Preview and postgame sections for the 2009-10 season here.
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Chris Spielman discusses the challenges facing Urban Meyer and Ohio State following an undefeated season.
The Ohio State players' lounge at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, including the ceiling that shows a flyover above Ohio Stadium. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer
Fully Engaged: Curtis Grant Thinks This is the Year April 17, 2013 Source: Eleven Warriors - Curtis Grant is entering his junior season as Ohio State’s starting middle linebacker. No surprise, right? When you’re the top-rated player at your position coming out of high school and the No. 2 overall recruit in the country, earning a starting job is practically a birthright.
But Grant took the scenic route when he arrived in Columbus. Through two bumpy years, it appears that he has finally discovered a smooth surface. Grant was elevated to starter status last year. It feels far different in 2013, though. It feels real this time.
A year ago, Grant was still grasping life in college football. He wasn’t confident and his tentativeness showed in September, when he was quickly sidelined for his unimpressive play on the field. One year later, Grant is starting to show glimpses of that can’t-miss prospect that electrified the high school football fields of Richmond, Virginia. He’s now immune to the pressure that was once paralyzing.
"People expect so much,"Grant said. "But they don’t understand that college football is a lot different than high school. You’re not the biggest guy anymore, you’re not the fastest guy. You have to get up with the competition.”
Even while he was still in high school, Grant had a frame that looked more WWE than FBS. At 6-foot-3, 241 pounds, he was destined for success the moment he enrolled at Ohio State. Much hoopla surrounded Grant’s arrival, but his freshman season consisted of special teams duty, though a touchdown in the dramatic last-minute win over Wisconsin provided an uplifting moment. An early benching during his sophomore season was even tougher to deal with.
"That’s where the maturity level comes in,"co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said. "Can he respond? He didn’t. That’s probably what he didn’t do a great job of last year.”
"It knocks your confidence down and your passion. You don’t know how to adjust.”
Said Grant, candidly: "I got complacent. I couldn’t handle the glory of being a starter. I should have kept working harder.
"I was real mad. I didn’t know what to do. I would just sit back and watch, and I wasn’t used to that.
Time alone allowed Grant to refocus. When he came back to Ohio State in January, Grant knew he wanted to be a contributor and lead a defense that lost nearly its entire front seven. The lone returner – Ryan Shazier – happens to be Grant’s study buddy. The roommates create time each night to go over game film. That rededication has spurred a growth in Grant’s football IQ.
"Instead of going out all the time, I’m either in the house watching film or calling Coach (Fickell), asking if can he help,"he said.
Despite being a bust his first two seasons, Grant was not abandoned by Ohio State’s coaches. If anything, he was embraced. The reclamation project began in earnest on March 5, when the Buckeyes took to the practice field. Asked if the coaches still had hope for Grant, Meyer, somewhat bewildered, responded emphatically: "Absolutely.”
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t an underlying sense of urgency. Meyer, Fickell and Grant were all aware of the stakes. A passion for the game, which Grant claimed he lost, had to be present. It became his now-or-never moment.
Under intense scrutiny and a microscope that witnessed his every move, Grant no longer looked like the guy that was supplanted in 2012 by a fullback and someone who wasn’t even on the team when the season began. It quickly became clear that Grant’s best days were still ahead of him.
"You man up or get out. I manned up,"he said. "Your junior year, if you don’t do anything, there’s no guarantee there’s another year to do it.”
Grant led all defenders with eight tackles at the spring game.
Throughout the spring, fans heard passages about the linebacker with which so much had been expected. But it wasn’t until Saturday in the spring game that they saw it with their own eyes. Grant finished with a game-high eight tackles, including one sack of Braxton Miller.
Weather reports indicated 21 mile per hour wind gusts at Paul Brown Stadium, but it can’t be ruled out that it was actually a collective sigh of relief from more than 37,000 people.
"He solidified (his starting spot),"Meyer said. "He’s a fully engaged player this year.”
