Category Archives: Ohio State football

Ohio State spring football reactions: Offense

Evaluating the offense the same way as the defense is hardly fair considering all of the injuries that beset the Ohio State scoring unit, but there were some lessons to take away from the spring nonetheless.

For one thing, the depth the Buckeyes were thought to have at running back is real. Ezekiel Elliott showed he brings a very enticing package of size and skill to the position. A smooth runner, he seems like the perfect back for this offense. I like the way Warren Ball keeps his feet moving and slides through holes, and Bri’onte Dunn leaves no doubt the physical ability is there if he can bring consistency to the table. Ditto Rod Smith, who could be the best of all of them but can’t seem to keep himself on track.

Then of course there is Curtis Samuel. Even with the unprecedented success of Carlos Hyde last season as a power back, Urban Meyer does get enamored with little guys who can go, doesn’t he? Samuel runs strong for his size, but speed and agility are the name of the game for him. It will be interesting to see if they carve out a role for him this fall.

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman mentioned at one point the staff has come to like having a power back, which was new for Meyer’s offense since it was developed at his previous coaching stops, so you can bet they want to maintain that facet, but it’s alway nice to have options.

Meyer and Herman also talked about having to do more damage on the edge this year because the offensive line took a step backwards. That was inevitable with the graduation of four starters, but it sounded to me like Meyer was still expecting to see more than he did this spring. News that the Buckeyes are going to entertain a potential transfer from Alabama would seem to go along with that as well.

While Patrick Elflein and Taylor Decker emerged as strong starters, I was also surprised with the play of Darryl Baldwin. He looks more natural in his drops, less like the converted defensive lineman he was and more like someone who can help the team this fall at right tackle. I did not expect that coming into spring and figured he would be beaten out by someone else, perhaps redshirt freshman Evan Lisle. Unfortunately, Kyle Dodson is yet to show he can handle a starting tackle role, and Antonio Underwood had some struggles in the spring game.

Ohio State is already set with a pair of veteran tight ends, but redshirt freshman Marcus Baugh showed why he was rated as a four-star recruit by making all kinds of plays during open practices. He could be a nightmare matchup because of his speed and ability to run routes. He was a tough cover early in practice as the defense was trying to implement a new style of play in the secondary.

Wide receivers still seem like more potential than finished product. After three years, we know what Devin Smith can do with his speed and ability to get open deep, but can they add a physical presence to complement him? Corey Smith, Michael Thomas and Jeff Greene bring something different to the table. I was impressed with the way they battled with the cornerbacks early in the spring, but I thought they were a little underwhelming in the spring game.

It is a shame we didn’t get to see Jalin Marshall do anything because of his knee injury, but one has to think the competition from Marshall and Samuel will spur on Dontre Wilson to continue to hone his skills now that he is a full-time receiver. If Wilson can be as reliable as Philly Brown while adding more playmaking ability, that could be a spot where some of the production is make up from the running game’s potential decline.

Finally, there are the quarterbacks. While Herman and Meyer praised Cardale Jones for the progress he has displayed, I haven’t seem him look like a guy who could win games for them yet. He remains an inconsistent thrower despite his arm strength. He and J.T. Barrett both had their moments to shine during the spring, but neither of them are going to make anyone forget about Kenny Guiton yet.

How good can this unit be? Well, without Braxton Miller at the controls this spring, that’s hard to say.

The running game should be fine. There is no shortage of backs, the tight ends are great blockers, and of course Miller provides yet another threat.

While mental reps are great, I still think Miller still could stand to build up some more muscle memory simply making all of the different throws. Seeing the backups play through their mistakes while he wore a headset behind the player in practices probably help him a lot, though. Last year, it seemed like he was pretty good at knowing where to go based on the pre-snap read. The next step would seem to be adjusting when the picture changes and then executing the throw. The latter is the most important part of playing the position and the most difficult to master, so that’s where he could have used another 15 days of working with his receivers on what type of touch each throw needs, where it should be and when.

