Chicago Bears: Change needs to happen for the present and future

Cleveland, OH- It was an afternoon that included missed opportunities, blown-up plays, and questionable playcalls for the Chicago Bears. Much of the Bears’ struggles on offense were apparent on Sunday afternoon but the past repeated itself. The same issues that Chicago struggled with on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns were the same ones the Bears struggled with throughout 2019 and 2020.

The Bears need some sort of change. That much is apparent. The change fans want is the firing of head coach Matt Nagy, which isn’t realistic, given ownership’s track record includes waiting to fire coaching staffs until the end of the season. The change that can be made includes Nagy relinquishing playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, something the franchise experimented with at one point during the 2020 season that led to some success for the Bears.

“I obviously as a head coach did not do a good enough job of getting this offense ready to go, to be able to play and win a football game,” said Nagy after the game. “It starts with me, it ends with me and it’s as simple as that.”

For Nagy to say that everything starts and ends with him is generic. In the NFL, everything for a team on Sunday starts and ends with the head coach. But for the Bears and Nagy, circumstances are different. The defense has continued to carry the team over the last four seasons. The offense has yet to come up with a decent showing, leading to questions about Nagy’s ability to playcall but also lead an NFL franchise.

“This is not how we wanted it to go,” Nagy said. “You almost can’t even make it up, it’s that bad. But we got to get to the film and we got to make sure we’re hard on ourselves and we understand the whys and really, just go from there.”

Every NFL team moves forward at some point after a loss but for the Bears, questions now linger. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ debut was also on Sunday afternoon and part of the Bears evaluation process will include figuring out where Fields excelled and where the 11th overall pick struggled. The Bears know that in order to put Fields in a position to succeed, change needs to happen for both the present and future of the franchise.

Chicago Bears: A forgettable loss in week three means a long week ahead

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It was a forgettable afternoon for the Chicago Bears who marched into Cleveland to take on the Browns with the hopes of pulling off an upset with rookie quarterback Justin Fields making his first NFL start. After an opening possession that put the Bears on the board with a field goal, Chicago’s offense struggled to get anything going throughout the rest of the afternoon.

The running game wasn’t working. The Bears’ offensive line couldn’t block either. Cleveland’s defense totaled nine sacks, with Fields going just 6-for-20 and 68 yards passing, averaging a porous 3.4 yards per attempt. The only silver lining was the Bears’ defense, which sacked Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield five times as pass rushers Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack combined for 3.5 total sacks.

Fields struggles were apparent and as a rookie, 68 yards shouldn’t define his entire afternoon but after the Bears still have a lot of work to do. much of which revolves around Fields. Before week 4, the Bears need to do some serious self-reflection. The offensive line needs to be better. The playcalling needs to be catered to Fields’ skillset. Figuring out the running game and scheming wide receivers open wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Don’t blame Fields for the Bears’ struggles but blame head coach Matt Nagy for not moving the pocket more, using Fields legs to create opportunities. The Bears need to use more play-action as a way of ensuring that wide receivers are able to get open, giving Fields time to make plays.

The Bears’ best plays of the afternoon included a 16-yard run by David Montgomery, 11-yard completion to Cole Kmet, and an 18-yard pass to wide receiver Allen Robinson. Chicago also punted on five straight possessions and came away with just three points in the second half.

What’s next for the Bears? A home game against the 0-3 Detroit Lions with an opportunity to get back to .500 by the end of week 4. The Bears have a lot of work to do and Sunday’s loss against the Browns proved that there is more than just the quarterback position that needs to be fixed on the Bears’ offense.

 

 

Chicago Bears: What message is Matt Nagy trying to send?

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On Monday morning, following a Chicago Bears victory in week 2 that saw rookie quarterback Justin Fields get extended playing time, questions arose regarding the state of the quarterback position. After veteran Andy Dalton left the game due to a knee injury, Fields entered, leading the Bears to a 20-17 win.

With Dalton out for the next several weeks, the opportunity to move forward with Fields as the starter presents itself. Head coach Matt Nagy doubled down on Dalton being the starter under one condition: Only when healthy. The Bears did send a representative from the public relations department to convey a message directly to Chicago media: Dalton would be the starter when healthy.