And it’s a good thing, for Grant’s sake. With Ohio State’s recruiting methods, another trip behind the 8-ball could signal game over. A player that describes himself as "determined,"Grant unearthed a level of maturity that wasn’t present until visions of his junior season illuminated.
No more partying, no more scoffing at schoolwork and no more lack of dedication to football.
"Everybody matures at different times, and it’s not his lack of ability,"Fickell said. "It’s just having some confidence, the ability to let loose.”
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer discusses areas the Buckeyes can improve this season, expectations for QB Braxton Miller and Ohio State in 2013, and how he is balancing coaching and his personal life.
Urban Meyer post Spring Game April 13, 2013
"We need to improve everyone around (Miller). We need to become legit and I think we have the people and we have a couple guys coming in June, and we've got our work cut out for us. But Braxton had a good spring." - Buckeyes HC Urban Meyer
10 Things We Learned from Urban Meyer’s Second Spring Game April 14, 2013 Source: The Ozone - 1. Braxton is better under pressure...
2. The receivers have come a long way...
3. Right tackle is still a cause for concern...
4. The defensive line is in good hands with Spence and Washington...
5. Curtis Grant is starting to look like a player...
6. Devin Smith is learning how to get himself open...
7. Chris Fields has some game...
8. It’s too early to write off Cardale Jones...
9. Some young defensive backs looked good...
10. The punting game has a long way to go...
Sporting a no-contact jersey that makes him half the player he truly is, Braxton Miller still showed why he's a front-runner for the Heisman.
While completing 64% of your passes is nothing to sneeze at, that number was hampered by Miller's adjustment to the scrimmage rules in that he often scrambled only to buy more time to throw, and potentially force something or crate a jumpball situation just because he couldn't be as effective as usual in chewing up rushing yards off designed pass plays under the two-hand touch rule. His stat line was solid as he completed 16 of 25 passes for 217 yards and a pair of scores along with another touchdown on the ground but those numbers could've been outrageous if defenders were forced to tackle him.
As a result, he threw at least four passes that he otherwise would've tucked and ran - for huge yardage. Also, to his credit, he had three throwaways after going through his progressions only to discover nobody was open.
I'm no Whitfield but Miller's feet looked calm in the pocket, his general mechanics looked fluid and simply looked more comfortable in his knowledge of the offense and what he wanted to do with the ball. I thought his accuracy, especially on timing or catch-and-run type routes was strong. He hit receivers in the numbers on a couple crossing routes allowing them to maintain full momentum and outrun linebackers to the sidelines. He looked sharp in the short passing game, leading running backs and receivers toward the hole created in the defense.
Beyond the physical, he seemed to be more vocal than last year. I saw him in the ear of receivers after plays and on the sidelines he did a lot of talking to his line. As great a player as he is, he hasn't been touted as an amazing leader by Urban but this looks like the year in which Miller takes that part of his game to the next level.
Throw in his increased mental maturity with his freakish skills and I'm ready to proclaim him as the favorite to capture the Stiff Arm Trophy.
THE GLARING WEAKNESS
While it was fun watching Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington put on an impressive pass rushing display, allaying some concerns about how the defensive line will perform this season with the departures of John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Garret Goebel and Nathan Williams, it was also scary to see how big of a hole the team has at right tackle.
It's been a hot topic all spring so it isn't exactly new news, but at times, it was tough to watch Taylor Decker and Chase Farris try to fill Reid Fragel's shoes.
I guess I should first say that I'm confident one of these guys will improve tremendously from April to September, and beyond, but if they don't Braxton will need a timer in his head as he scans the field on designed passing plays.
With both Decker and Farris needing snaps, Urban opted to play them both with Decker seeing a lot of time at left tackle in place of Jack Mewhort while Farris took most of his snaps at right tackle.