The staff has admitted to leaning on the crutch of Miller, Hyde and the offensive line the past couple of seasons and admitted that won’t be possible again this year. Will all those new toys be brought out early, or do they have to stay back and mature?

We didn’t see enough to know this spring.

Ohio State spring football reactions: Defense

So what to make of spring football at Ohio State for 2014? Is it possible to come away feeling good about the defense without also questioning the offense? I’m going to start off by saying yes, but I can’t promise not to change my mind.

The OSU secondary appears to have taken to the new, more aggressive approach brought by co-coordinator Chris Ash. Of course, we had not really gotten to see Gareon Conley or Eli Apple in action much before this spring, but veterans Doran Grant and Armani Reeves seemed to thrive in the new attack as well. All of them certainly seemed comfortable, even from the first day reporters were allowed to watch practice. They got right in the faces of the OSU receivers in position drills, seven-on-seven and scrimmaging. We saw a fair amount of coverage busts — especially involving the tight ends deep — on that first day, but those appeared to dissipate as the spring went on. Continue reading

Ohio State football assistant joins student races

Ohio State held it’s annual Student Appreciation Day in conjunction with an open spring football practice today, and assistant coach Kerry Coombs jumped in on the action as students raced for the right to take on the speediest Buckeye football player at next weekend’s spring game.

He’s the one in gray in the middle, and it looks like his participation got some of his guys fired up.

A Buckeye who was nearly a Wildcat weighs in on CFB union issue

Michael Bennett, a senior defensive lineman for Ohio State who seems to have a good shot at being a captain for the Buckeyes this fall, was asked yesterday about his thoughts on the movement at Northwestern to create a union for college football players.

“I don’t know the full reason behind their union. I don’t agree necessarily with football players being unionized. We don’t necessarily see the money, but we are getting a lot of benefit out of our scholarships. It just kind of seems silly to want to be unionized because we get a lot of stuff that people don’t get. Yeah, we don’t get the same opportunities, but we can get set up for life after football if we really want to. So it’s all about taking advantage of what you do  get. I don’t think the union is necessarily a great idea. Everyone wants to get more money all the time, but I mean we’re getting a good amount.”

Bennett was a four-star line prospect as a senior at Centerville High School near Dayton four years ago who had Northwestern as a finalist when he chose Ohio State. One of his former high school teammates, Ifeadi Odenigbo, is a current member of the Wildcats, but there was no indication last night if the pair have discussed this issue amongst themselves

Before talk turned to football, Bennett was asked if he was in favor of an addition stipend for players, but he did not sound too fired up about that issue, either.

“Yeah, it would be nice to get a little bit more, especially… I mean the cost of living is going up and I don’t think our stipend is going up, so I’d say a little bit more money is always nice but I’m not really in the business of trying to force people to do that.” 

Of course this is just one man’s perspective, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

Each Ohio State QB progressing his own way this spring

Tom Herman’s top three quarterbacks all have different things they are capable of focusing on this spring, and the Ohio State quarterbacks coach has stressed for them to do just that.

That includes not only Braxton Miller, who is working on the mental side of the game while sidelined following shoulder surgery, but also Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, who are battling for the right to back Miller up this fall for the Buckeyes. 

Scout.com: Each OSU QB Progressing In Own Way.

Overheard at Ohio State football March 25

Cleaning out the reporter’s notebook after Urban Meyer and Tom Herman met with the media in Columbus yesterday. 

URBAN MEYER 

Ohio State’s head coach was asked how the new Chris Ash-Luke Fickell collaboration on the defensive coaching staff is going and he said well.

Losing Vonn Bell for the spring was a setback, but they have three safeties they feel good about who are practicing.

Urban Meyer meets with local media in Columbus.

Urban Meyer meets with local media in Columbus.

Asked about Dontre Wilson, he said the sophomore is the starting H wide receiver, taking over for Philly Brown.

Meyer thinks Braxton Miller is absorbing what they want him to as he is sidelined during practices, but he isn’t sure until he can test him out.

Continue reading

Cus Words: Day 1 Ohio State spring football observations

Defensive backs were the main eye-catchers on the first day of Ohio State football spring practice for 2014.