On the surface, Nagy is merely saying that once Dalton is healthy, the 11-year veteran will once again be named the starter but until then, it’ll be the Justin Fields show. Dive deeper into the entire situation and it’s clear that even Nagy seems to know that Fields will play at some point in 2021.

Let’s be honest, situations and circumstances can change and the Bears are no exception. Fields is expected to start in week 3 when the Bears face the Cleveland Browns. With no set timeline for Dalton’s return, week 4 will see the Bears host the Detroit Lions, followed by week 5, a road showdown against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Fields statistics may not reflect a player who’s ready to be a fulltime starter and averaging 4.6 yards per pass attempt won’t get the job done in the NFL but dropped passes that should’ve been touchdowns by wide receivers Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson didn’t do the former Ohio State standout favors either.

If Fields lights it up over the next three games, Nagy will have no choice but to keep Fields as the starter when the Green Bay Packers come to town in week 6. As much as Nagy would like to see his plan to develop Fields and keep Dalton as the starter throughout the 2021 season, Nagy’s message on Monday sent mixed results, implying that there isn’t necessarily a surefire commitment to Dalton, despite what words have indicated.

 

 

Assessing the Chicago Bears offense in week two

Sunday afternoon proved to be fruitful for Chicago Bears fans. Not only did the Bears come away with a victory but Chicago also got an extended look at rookie quarterback Justin Fields for the first time in the regular season with veteran Andy Dalton leaving the game due to a knee injury.

Fields playing a majority of the game doesn’t mean he’ll be the starter moving forward but the Bears coaching staff now has to make a decision to make: Should the Bears continue to roll with Dalton if healthy or start Fields and bring the future to the present? The final call with be made by head coach Matt Nagy but Fields performance on Sunday while leading the offense could be enough to name the 11th overall pick the starter.

Chicago’s offense showed plenty of positives on Sunday, including the ability to consistently move the ball through the air with a vertical passing game but for every positive, there seemed to be a negative. Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney each dropped two touchdown passes that would’ve iced the game by at least two possessions.

Fields’ mobility was apparent throughout the afternoon, as the rookie rushed 10 times for 31 yards, including a 10-yard rush with 2:55 remaining in the fourth quarter to set the Bears up with a first-down to end the game. Chicago did run some RPO looks, ensuring that Cincinnati’s defense would need to account for running back David Montgomery on every play. Montgomery, who rushed 20 times for 61 yards had three receptions for 18 yards, impacting Chicago’s passing attack during a busy afternoon for the third-year running back.

Overall, Chicago’s offense put together a solid enough performance to warrant being able to compete with any opponent. The Bears may not be explosive as Nagy wants to be just yet, something that will come with time but week 2 was encouraging for both the present and future.

 

Chicago Bears: Why didn’t the Bears gameplan on offense work?

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Just over 48 hours have passed since the Chicago Bears‘ week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Rams and with the Bears now looking ahead to week 2, Chicago must figure out what went wrong against the Rams. On the surface, the Bears’ offensive gameplan included short, quick passes designed to get the ball out of quarterback Andy Dalton’s hands in just under 2.5 seconds.

Throughout the evening, the Bears’ offensive line did create solid running lanes for running back David Montgomery. The real reason the Bears left Los Angeles winless is due to the passing attack. Despite throwing 38 times, Dalton completed just 27 passes, with only one pass of 10+ yards being completed.

“I think just the kind of way this defense plays, they limit the big play and they make you just kind of move the ball down the field,” Dalton said via the Bears official YouTube Channel. “I mean you see the drives that we scored on, I mean I don’t know how many plays they were but you had to keep finding ways to get first downs and keep moving the ball all the way down the field. You’re not going to get very many explosives against this team.”

Further dissecting the Rams gameplan, limiting big plays means that wide receiver Darnell Mooney’s speed was accounted for by the Rams defense on every play. Wide receiver Allen Robinson was followed by Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey on multiple plays, limiting Robinson’s impact.

