This year’s Major League Baseball trade-deadline fire sale mostly went to script, headlined by the Jon Lester/Yoenis Cespedes mega deal where the Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox helped each other out in the usual fashion: One got to clear millions in salaries off the books while gaining a few parts, and the other obtained a high-impact starter for its championship run. The wrinkle in this case is that the team doing the dumping is big-market, big-payroll Boston, and the one gearing up for the post-season is small market, small-payroll Oakland.For a good breakdown of this trade, see Jonah Keri’s piece in Grantland. Here’s a quote that had me laughing at my desk:It’s hard to blame GM Ben Cherington for embracing the fire-sale approach. … Even if Lester leads the A’s to World Series glory, it still looks like the Sox made out like bandits in this deal.So one team may substantially increase its chances of winning the World Series, while the other makes out like bandits! Keri is absolutely right though: The reason these fire-sale deals are so common is because they benefit both sides. When a team’s competing for the playoffs, winning now is much more valuable, and when a team’s out of contention, money is more valuable.You know who understands this? Oakland General Manager Billy Beane. In competitive years under Beane’s tenure (when the A’s finished first or second in their division), the A’s have made July deals gaining them a net total of 9.61 wins above replacement (relative to the players they had to give away), while taking on an extra $16 million worth of salary for those years (of which, the A’s would pay a remainder, depending on the terms of the trade). Note: Yes, that is an pretty good money-to-WAR ratio, but it’s what would you expect. Conversely, in years when the A’s have not been in contention, Oakland has sold a net of 12.25 WAR, while shedding the remainder of $46 million worth of salary.For the small-payroll team to be the fire-sale buyer is rare, especially with as large a pay gap as exists between the Red Sox and Athletics (more than $79 million). Since 1996, just $21 million worth of salary obligations (or remainder thereof) have gone to the small side of a payroll gap that big (about 1.2 percent of contract value for all trades conducted in the period), and those were offset by those teams shedding $109 million. In other words, poor teams typically trade big contracts for little ones.Overall, since 1996, bigger payroll teams have sent $736 million in present-year salary to smaller payroll teams. The bigger payroll teams have taken on $1.02 billion, meaning the poorer teams netted close to $300 million.That said, the Oakland/Red Sox deal isn’t unusual if we ignore payroll and just look at the standings. Oakland currently holds the top spot in the AL, the Red Sox are in 13th. For trades between teams with at least a 12-spot gap between them in the standings, $161 million in salary shifted to the better teams in exchange for just $7 million going the other way. Overall, the team with the better position in the standings has taken on about $1.35 billion dollars in salary while shedding just $413 million. Meaning, the lower ranked teams have netted nearly $900 million in fire-sale trades (almost triple what poorer teams have done).Let’s look at this in chart form. I’ve plotted all the contracts traded in July from 1996 through 2013 (plus Lester’s) below, with the size of the players salary for the given season represented by area of the bubble:There are four quadrants representing the four basic types of trades. Quadrants kitty-corner from each other are essentially trade partners — e.g. when poor teams find themselves in the better competitive spot, they seem to be pretty willing to spend money to go after wins (435 million) and are even less willing to give away assets (112 million).For fun, I ran a regression from pay gap and standings gap to the size of contract changing hands and found that pay gap is actually borderline insignificant after you account for standings (for fellow nerds: t-Stat of 6.5 for standings gap, just 1.6 for payroll gap).In other words, while the A’s-Red Sox trade appears to be extremely unusual (a fairly large outlier on the chart above), it’s not because small payroll teams just don’t usually make trades like this. It’s because small payroll teams aren’t usually in position to make trades like this.
The fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, has been challenged to a race for charity by Great Britain’s distant runner Mo Farah, but the race may take the sprinter out of his comfort zone.“It’d be great to be able to do a distance where people vote in what distance will be suitable, and then get a judge and then come in the middle with that distance and train for it,” said Britain’s Farah, who won the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at last year’s London’s Olympics. “Bolt, are you up for that? Come on, you got to do it.”With no one else to beat on the track, Bolt – who won the 100 and 200 in world-record time at the 2008 Beijing Games, then defended those titles at last year’s Olympics – is considering Farah’s challenge.“That sounds fun. It’s going to be hard, but for me it’s charity, so it’s just all about fun and enjoyment,” Bolt said. “For me, I’m up for anything if it’s possible.”The issue with this challenge is deciding on a fair distance. What would you consider a fair? Give us your opinion.