Neither player had a good day but I thought Decker was significantly better than Farris especially in the first half. Farris was beaten on the same speed rush off the edge multiple times and never really seemed to make any adjustments. At this point, I expect Decker to earn the starting job but improvement is mandatory or else we might see another mid-season position shakeup like last season when Zach Boren moved from fullback to linebacker to help a thin and ineffective corps.
It's obviously a long shot but if one of those two doesn't turn the corner, I could see someone like Andrew Norwell moving to the outside and shifting Decker to guard, where he would be book-ended by proven guys in Mewhort and Corey Linsley.
Bottom line, Ohio State will have to get better at right tackle in order to run the table.
FIELDS MAKING HIS MOVE
I found it interesting that Urban went out of his way to praise Chris Fields, even proclaiming him a starter at one of the receiver spots.
Fields, junior out of Painesville, was solid but far from spectacular yesterday hauling in four passes for 29 yards and a score. That said, he's had a good spring overall but I was still a little surprised at Urban's comments.
He's got the edge on experience and he must be showing a better ability to effectively block downfield because I don't see him as a playmaker on par with a guy like Michael Thomas or even maybe Evan Spencer.
As a result, I wonder if Urban isn't just playing one of his textbook psychological games, building the confidence of Fields while sending a message to Thomas and Spencer that more focus on the little things is required. Looking at their respective bodies of work, I'd have Thomas ahead of Fields in the rotation.
Thomas looked good yesterday with seven grabs for 79 yards and a score and again showed a knack for racking up yards after the catch, something I haven't seem much of from Fields. Further, I think it's evident Thomas has the higher ceiling and will very likely be an all-conference performer down the line.
Just something to keep an eye on because with Thomas, Spencer and the host of pass catchers arriving in Columbus come fall, I have a hard time believing Fields will start all season long or be a top-three receiver in catches and yards. I'm not knocking of the kid, he's paid his dues and made some timely plays in the past, I just don't know that I see him as one of Ohio State's best receivers as the season begins to unfold.
It might be hard for the true freshman from New Jersey to earn snaps in the secondary this season but Eli Apple is going to be a player for the Bullets sometime down the line.
The early enrollee made his share of mistakes but what was fun to watch was how he responded each time.
He missed a tackle on the 2nd play of the Gray squad's 2nd possession, then responded with solid coverage to force an incompletion on the next snap.
A few plays later, he got beat by Thomas, allowing to break free for a 31 yard gain but four plays later, he broke up a pass in the end zone showing excellent coverage and ball skills.
Early in the 2nd half, he showed great speed as he came on a corner blitz, blasting Cardale Jones and causing a fumble.
Again matched up with Thomas, this time on Gray's third possession of the 2nd half, Apple made another great play in the end zone to thwart a touchdown.
Listed at 6'1", 188 lbs, you have to like this kid's size and of all the young guys, he caught my eye the most. Knowing he's also a first-class guy, Ohio State might have a future star on their hands in Eli Apple.
AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES
Ohio State didn't even dress their top two tailbacks and had their main hybrid guy do nothing but field punts and it is abundantly clear this squad is loaded with guys who can do damage out of the backfield.
Specifically, Bri'onte Dunn was incredibly impressive. Knowing it will be difficult to earn carries with Carlos Hyde and seemingly Rod Smith ahead of him in the tailback rotation, at least at this point, Dunn isn't settling for third string.
Clearly, nobody is taking Hyde's spot but I do think Dunn can earn some time and I liked how he was used yesterday. The kid has a great set of hands and he can be a legitimate weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. Yesterday, Dunn caught five passes for 61 yards and scared the hell of defenders in the secondary.
At 6'0", 220 lbs, he was able to catch multiple balls and get a full head of steam upon reaching the 2nd level of the defense, where guys were seemingly doing all they could to avoid a head-on collision.
Hopefully, if remains parked at third-string, Meyer can give him enough touches to keep him engaged because he's another guy that could be a heavy lifter for the offense in the coming years.