Essentially, as a result of the Rams deciding to defend the deep passing game, Los Angeles was content with giving the Bears quick, underneath throws because Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris knew that players like cornerback Jalen Ramsey were instinctive enough to breakdown what the Bears would be running.

Moving forward, for Chicago’s gameplans to work, the Bears will need to ensure that playcalls don’t look very predictable. Furthermore, allowing Dalton to hit deep passes via play-action could also go a long way towards opening up the Bears’ offense and maximizing talents fo players such as Mooney and Robinson.

Chicago Bears lose to Los Angeles Rams, time for week 2

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In a season full of anticipation, the Chicago Bears put together an inconsistent performance against the Los Angeles Rams in week 1, proving that the Bears have a long way to go before truly competing in 2021. Throughout the evening, the Bears did have some bright moments, including a three-yard touchdown run by rookie Justin Fields.

Nearly every bright moment was overshadowed by a bad moment. Chicago’s defense, which many consider the strength of the team, gave up two big passing touchdowns, including a 67-yard touchdown to Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson. The Bears did start out fast, with a 41-yard run by running back David Montgomery in a drive that ended with quarterback Andy Dalton throwing an interception in the redzone.

Chicago’s inability to establish rhythm should be concerning for head coach Matt Nagy, who heads into his fourth season as Bears head coach. Nagy’s offense limped to the finish line in both 2019 and 2020 and while week 1 provided us with the opportunity to see flashes of what the offense can do under Dalton, Chicago wasn’t consistent enough.

Moving forward, the Bears defense needs to limit big plays to have a chance against explosive offenses. For a defense that features a revamped secondary, Chicago needs more consistent play from safeties, along with a front seven that get after the quarterback consistently.

Dalton did have a solid outing, going 27-for-38 with 206 yards, and one interception. Dalton took what the Rams defense gave him, completing multiple throws underneath. Chicago does need Dalton to hit plays downfield to have a chance at really staying in games.

Another silver lining is that the Bears’ offensive line did look solid throughout the night. Rams star pass rusher Aaron Donald was neutralized on most plays and had just one sack and one tackle for loss. For a unit that played together just once throughout preseason, the Bears have to be feeling good about the offensive line moving forward.

What’s next for the Bears? Chicago will host the Cincinnati Bengals at home in week 2. Labeled by fans as the Andy Dalton revenge game, the Bears will have an opportunity to build on any momentum established in week 1.

Why Matt Nagy deserves no slack heading into year 2021

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When the Chicago Bears hired Matt Nagy as head coach in 2018, the expectation was Nagy would turn the Bears into an offensive powerhouse. With the 2021 season just three weeks away, Nagy has yet to officially name a starting quarterback and has drawn criticism for not letting rookie quarterback Justin Fields take consistent reps with the first team.

On Wednesday, prior to practice, Nagy detailed why Chicago’s offense should be better heading into 2021. After two years of mediocre play where the Bears offense ranked near the bottom of the NFL in every category, Nagy has how staked his hope in veteran Andy Dalton and Fields to elevate Chicago’s offense.

“Probably just the way we’ve been practicing,” Nagy said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “The tempo, where we’ve been just talking through schematics or where we know we want to be. We’ve got some guys that have been on this team for two, three, four years and they know the offense as well as I do — where that wasn’t the case two or three years ago. When you have that and you have a guy like Andy and these quarterbacks that come in and understand it, that’s where it gives me confidence.”

Having confidence in players is a necessity for any NFL head coach. The Bears do have continuity at key positions such as offensive line, wide receiver, tight end, and running back. Continuity doesn’t exist at the most important position: Quarterback, where Dalton and Fields were both acquired this offseason. Veteran Nick Foles is the only returning quarterback from last season still on the roster but the former Super Bowl MVP isn’t expected to play a big role in 2021.

As the Bears season opener draws closer, Nagy knows that while his seat isn’t necessarily hot, the Bears 2021 season cannot be reminiscent of the 2020 season. Should history repeat itself, Nagy’s seat will get warmer as the weather turns colder in the Windy City due to his inability to unlock the potential that the offense has.