Kobe Bryant, who has been quiet for months, said Thursday on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live that he is healthy and prepared to return to the NBA in top form next season.Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar guard, missed all but six games of this season because of a fractured knee and torn Achilles in his left leg.“From a health standpoint, (I’m) 100 percent,” Bryant said. “I started doing a lot of on-court training and so I’m back into my routine. Then I’ll start lifting and start doing the running, which I hate. By the time the season comes around, I’ll be ready to go.”He expects to have many new teammates, and the team is amid a coaching search, one in which he hopes to have a valued opinion.“On the last two (hires) they didn’t,” Bryant said, referring to Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni, who both did not last the length of their contracts. “On the third one, I’m hoping they do.”D’Antoni was offered a buyout to leave the Lakers and accepted it. Bryant’s response? “I didn’t care,” which can be interpreted as code for he wanted a change.Bryant said he and the Lakers brass, Jim and Jeanie Buss, share an “open-door policy” and communicate regularly. As for a new coach, Bryant said, “Honestly, it’s not really about whether the players like the coach or not. It’s really about getting results. Liking somebody and those results don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.“Sometimes when a coach is driving you, you don’t necessarily like it, but it’s a part of the process, and then once you win, everybody is buddy-buddy after that.”“Jimmy and Jeanie both, they’re just really determined and excited about the possibilities of next season and rebuilding this and building on their father’s legacy and everything that he’s accomplished,” Bryant said. “And they’re taking the challenge extremely, extremely seriously. They’re both on the same page and they want nothing but excellence here, so I have no doubt that we’ll make it happen.”Ever the optimist, he said he expects the Lakers to return to prominence soon.“I do,” said Bryant, who will be 36 soon. “We’ll make changes, for sure. There’s certain characteristics that you have to build your team around in speed and length and rebounding and defense. We’ll make those adjustments.”
The field for the inaugural College Football Playoff (CFP) was finally set Sunday, but — in true college football style — it wasn’t without controversy. The 12-person CFP selection committee chose Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State, arguably snubbing Big 12 co-champions Baylor and (especially) TCU.The last four teams standing are exceptional. The Ducks, Crimson Tide and Buckeyes rank Nos. 1, 2 and 3, respectively, in ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI). And although the Seminoles have been unconvincing throughout the season, it would have been difficult to justify leaving the undefeated, defending national champion out of the playoff — No. 10 FPI ranking be damned. So, the committee may well have made the best decision it could have, according to its mandate to select the nation’s four best teams.But by ranking TCU third (ahead of both Florida State and Ohio State) the week before the conference championships, the committee also set itself up to violate the precedent of how college football rankings have always worked. That’s why, even after previous No. 5 Ohio State rolled over No. 13 Wisconsin 59-0, the FiveThirtyEight College Football Playoff model — which is based on a historical analysis of Coaches Poll voters’ tendencies — saw little chance that TCU would drop from third place to fifth or lower in the committee’s final rankings.Using the traditional media polls as a guide, that was a reasonable assumption. Since the advent of the Bowl Coalition in 1992, only four times (in 214 opportunities) did the third-ranked team in the AP poll drop below fourth place the week after it won a game over an FBS opponent. All four of those teams (Florida State in Week 1 of the 2002 season, Ohio State in Week 3 of 2003, Tennessee in Week 1 of 2005 and Ohio State in Week 2 of 2008) posted victory margins that underwhelmed their pregame FPI expectations. By contrast, TCU beat its pregame expectations by 19 points in thrashing Iowa State. (And it bears repeating that none of those cases took place any later than the third week of a season, when you would expect voters to still be sorting out the order of teams.)And yet TCU did drop in the committee’s rankings — from third place to sixth, below Florida State, Ohio State and even Baylor (whom the committee had controversially slotted beneath TCU in every previous edition of its rankings, seemingly ignoring the Bears’ head-to-head victory over the Horned Frogs on Oct. 11). It was a stunning fall that, for better or worse, seemed to contradict the way college football teams traditionally move in the rankings.TCU’s exclusion also