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Sports Today: Happy birthday, Woody Hayes!

On this day 105 years ago, the patron saint of Ohio State football was born in Greene or Clark County. 

Wayne Woodrow “Woody” Hayes famously liked to say folks from one claimed he was from the other, but as a Greene County native I will say we will gladly take him. 

RELATED: 5 things to know about Ohio State football for 2018

A fiery, proud and accomplished man known almost as much for his faults as his strengths, Hayes is a fitting representative for his home state and his favorite sport as much now as ever. 

He preached hard work and perseverance even if patience wasn’t among his most-practice virtues. 

Hayes was known for his “three yards and a cloud of dust” offensive mentality, but in reality he was more innovative than most know. 

He ushered in the first and the second golden ages of Ohio State football, first steamrolling opponents with his beloved T formation in the 1950s then scorching teams with the I formation and option football in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. 

Both strategies were still dominant when I was learning the game in (or adjacent to) his native county nearly two decades after he coached his last game. 

RELATED: Assessing Ohio State’s Big Ten title chances as Reds head to spring training

Hayes overcame the devastating setback of 1961, when he was told by the Ohio State faculty council he could not take his team to the Rose Bowl, by expanding Ohio State recruiting beyond the Midwest and building his best team. 

In 28 years as the coach of the Buckeyes, Hayes elevated the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry in a way only someone of his immense personality could. 

<<< 7 things to know about the Ohio State-Michigan series

When the Wolverines couldn’t beat Hayes consistently in the first half of his tenure, they turned to his spitting image to re-invigorate their program. 

Bo Schembechler, who like Hayes is part of Miami University’s Cradle of Coaches, upset the best Ohio State team ever assembled to kick off the famed “10-year War” that made OSU-Michigan the nation’s premier game every season, a legacy that endures today. 

And on this Valentine’s Day, it’s probably safe to say Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer developed their love of Ohio State football in no small part thanks to Woody Hayes, who served as an idol to both men as they grew up in Northeast Ohio… 

Speaking of Ohio State-Michiganhere’s a weird story from the relatively new realm grad transfer recruiting

Calvin Anderson, a three-year starter at Rice who is looking to finish his career at a Power 5 school, told 247Sports “the thing that sets Michigan apart” from other schools he is considering is the opportunity to face Nick Bosa and Ohio State.

“I’ve never spoken to him," Anderson said. "I’ve only watched him from afar, but I know his brother is outstanding in the NFL. I know he’s a great player and wouldn’t know me, but I’d be honored to play against a guy of that caliber. He would be a great example of playing against someone at the next level. That would be very appealing to me because I want to be an elite play. You can’t be elite until you play against elite players.”

I’ve covered college football and recruiting for a while, and I can’t remember ever hearing a story quite like that one. 

But you have to admire Anderson’s desire for a challenge, and he gets bonus points for singling out Bosa without calling him out, per se. 

The quarterback competition (and eligibility of Shea Patterson) will dominate offseason talk about the Wolverines, but the key to their success will be finally developing a strong offensive line. 

Michigan already has elite running backs, so merely competent quarterback play could make for a pretty good offense — if they can control the line of scrimmage… 

Speaking of Urban Meyer, he has taken that whole “recruit beyond Ohio” thing to a much higher level over the past couple of years, but he did something this week that could bolster in-state efforts. 

New cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson is a Cincinnati native who recruited Northeast Ohio for Tressel during his first stint as an assistant at Ohio State. 

He is a member of the Wittenberg Athletics Hall of Honor… 

Finally, spring training is officially up and running for the Cincinnati Reds, who reported yesterday and begin workouts today. 

The first day already included some interesting news from Bryan Price, who wasted no time reducing the field of candidates for his starting rotation. 

We’ll see if this approach works. Apparently the idea is to give Robert Stephenson and Sal Romano a chance to not only prove themselves but get into a regular groove without guaranteeing either of them a spot in the big-league rotation. 

Seems to me the mentality of competition is one of the biggest topics in all of sports these days. 

Coaches in various sports talk frequently about players needing to be self-starters more than ever, and as we get better and better at identifying and cultivating raw talent, the difference more and more is confidence. 

Stephenson and Romano both finished last season strong when they started attacking the strike zone more without giving in and delivering too many cookies.

Can they pick up where they left off? 

Price also took some time to praise Luis Castillo, the young fireballer who is penciled in as part of the rotation and has the look of a future ace. 

“His velocity sets him apart,” Price said. “You don’t see a lot of guys throw 95-97 for seven innings and the stuff to pitch in the big leagues, but it is rare for a young pitcher to have the presence and the comfortability that he showed last year. He fields his position, and he’s quick to the plate to control the running game. There is a lot to like.”


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