Chicago Bears: Recapping the win over the Dolphins and more

With the Chicago Bears opening the preseason up with a win over the Miami Dolphins, let’s recap some standouts and what to look forward to as the Bears prepare for the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, August 21st.

Standout Stars

1) QB Justin Fields 

Any list recapping the Bears game would be foolish to not include Fields, who finished the game 14-for-20 with 142 passing yards, averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. Fields’ mobility kept the chains moving as the 11th overall pick scrambled five times for 33 yards, including a 21-yard run that was capped off by a touchdown to tight end Jesse James two plays later.

Fields may have started out slow but found his groove as the game progressed, which is good news for the Bears general manager Ryan Pace Pace and head coach Matt Nagy, who’ve invested the Bears’ future in Fields.

“It was actually kind of slow to me to be honest,” Fields said following the game. “I was expecting it to be a little bit faster but practicing, you know game speed, going at it with my teammates everyday, of course, you know we have a great defense. Me going against them everyday, it definitely slowed the game up a little bit for me. I felt comfortable out there.”

Fields showed enough promise to warrant being the week one starter. Don’t write off Andy Dalton but Fields performance was encouraging enough to warrant being given a serious chance with the first-team offense in training camp.

2) OLB Charles Snowden 

After going undrafted due to an ankle injury, it didn’t take long for Snowden to make an impression, despite playing just 22 percent of snaps yesterday. The former UVA product totaled two QB hits, one sack, and one TFL throughout the second half on Sunday. After Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, the Bears have Trevis Gipson, Jeremiah Attaochu, and Snowden to complete the OLB room.

Snowden will need to continue stacking strong performances to have an opportunity to make Chicago’s final roster but he’d also be an ideal practice squad candidate to develop as a player who could eventually take over in 2022 as a starter or rotational player.

3) RB Khalil Herbert 

The Bears needed to add some juice on offense this offseason and Herbert provided plenty yesterday as a runner and receiver. Averaging 6.3 yards per carry and 3.7 yards per reception, Herbert showcased his ability to be a dual-threat running back. Despite being buried on the depth chart behind Damien Williams and David Montgomery, Herbert’s strong showing yesterday was more of an indication of what’s to come for the sixth-round pick.

Herbert’s strong performance bodes well for the Bears, who are uncertain about when running back Tarik Cohen, who is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered early last season, will return. Too much depth in the NFL is never bad and Herbert can make the Bears offense expendable by creating mismatches throughout games.

4) CB Duke Shelley 

With uncertainty about who will be the starting slot CB, Shelley stepped up to the challenge on Saturday, putting together a performance that bodes well for his career moving forward. Entering his third season, Shelley spent 2019 and 2020 buried on the depth chart behind veterans Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine, seeing limited regular season action.

Shelley’s preseason debut in year three saw him with six tackles and one PBU. With the Bears competition at slot receiver being wide open, the 2019 sixth-round pick will have the opportunity to seize the starting role if he can put together strong performances against the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans.

5) LB Alec Ogletree

Very rarely do veteran players steal the show in preseason but there’s an exception to every rule and in this case, it’s Ogletree. After stealing the show at training camp with six interceptions, despite being a late additon, Ogletree racked up four tackles, including one PBU and one TFL.

Bursting onto the scene after starting just one game for the New York Jets in 2020, Ogletree has quickly emerged as the front runner for MLB3, a title that many thought would originally go to veteran Christian Jones.

6) The Bears offensive line

Believe it or not, the Bears had just two starters from last season present on the offensive line for Saturday’s contest: Sam Mustipher and Cody Whitehair. The rest of Chicago’s offensive line was injured, forcing the Bears to use a number of second, third, and fourth-string players.

Here’s a fun fact: Chicago allowed zero sacks on Saturday, a stat that will surprise many. Suddenly, offensive line coach Juan Castillo has instilled confidence into a unit that’s been ravaged by injuries, leading to questions about how good the OL can be when fully healthy. A unit that was solid in the running game yesterday was even better in pass protection. The question now remains: Can the OL keep this up until Teven Jenkins, James Daniels, and Germain Ifedi return?