broke with tradition from another standpoint. Using poll data since 1992, I ran a logistic regression attempting to predict whether a team would finish the regular season in the AP’s top four based on various “résumé” statistics provided by ESPN’s Stats and Info Group. The factors that emerged as significant were a team’s winning percentage (modified slightly by Laplace’s Rule of Succession), its average points-per-game margin, its strength of schedule (according to the average FBS team’s expected winning percentage against its schedule using FPI), and whether it won its conference or not.This year, those criteria would have yielded the following probabilities of making the top four (assuming the committee would follow the pollsters’ traditional logic):(Note: Baylor and TCU were co-champions of the Big 12; for the purposes of the regression, they were each treated the same as a team that was sole champion of its conference.)It’s not outside the realm of plausibility that historical voters would exclude TCU and include Ohio State on the basis of their résumés alone (this method shows there was a 16 percent chance that would happen). In fact, the real AP poll dropped TCU from fourth to sixth, with two teams (Baylor and Ohio State) hurdling the Horned Frogs.It is, however, another way to underscore that the playoff committee may be rethinking the way college football teams have been ranked at the end of the season. As FiveThirtyEight’s editor in chief, Nate Silver, wrote in his final assessment of the committee’s selection, the sport’s old algorithm rarely entailed a top-to-bottom reassessment of the field this late in the year (voters usually just made slight adjustments to teams’ rankings after losses or big wins; otherwise the current rankings were basically enslaved to the previous rankings). The committee’s final rankings, on the other hand, suggest it sorted the teams from scratch after the conference championships, with no allegiance to its previous choices.That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, like the existence of a playoff in the first place, it’s a new thing.
The Warriors were 17-4 during the regular season with average shooting. That equals a .810 winning percentage — tops in the the NBA — or the equivalent of a 66-16 record over an 82-game schedule.The reason for the Warriors’ strong record with average shooting is simple: They also play great defense. It gets overlooked because they play at a frenetic pace, but the Dubs held opponents to a .514 TS% during the regular season, the third-best figure in the league after Chicago and Portland.It can get even worse for opponents, and it often does: The Warriors went 46-3 with good shooting during the regular season. But “pretty good” shooting — average shooting, even — is usually plenty good enough for the Warriors. They’ll need to throw up a lot of bricks the rest of the way. Otherwise, James — as brilliant as he’s been — may become the first finals MVP in a losing cause since Jerry West in 1969. Through the first three games of the NBA Finals, the storylines were intricate and rich:Could LeBron James carry one of the worst supporting casts in recent finals history to an NBA title?Was James’s experience — and sheer force of will — trumping the Golden State Warriors’ youth?Was Steph Curry just in a shooting slump, or was he rattled by his scary injury against the Houston Rockets?Could the Cleveland Cavaliers keep playing stifling defense, or might Golden State’s smallball lineup be its ace in the hole?Were Cleveland’s poor finishes — it was outscored by a combined margin of 105-84 in the fourth quarter and overtime of the first three games1And if you include Game 4, it’s now been outscored 132-96 from the fourth quarter onward. — the sign of a spent team?Was Kevin Love’s injury (suffered in the opening round against the Boston Celtics) the ultimate example of Bill Simmons’s Ewing Theory? And maybe Kyrie Irving’s injury too?Is Matthew Dellavedova the Australian Tim Tebow?Does God hate Cleveland?But after a 103-82 Golden State win in Game 4, it all seems so simple.The Warriors are really, really good. You have a shot at beating them if their shooting goes ice-cold. Otherwise, it’s next to impossible.Let’s review the series from the standpoint of true shooting percentage (TS%), a relatively simple stat that gives appropriate credit for 3-pointers and free throws along with 2-point shooting attempts. Golden State led the NBA with a .571 TS% during the regular season, while Cleveland (.557) ranked fourth. The adjacent table lists each team’s TS% in each finals game so far, along with its percentile rank as compared to all NBA games during the 2014-15 regular season.Game 4 was the first time we’ve seen the Warriors shoot like they typically did during the regular season. Their .579 TS% was close to their regular-season average, and — since an average Golden State performance is so good — ranks in the 77th percentile as compared