We have heard all about what effect new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash will have on a secondary that was the second-worst in Ohio State history last season, and it was on display yesterday as the Buckeyes worked out sans pads.

Scout.com: Cus Words: Day One Observations.

Saban still Ohio State’s worst secondary coach statistically

In case you were wondering, Nick Saban is still the worst secondary coach in Ohio State history – at least statistically.

The 2013 Buckeyes came close to setting a record for most passing yards allowed per game at 268.0 but fell short of the mark of 273.1 yielded in 1981.

Ohio State lines up to try to stop Purdue one last time

Saban was Ohio State secondary coach that season as well as in 1980, when the Buckeyes allowed a school-record 621 yards passing in a game to David Wilson of Illinois. The only other 500-yard passing game by an Ohio State opponent also happened under Saban’s watch in ’81 at Purdue via quarterback Scott Campbell.

Head coach Earle Bruce fired Saban (along with defensive coordinator Dennis Fryzel and line coach Steve Szabo) after the ’81 campaign, but the Kent State graduate recovered nicely, as you may have heard.

He got his revenge on Ohio State in 1998 when as head coach at Michigan State he led an upset of what for my money is the best Buckeye team of the past 25 years at least. Oh yeah, then he won a total of four national championships at LSU and Alabama. Saban also was head coach at Toledo and served four seasons as defensive coordinator of the Browns before becoming the big boss of the Spartans.

As for his time in Columbus, Saban told the American Football Coaches Association convention last month the most memorable victory of his career was the Buckeyes’ 14-9 upset of No. 7 Michigan in 1981. Saban’s secondary was key in that victory as safety Todd Bell’s late interception prevented the Wolverines from adding to a 9-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Art Schlichter then engineered the game-winning touchdown drive for the Buckeyes.

Herbstreit, Smith, Galloway debate college athletes’ compensation

You should definitely read the whole back-and-forth between former Ohio State players and current ESPN analysts Kirk Herbstreit, Robert Smith and Joey Galloway, but the part that I want to highlight comes from Herbstreit. 

He seems to agree with my contention one of the NCAA’s biggest problems is perception, something it does little to help with its consistently tone-deaf responses to the debate about how major college athletes are compensated.

“It’s just bizarre to me that I don’t think we’re doing a good enough job of selling the student-athlete experience,” Herbstreit continued. “When you’re at Ohio State, it’s not just playing football and going to school. There are so many opportunities that you have that you don’t understand when you’re an 18- to 22-year-old kid and you’re going to these events and you meet people who are in the business community. Urban just committed an entire offseason to introduce athletes to business leaders in Columbus. You’re not going to get that if any of your sons or daughters went to Ohio State. I don’t know what an education costs if you’re there for four or five years, and you throw everything in, travel, all the stuff that you’re afforded.

“I just feel like people assume everybody is a Joey Galloway or a Robert Smith and they make it in the first round and make millions of dollars. 95 percent are me. They don’t play a down in the NFL and use this degree that I got from Ohio State to try to make something out of myself, and I just think we focus too much on the, ‘Wow, the athlete is being taken advantage of,’ when he’s not being taken advantage of. Maybe Braxton Miller is being taken advantage of, but everybody else on that roster is not being taken advantage of, so I just disagree completely with this notion of paying student-athletes. I just disagree with it.”

At the end he lapses into the overly simplistic “paying student-athletes” phrase that often trips people up in these discussions (because they are paid, so the debate should be if they get enough), but overall he hits the themes that people miss for the most part: While the system certainly could be better and needs some adjustments, it is already a pretty good deal for the players. That includes the rather large portion of the roster that never become standouts or even play, arguably players who get more out of their scholarships and college experience than they really pay back.

Some of the things being discussed could end up making things worse for many while only improving it for a few – and I would argue most of those who would see that improvement are already made whole when they reach the NFL, thanks in no small part to their college experience.

Here’s the full story, including responses from Smith and Galloway as well as debate about the Ed O’Bannon case, profiting off likenesses and more: Scout.com: ESPN Buckeyes Debate Paying Players.