Scarlet Defeats Gray in Spring Game, 31-14 April 13, 2013 Source: OSU Official Site - Braxton Miller threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Scarlet to a 31-14 victory over the Gray before 37,643 scarlet-clad fans.
The junior was the Big Ten's offensive player of the year last season as the Buckeyes surprised many with a 12-0 season in Urban Meyer's first year as head coach. Miller, who was 16 of 25 passing for 217 yards, threw scoring passes of 20 yards to Devin Smith and 3 yards to Corey Brown, and also rushed for a 3-yard score.
"I've still got to work on some things, watch some film and fix some mistakes," Miller said. "I was just trying to make the pass, get guys open and get the ball in their hands."
Miller, heralded as a Heisman Trophy contender this fall by several national publications, had a solid performance.
"Fundamentally he's pretty good. When it breaks down, that's when it starts to go," Meyer said. "But he's much improved. We have to improve everyone around him."
It was an informal practice session with scoreboards. There were TV cameramen on the field during some plays, and Meyer stood a few yards behind the backfield on almost all of the offensive plays for both squads.
There were 11 sacks by the two defenses, including four by Cincinnati native Adolphus Washington and three more by Noah Spence.
"Adolphus Washington has really raised his level of play," Meyer said. "He's a legitimate player. You saw him today just have his way with our offensive line at times."
Washington raised his hand after each sack.
"It's a thing that the D-line does," he said. "It's called ringing the ball. That's what we do."
Safety C.J. Barnett believes the defensive line - which must replace all four starters - could be the key to the entire team's season.
"The line is the most important part of the defense," he said. "We're going to go as far as they take us."
Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton hit on a total of 13 of 22 for 151 yards and one score, playing for both teams, and third-teamer Cardale Jones was 7 of 16 for 65 yards with a touchdown pass, two lost fumbles and an interception to Kevin Niehoff on one of the last plays of the game.
Jones was a target for tacklers, unlike Miller and backup Kenny Guiton, who wore black jerseys and were not allowed to be hit to guard against injuries. That led to some two-hand tap sacks.
No rusher amassed 50 yards, while Michael Thomas - who had 12 catches a year ago in the spring game and followed with just three during the entire regular season - had seven more receptions for 79 yards and a 4-yard TD for the Gray. For the Scarlet, Smith, running back Bri'onte Dunn and Brown each had five catches.
"We just wanted to come out and play a full game and see what everybody's got," Brown said.
Miller led the Scarlet to scores on three consecutive possessions to break the game open. After helping Scarlet forge a seven-point lead at the half on a last-second score, he ran it in from 5 yards the next time his team got the ball to make it 21-7.
There were constant reminders that this was no typical game. Drew Basil kicked for both teams. And after the Gray's second-quarter touchdown he attempted seven extra-point kicks, the last three from 54 yards out.
On some plays, Scarlet players mingled with Gray players on the same defensive front.
Meyer stood a few yards back of the quarterbacks, watching closely, on each play for both teams. A 1986 University of Cincinnati graduate, Meyer was all in favor of taking the game to Cincinnati when athletic director Gene Smith first proposed the switch.
The team toured the nearby Cincinnati Reds museum and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis spoke to the team before the game. The Buckeyes were scheduled to go out for local specialties such as barbecued ribs, chili and ice cream on their way home.
"To have almost 40,000 people show up for a scrimmage (was great)," Meyer said. "It's been a great trip."
By the numbers April 14, 2013 Source: News Herald - 7: combined sacks by Adolphus Washington (four) and Noah Spence (seven)
8: game-high tackles by linebacker Curtis Grant
45: game-high yards rushing by Warren Ball (on 11 carries)
49: yards gained on the first play, a pass from Braxton Miller
55: game-time temperature, with a chilly, 19-mph WSW wind
79: game-high yards receiving by Michael Thomas (on seven catches)
217: game-high yards passing by Braxton Miller (16-of-25)...