to all NBA games.But the Warriors’ defense has also been very good. It held Cleveland to a .409 TS% in Game 4, which ranks in just the 1st percentile. And it kept the Cavaliers to a .441 TS%, in the 6th percentile, in Game 2 on Sunday night.Wait — didn’t the Cavs win Game 2? They did (in overtime). The team with the higher TS% wins about 85 percent of the time2Based on the 2014-15 regular season. — this was one of the exceptions. Cleveland was able to take seven more field-goal attempts and 15 more free-throw attempts than the Warriors as a result of rebounding, turnovers and fouls. You can win as the slightly less efficient team when there’s a big differential in those categories.Still, Cleveland wouldn’t have won Game 2 had Golden State shot a little better. If the Warriors had hit shots at the NBA average TS% of .535 (never mind that the team’s TS% is typically way better than that), they’d have scored an additional eight points and won 101-95.And that’s the thing: The Warriors don’t have to shoot the lights out to win. If they shoot as well as the average NBA team, they’re very likely to win also.In the next chart, I’ve tracked each team’s record based on its TS% during the regular season. I divide games into three categories, which include about a third of regular-season games each:Good shooting — a TS% of .560 or higher.Poor shooting — a TS% of .510 or lower.Average shooting — anything in between.
Of course, none of this is to say that Harris will continue ascending the way Leonard has during his fifth and sixth seasons, when he went from scoring 16.5 points a contest to 25.5 points while managing to become more efficient despite a heavier offensive load. Without Harris becoming more of a one-on-one threat, which Kawhi has become stellar at in relatively short order, it’s more sensible to compare his offense to Golden State’s Klay Thompson or Washington’s Otto Porter, who play better off the ball than with it.Should Harris develop a more aggressive brand of offense, though, there’s reason to think he could find success with it. While he’s not built like Leonard — one of the NBA’s strongest players, and just one of four NBA wing players last season to record more and-1s than he had shots blocked — Harris is far stronger than he looks and doesn’t shy away from contact. The former All-American high school football player is one of three guards, after James and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, who shoots 70 percent at the rim — elite company for strength around the basket.Malone said Harris has been diligent every summer about taking direction from coaches and staff each offseason to continue improving. But Harris told me it was simpler than that for him. “Really, I just want go out there to play and have fun,” he said. “It’s not about me going out and saying, ‘I’ve got to go out and be better than I was last year.’ If you put in the work, it’s going to show itself.”And if Harris continues to improve and show his work to this extent, it may be only a matter of time until just about every basketball fan knows who he is.Senior writer Neil Paine contributed to research for this story.Check out our latest NBA predictions. DENVER — Kawhi Leonard is indispensable to the San Antonio Spurs — or at least that’s how he’s now perceived. His mysterious injury not only threatens to snap the Spurs’ two-decade-long playoff streak, but there’s a chance it could also derail the club’s future by driving Leonard away.If there’s an irony in how monumentally important Leonard is to the Spurs’ chances now, though, it’s that he was still relatively anonymous to the casual basketball fan just four years ago, despite performing at a fairly high level on one of the league’s best teams at that time. It wasn’t until June 2014, when Leonard earned NBA Finals MVP honors, that he began drawing broader attention en route to becoming a bona fide star, one whose health could shift the tenor of a conference finals series.Now, another player — Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris — quietly appears to be on a similar trajectory. From afar, nothing Harris does seems truly spectacular. But zoom in just a little, watch a handful of Denver’s games, and you’ll see elements of Harris’s consistent, well-rounded skill set start to stand out. Just the way Leonard’s once did.