One question for the offense

Will Fields strong performance yesterday make the Bears coaching staff second-guess who the starting quarteback should be on opening day? It’s too early to tell. Remember that Nagy did say Fields would receive a majority of the reps in the preseason, so the 11th overall pick playing about 63 percent of snaps was likely in the original gameplan.

The real QB competition will take place when Dalton receives a significant amount of reps against the Buffalo Bills. Chicago should give Fields the same amount of reps as Dalton, in order to truly see where both quarterbacks are at before making one final decision.

One question for the defense

Should we stop worrying about the status of DT Eddie Goldman, who opted out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns? Probably. Rookie DT Khyiris Tonga had a pretty solid outing yesterday, including a play where he penetrated the offensive line, leading to a goal line stand for the Bears defense.

To be clear, Tonga’s performance is encouraging but Goldman would still take the Bears defense to another level. Factor this in: Goldman hasn’t suited up in nearly 20 months, so there will likely be plenty of rust to shake off before Goldman returns to form.

Who’s not making this roster?

I’ll tell you this much and the answer is pretty obvious: WR Javon Wims. After three seasons where Wims has underperformed but then also been the center of confrontation, leading to tension with the coaching staff, Wims needs to get cut. The false start penalty on Fields first drive should be the final straw for the Bears coaching staff, who are simply wasting time and reps by keeping Wims around. Rather than keep Wims around, how about signing another young wide receiver to take his place, creating some more competition?

What’s next for the Bears?

Mitch Trubisky will be coming to town for week two, which means the boo birds were certainly be out in full effect the moment that Trubisky takes the field. The last time I even remember there being some serious booing at a Bears preseason game is when Jay Cutler returned to Denver in 2009 to take on his former team after being traded just four months earlier.

As Patrick Star says in an episode of Spongebob: “You had your chance and you failed.” The same applies for Trubisky, who’s return to Chicago will be a storyline that dominates that week.

Buffalo’s defense should provide the Bears with another test to see where Chicago’s offense is really at, especially if the Bears decide to give their first-team starters a significant amount of reps throughout the game.

What’s next for Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy heading into year 4?

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Entering year four with the Chicago Bears, head coach Matt Nagy has failed to really establish any sort of consistency when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. To say Nagy hasn’t been good enough could be considered an understatement. Two playoff appearances in three seasons isn’t as meaningful when you’ve failed to win a game in January, let alone get past the first-round.

Once labeled as being an “offensive guru”, Nagy’s offenses have ranked 9th, 29th, and 22nd since 2018. He’s cycled through three starting quarterbacks (Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel, and Nick Foles), and enters year four with two new starters at the most important position in sports: Andy Dalton and Justin Fields.

In a city with a defense-first mentality but in a league where the game is so catered towards the offense, Nagy must still turn the Bears into an offensive powerhouse alongside Fields if Chicago hopes to ever get back to the Super Bowl. With Fields now in the fold, 2021 should solely be focused on the development of the 11th overall pick. As a dual-threat quarterback who can hit any throw on the field, Fields operates in the redzone at a high level, while showcasing solid pocket presence, poise, and accuracy.

Bears ownership must also recognize that Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace need to be given extra time to develop Fields. Rather than hit the reset button with the front office and coaching staff during the 2022 offseason, ownership needs to operate with a two-year mindset, giving Nagy and Pace enough time to show that Fields could alter the course of franchise history.

Listening to Nagy speak in press conferences over the last few weeks has led to one main takeaway: He’s excited about his new rookie quarterback but he also sounds like a head coach who knows that his job isn’t on the line heading into 2021. Fields has brought renewed energy and hope for the Bears franchise but Nagy’s next step in year four includes focusing on the development of Fields because it could lead to the head coach having long-term job security.