"I've still got to work on some things, watch some film and fix some mistakes. I was just trying to make the pass, get guys open and get the ball in their hands.
" - Braxton Miller post Spring game
Braxton Miller post Spring Game April 13, 2013
Ohio State's 2013 Spring Game in GIFs April 13, 2013 Source: Land-Grant Holy Land - All the highlights you could possibly need from Saturday's 2013 Ohio State Spring Game...Here were some of the best plays and highlights from Saturday's Spring Game in Cincinnati, Ohio:
The first play of the game showed everyone that Braxton Miller wasn't going to rest on the laurels of a strong 2012 football season. His aim in 2013 is to be an even more complete quarterback:
more Spring Game gifs here...
Before the start of the 2013 spring game in Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer led the team through a circle drill. The hard-hitting, six-minute drill pits two players against each other.
Braxton Miller, QB Miller's Achilles heel last year was throwing the ball, but yesterday he looked more polished, more poised, and more accurate on his throws. I'll concede 16-25 is fairly pedestrian in terms of straight numbers, but he was more accurate on his deep ball, which has been his kryptonite within said Achilles heel. He also seemed a lot more comfortable running the offense, and let's face it, only a guy with an exceptional amount of self confidence would walk around with a bleach blonde mohawk.
Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, DE's Holy crap, were these guys fierce off the edge. Granted, with the 'no hit' rule on the quarterback, a couple of those might be somewhat subjective, but I'm really excited about how disruptive Washington and Spence are going to be, and at times it seemed like they were almost unblockable. It looks like they have progressed and are ready to terrorize Big Ten quarterbacks.
Curtis Grant, MLB Grant was mentioned by Meyer as one of the guys who had impressed him the most during spring practice, and he showed why during the game. Grant, who has had trouble adjusting to the college game, was seemingly everywhere--decent in coverage, solid tackling, and he flowed well to the ball. He missed a couple tackles, but a new and improved Curtis Grant goes a long way in shoring up the front seven.
Devin Smith and Michael Thomas, WR's Smith and Thomas both had nice TD grabs (Thomas in particular) and both had big plays. I thought they could've been a little more aggressive in going after a couple balls, but they were the two receivers who stood out and made plays.
Eli Apple, CB I've read a lot about Apple this spring, and how well he's played as an early enrollee freshman. Apple showed up yesterday in a big way, breaking up a TD pass in the first quarter, and getting the sack/strip/fumble recovery trifecta on Cardale Jones in the third quarter. It was a very impressive debut for a guy that would normally be getting ready for prom this time of year.
Scarlet starting tackles The flip side of Washington and Spence having their big days is that the guys trying to block them, well, couldn't. Taylor Decker and Chase Ferris both struggled, and after the game Coach Meyer said the offensive line issues were a concern. The RT job was up for grabs heading in to the game, and although the protection get better in the second half, I don't think we got any answers as to who will be atop the depth chart come fall camp.
Drew Basil, K Basil just didn't impress me on Saturday. In the first half, he had some ugly field goal attempts that resembled something akin to a golfer with a bad slice or duck hook. Yeah, some were from a decent distance (50+ yards), but the results were just not there.
Cardale Jones, QB You can tell that Jones has a ton of raw talent, but he looked every bit a freshman. He turned the ball over twice, wasn't very accurate on his intermediate and deep stuff, and made several poor decisions by throwing the ball into traffic several times. And he kind of got a raw deal by not getting to wear the black jersey--dude took some shots yesterday. He did have a sweet TD pass to Michael Thomas, though.
Buy: Braxton Miller to Evan Spencer on the first play It's nice to see the offense show progress in the passing game, and so far, it looks like Miller's extra off-season work helped. That was a touchdown if Spencer doesn't lose his footing, but nice touch on the deep ball.
Sell: Drew Basil missing his initial FG 27 yarder...gotta make those, whether it's April or November.