“When I got here, there were questions about whether Gary Harris was an NBA player,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone told me, a reference to Harris’s rookie season, in which he shot just over 30 percent from the field.1While part of that poor performance was due to his over-reliance on threes, Harris was one of just three rookies since 1960 to have shot that poorly on 200 attempts or more. The thought seems comical now, as Harris is serving as both Denver’s best on-ball defender and its leading scorer.For a while, Harris was far stronger on the defensive side of the ball, where it’s harder for the average fan to notice excellence. A solid scorer, by contrast, handles the ball more and gets his name called while the camera pans to his face every time he finds the bottom of the basket. Forcing a missed shot or denying your man the ball on the other end, however, usually isn’t enough to garner that same attention. So that may partially explain why the 23-year-old Harris flies under the radar.At 6 foot 4, he doesn’t force teams to alter entire offensive schemes the way that the 6-foot-7 Leonard, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, can. Yet Harris constantly seems to find ways to disrupt the league’s best wing players.Harris ranks ninth in the NBA in deflections per game — the same ranking Leonard held last season — hounding volume scorers as they come around screens and illustrating nearly perfect timing as he swats down directly on the ball just as a player is lifting up to launch his shot attempt. Harris’s quick hands and defensive persistence are pretty much the only things that prevent the Nuggets, who surrender more layups than anyone except Orlando, from having the worst defense in basketball. With Harris on the court, Denver surrenders 107.4 points per 100 possessions, which would tie for 20th among the league’s 30 teams. With Harris on the bench, the Nuggets allow 110.6 points per 100 possessions, a rate that would tie for dead last.It’s incredibly difficult to draw the types of defensive assignments that Harris typically gets without committing a lot of fouls. But just like Leonard did in his fourth season, Harris has collected more steals than fouls so far this year, a feat that only elite defensive shooting guards and small forwards generally manage.Harris could be named an All-NBA defender in the coming years without changing much about his game. But to achieve true stardom, he will likely need two things: More scoring — he’s still pretty limited in creating looks for himself — and more wins for the Nuggets.“If we make the playoffs, a lot more people are going to see and know who the hell Gary Harris is,” said Malone, whose team is locked in a crowded playoff race. “It’s funny: Last year, Nikola Jokic wasn’t going to be a part of All-Star Weekend. Then he puts up 40 points at Madison Square Garden and gets a phone call from the NBA the very next day. ‘Hey, we want you to be part of All-Star Weekend!’ So, we know Nikola and how special he is. And I think the same is true of Gary.”Harris has shown true scoring progress every year since his dismal rookie campaign. The former Michigan State star has gone from 3, to 12, to 15 and now 18 points per game; he has become one of the league’s best offensive threats in transition; and he’s on track to shoot 40 percent from the 3-point line for a second straight year. He moves incredibly well without the ball and has perhaps the team’s best on-court chemistry with Jokic, the face of the Nuggets and one of the league’s most skilled young big men.2Through Monday night’s games, Harris was logging a ridiculous 64.3 effective field-goal percentage off Jokic’s passes, according Second Spectrum and NBA Advanced Stats — a rate that’s on par with the most efficient scorers in the NBA. Similarly, Jokic posts a 62.1 effective field-goal rate off Harris’s passes, a figure that narrowly outpaces that Stephen Curry’s overall rate.Harris’s development on offense bears similarities to Leonard’s rise. Through their first four seasons, their numbers looked identical — 12.2 points and 2.1 assists on 47 percent shooting and 37 percent from 3 for Harris3Harris’s fourth year is still ongoing; 12.3 points and 1.8 assists on 50 percent shooting overall and 37 percent from 3 for Leonard.Perhaps even more important: The two men play with an unusually quiet, workmanlike approach, and they are among the most consistent players in the NBA on a night-to-night basis. “He just puts his head down and goes about his business. He doesn’t talk about it much — he just goes out and does it, and we’re fine with that,” says Denver guard Will Barton, whose locker is next to Harris’s. (Harris’s noticeably quiet disposition, along with the Nuggets’ struggles to really break through on TV with local fans,4During the ride to the arena in Denver, my Uber driver, a self-described huge NBA fan, admitted he didn’t know who Harris was. undoubtedly contributes to why Harris isn’t better known around the league yet.)In Harris’s case, one could argue that his consistency on both ends has him on the cusp of joining the elite. Using effective field-goal percentage, a stat that accounts for 3-pointers by looking at the number of points generated per field-goal attempt rather than just shots made per attempt, the chart below illustrates how often the league’s starting shooting guards and small forwards have good shooting nights compared to bad ones. Unsurprisingly, Kevin Durant and LeBron James are at the very top of that list. Leonard rates fifth. And right behind him is Harris at No. 6.