Chicago Bears Biggest Questions at TE entering the 2021 Season

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Recently, the folks at PFF released their annual tight end rankings in preparation for the 2021 NFL Season. Zero Chicago Bears out of the 32 position players listed. Considering that at this point last year, the Bears had a whopping TEN tight ends on the roster, you would assume that at least one of them would make the cut, right? Wrong. Whether you like General Manager Ryan Pace or not, you cannot deny his spotty record when it comes to tight ends. Consider the failed Adam Shaheen project, and numerous attempts at finding long-term option fans were rewarded with Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, and Demetrius Harris.

With Jimmy Graham’s future clouded in mystery, Cole Kmet being used as a swiss army knife, and Demetrius Harris just being there for a couple of plays before being cut, this Bears fan is wondering the following questions:

#1 What are we doing with Jimmy Graham?

Jimmy Graham anchored the Chicago Bears’ red zone offense in 2021, leading the league in touchdowns amongst tight ends in the 2021 season with seven. Graham seemed to have an age-defying season with the Bears after following up a disappointing season in Green Bay that saw him haul only three touchdowns. If Graham can continue his dominating performance in the red zone, why would the Bears be willing to part ways so soon?

Salary Cap. The Chicago Bears currently have the second-worst cap situation in the NFL, with only $219,852 sitting in the bank. According to Overthecap, Jimmy Graham’s contract currently costs the Bears $10M. Cutting Graham after June 1st would free $7M in space.  Deciding whether or not Jimmy Graham is worth the $10M in cap space must be a top priority for Ryan Pace and the rest of the Front Office.

#2 Are we going to let Cole Kmet shine?

Chicago loves Cole Kmet. Cole Kmet loves Chicago. Bears fans want to see the hometown kid shine in the national spotlight. I think Cole Kmet has every tool necessary to take a major step forward in 2021. Kmet is an ideal “Y’ tight end, but his athleticism allows him to play in the flex if he wanted to. Nagy seemed to have taken a slow and steady approach in introducing Kmet to the NFL, relegating his abilities to the “H,” essentially an extra blocker. However, as the season progressed, fans could see a little more of what Kmet has in his repertoire.

Cole Kmet could benefit from his new QB, Justin Fields. Bears fans need not forget that the current QB/TE dynamic duo of Mahomes/Kelce. Matt Nagy crafted the relationship between the league’s most fearsome QB/TE duo. It’s a bit of a stretch, but with Nagy’s coaching history and the similar skill set of both Fields and Kmet to Mahomes and Kelce, we very much could be witnessing the birth of a new dynamic duo in Chicago.

Ultimately, Kmet needs to be used more in the passing game. If the Bears are confident he has taken the next step, they might feel comfortable releasing Jimmy Graham. I’m predicting that if we see a Graham release, we will see more of Kmet.

#3 Are we going to get help?

We love to throw names around from a fan’s perspective and pretend that they fit into our offensive scheme. Fortunately, as I state above, we have a head coach who loves tight ends. The Bears relied heavily on 11-personal in 2020, meaning one tight end and one tailback. In fact, 56% of all play calls were in this personnel scheme, according to Sharp FootballStats. This reliance on the 11 personal stayed steady. A small increase in the 12 personal (adding an extra tight-end) occurred in the second half of the season.

With this in mind, if Nagy doesn’t scheme for multiple tight-ends, what’s the point of having so many? Obviously, we would need a solid backup if Cole Kmet gets injured. But do we need to stack for talent at the tight-end position when the offense relies on one?

J.P. Holtz and Jesper Horstead remain on the roster. Both players are solid “H” tight ends. Ideally, I hope to see Kmet and Graham used as passing options while Holtz and Horstead are used primarily as blockers.

All in All

The Chicago Bears sure have some work to do in the TE position. I hope we see Graham stay, and I think his performance in 2020 can continue into 2021 if he’s willing to play. His cost is worth the potential reward in a basic cost-benefit analysis. Regardless of performance this season, I’m confident the Bears will draft a TE in the 2022 NFL Draft. Names to watch in this college football season are; Charlie Kolar (Iowa St.), Jalen Wydermyer (Texas A&M), Isaiah Likely (Coastal Carolina), and Jeremey Ruckertt (Ohio St.)