It makes everybody better,” he said. “You’re working with some of the best players in the nation and it makes every rep that much more critical.” Being so close to the NFL, Homan said he is ready to make the most of the opportunity. “It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I have dreamed of it since I was a little kid, and now I have the opportunity to make it a reality.” Sanzenbacher said the feeling is surreal. “It’s weird. It doesn’t feel that close,” Sanzenbacher said. “There’s still a lot of steps that you need to go through to actually put on that jersey and play in the NFL.” Homan’s ultimate goal is to be a success and leave nothing undone. “Just be successful; just have no regrets,” Homan said. “Never look back and wish I could have done this or could have done that.” Sanzenbacher has different ambitions. “(I want) to put myself in a position to be successful after football,” Sanzenbacher said. “Obviously you want to play well and take (football) as far as you can, but ultimately, while you’re playing, set yourself up for the future.” Neither Homan nor Sanzenbacher has a preference of what team he would like to compete for. They said would just be grateful for the chance to play in the NFL. Sanzenbacher said he would never forget the experiences he had playing for OSU. “It kind of made me the football player that I am,” he said. “Being able to run out on Senior Day, to get your name announced as captain and your family on the field was definitely up there for me.” What Homan will remember most about OSU is his success on the team. “The close games, battles, sealing the deal on Big Ten championships,” Homan said. “Everything we’ve won, I’ll keep memory of.” The Senior Bowl will be televised at 4 p.m. Saturday on the NFL Network.