After a tight game, the Ohio State Buckeyes came out on top of the Northwestern Wildcats by a score of 24-20 on Oct. 29. Buckeye Head Coach Urban Meyer and the team line up to come out of the tunnel to face off against Nortwhestern on Oct. 29. The Buckeyes won 24-20. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo Editor
The Board of Trustees will meet today to discuss Ohio State’s Athletic Compliance Office.Though the board will delve into a number of different compliance concerns, an evaluation of OSU Boosters will lead the discussion.“Boosters and booster groups are consistently an area of primary concern amongst compliance officers across the country, and Ohio State shares these concerns,” according to a university report.The report cites both the size and abundance of booster groups as reasons for potential risk.Because these groups operate on their own and use only their own resources, policing them can be difficult, according to the university.The compliance department, which concerns itself with the enforcement, monitoring, procedures and education of NCAA and Big Ten rules, listed several consequences that would stem from potential noncompliance. Not the least of which was the possibility of a diminished university reputation that the board said would affect “all aspects of campus life” and “would significantly affect philanthropic giving.”To combat the difficulty of enforcing rules among the widespread booster groups and to avoid potential sanctions, the compliance office is considering models used by other universities with similar concerns.These schools, according to the report, “elected to consolidate their booster groups within the athletic department” to increase the ease of communication between the university and its boosters.The report made mention of two Big Ten institutions, Indiana University and the University of Michigan, which have recently been under NCAA scrutiny for major compliance infractions. Following the infractions “at both institutions, significant financial resources were spent as defended their name and reputation,” according to the report.Following today’s discussions, the compliance office will offer its suggestions to the director of athletics as it deems appropriate.
It was 49 degrees and windy. The river in front of Griggs Reservoir Boathouse was cold and full of debris.It’s unlikely that it’s the first place many people want to be at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning, but the Ohio State’s women’s rowing team was out on the water.The Buckeyes’ expectations are high this season, as they are ranked No. 1 in the College Rowing Coaches Association/U.S. Rowing preseason top 20, and have two consecutive championships under their belt. OSU backed up those preseason accolades with 18 wins in its first 22 races of the season, spanning across four meets.Annie Jachthuber, a freshman rower, said the team is incredibly dedicated to the sport and the high stakes motivate them to work hard every day.Jachthuber added that she has been rowing since her senior year in high school, where she tried many different sports. But she said rowing was her favorite because of the team dynamic.“I don’t do things for myself; I like to do things for other people,” she said.After Monday’s practice, Jachthuber walked into the boathouse, which opened in 2011, and through a white hallway lined with pictures of the team’s past successes. There are two types of pictures: Those with the smiling faces of champions, and action shots filled with faces of concentration.Jachthuber turned through a doorway and joined the other rowers in the OSU team room, which is full of floor-to-ceiling windows that face the waterfront in the middle of the boathouse.Coach Andy Teitelbaum, who has been with the rowing program since its birth in 1995, stood in the center of the room surrounded by his team, all of it bathed in the morning light reflected off the water. He dished out final words before the team huddled together, putting their hands in for a last hurrah before the rowers headed off to class.When asked how he feels about the team’s current rank and the pressure to perform, he jokingly said he was “outraged.”But then Teitelbaum laughed, saying he is filled with pride and that the team performs in “tremendous fashion.”With a wide smile he added, “This group is outstanding.”Teitelbaum said the road to the two championships and the team’s current standing have been humbling and that he is quite pleased with the status of his team.Jachthuber echoed her coach’s feelings and said one day her grandmother called and asked if there was ever a time when Jachthuber did not feel like pushing herself. She said she had replied, “No.” She said the dedication of the other girls and the solidarity while practicing drives them all, no matter how unfavorable the elements might be.“I love being a part of something bigger than myself,” Jachthuber said. “You do it for each other.”With seven meets standing between the Buckeyes and the Big Ten Championships on May 16, OSU is set to return to the water against Minnesota on Saturday. Fittingly, the races are set to begin at 8:15 a.m. in Columbus.
OSU redshirt junior linebacker Chris Worley (35) flexes after a tackle during the Buckeyes’ 31-0 loss against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorOhio State redshirt senior linebacker Chris Worley is filled with confidence. Moving to the middle linebacker spot, Worley now has the opportunity to lead the Buckeye defense after a very successful 2016 season.Worley was a big part of the record-breaking OSU defense a season ago. In 2016, as the Buckeyes’ weak-side, or WILL, linebacker Worley was fourth on the team with 70 tackles, recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and had an interception.A former three-star recruit out of Glenville High School in Cleveland, Worley is used to moving around to different defensive positions throughout his college career.“I moved to SAM (strong-side linebacker) and battled with a first-rounder until the end of the first game honestly,” Worley said. “That speaks a lot about Darron (Lee), but it also speaks a lot about myself. That was a battle that I’ll never forget because it made us both better. That’s two positions right there, then I can also play Mike (middle linebacker) or WILL (weak-side linebacker) and play it as well as the best of them.”Worley said the versatility is what it took to get him on the football field.“The only thing I did was put my head down and just went as hard as I could and coach Meyer told me, ‘I don’t know what you’re going to play, but if you just keep going, next year you’ll find a way.’ And that’s what I did,” Worley said. “That’s where I’m at right now. It was a struggle, but at the end of the day, it made me better.”With the amount of experience Worley has at multiple positions on the defensive side, OSU linebacker coach Bill Davis had no hesitation at putting him in the middle.“That Mike ‘backer’ is our quarterback,” Davis said. “He has to understand everybody’s job, he has to line them up. One of the things about a Mike ‘backer is you not only have to line up others, you have to be able to do your own job after, and not everybody can do that. Chris is outstanding and getting everybody and himself lined up.”The role of the defensive “quarterback” is much more than getting his teammates lined up in the game. It defines Worley’s role as a leader of the defense. The vocal aspect of being a leader is something that Worley has always had, but did not want to bring out in the past.“I didn’t want to be the biggest loudmouth and wasn’t even really touching the field in the ways that I wanted to,” Worley said. “But sometimes it’s better to go under the radar and help the team in any way they need you. But, I feel like now I’m in a position to be more vocal.”Worley’s responsibility of leading the defense is especially critical now that linebacker Raekwon McMillan has left for the NFL. Associate head coach and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano feels that Worley will fill those shoes nicely.“We lost what I think is a man’s man in Raekwon McMillan,” Schiano said. “Just a really fine football player and a smart football player. We needed to make sure that we could try and replace him with a guy that has that kind of presence about him. I really am impressed with (Worley) in two days.”Junior linebacker Jerome Baker is not worried about Worley being the unquestioned leader of the defense.“Worley’s going to do his job,” Baker said. “I just gotta do my job, and make sure he can trust me the same way I trust him.”The expectations are high for the Cleveland native. However, this is the opportunity that Worley has been waiting on for a long time.“It’s something that I’ve always wanted,” Worley said. “I’m a grinder. I like to hit people. So just to give me that more ammunition in my toolbox to just go kind of hurt some people, that’s what I like to do. It’s a blessing to be in this position and it’s up to me to sort of live up to expectations.”Worley might have high expectations for next season. However, his confidence is not going anywhere. “I feel like I’m one of the most dynamic players in the country,” he said.