Buy: TE Blake Thomas' rumblin' bumblin' stumblin' 1st quarter catch On the Gray's initial drive, QB Kenny Guiton hit Thomas on about a 15 yard out pattern, and Thomas just carried the defender for another 20 yards. Loved it.
Sell: LB David Perkins' tackle on Thomas Perkins literally jumped on Thomas, and was essentially fireman carried for 10 yards. And then Perkins hurt his wrist at the end of the play. High comedy, but I haven't seen a report on the seriousness of the injury, so I'm going to assume he'll be fine.
Buy: Having the game in Paul Brown Stadium It was a smaller crowd than recent spring game crowds, but a larger crowd than I thought they'd get in Cincy. It was a good initial effort, and I hope that they keep doing this and that it bears more recruiting fruit in the future.
Sell: Devin Smith switching to jersey #9 When he caught that suh-weeeet over the shoulder TD on the Scarlet first drive I was all like "woo, awesome #9...who are you?" It was cleared up pretty quickly, but it's going to take some getting used to.
Buy: Kenny Guiton as a backup Guiton looked good, for the most part, and you get the sense that if Miller goes down the offense will be in good hands with the senior.
Sell: The blonde mohawk on Miller LOLWUT...
So spring football comes to an end. For me, the takeaways were the impressive play of Braxton Miller, Curtis Grant, and the sophomore stud defensive ends Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence. My biggest concerns were the offensive line and Drew Basil, who looks like he needs a swing coach.
Overall, it was nice to see a sneak preview of the 2013 Buckeyes. It will be interesting to see what happens to the receiving corp depth chart when James Clark, Jalin Marshall, and Corey Smith come to town, and how the rest of the newcomers will fit in, but for now we roll the stone back into place until fall camp begins. Sigh...
Head coach Urban Meyer cashed in, notching two verbal commitments from a pair of 4-star prospects in Sam Hubbard and Kyle Berger.
The Buckeyes also made huge strides with a number of high-profile recruits, most notably with 5-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan (an early-week visitor).
Maybe the biggest development of the weekend, though, came when 4-star wide receiver Demarre Kitt named Ohio State his favorite after visiting the campus, according to Bill Kurelic of 247Sports.com.
Kitt is envisioning himself operating in Meyer's offense and noted that the Buckeyes offer him "the best opportunity."
He took to Twitter during his visit to Columbus last weekend:
Demarre Kitt @D_ocho
Ohio state is wonderful #buckeyenation
The star wide receiver out of Tyrone, Ga. hauled in 74 receptions for 1,235 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns in 2012. Kitt has piled up 30 scholarship offers from some of the premier schools around the country, including Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oregon, Texas and USC.
A commitment from Kitt would not only be a huge boost to an already impressive Buckeyes recruiting class, but it could also mean big things for some of the other elite prospects Ohio State is after. Kitt put Buckeyes fans on edge last weekend when he tweeted, "Imagine [Jabrill Peppers], [Raekwon McMillan], [Myles Autry] and me at Ohio State."
It doesn't appear that Kitt would hesitate recruiting on Ohio State's behalf if he were to commit. This would also be pivotal in the Buckeyes' recruitment of Deshaun Watson, a 4-star quarterback from Gainesville, Ga. Kitt told Kurelic that if he committed to the Buckeyes, he would help flip Watson to Ohio State.
Kitt is scheduled to visit Tennessee this weekend to see the Volunteers' spring game, but Meyer and the Buckeyes have to like the position they're in to land the stud wide receiver.
Watch highlights from Kitt's junior season here.
Braxton Miller really progressing as a leader April 10, 2013 Source: Columbus Dispatch - Great expectations come for a college football player who set a school season record for total offense and is one of nine offensive starters returning.
Such is the case for Braxton Miller, whom Ohio State coach Urban Meyer once said is "the most dynamic athlete I’ve ever coached at quarterback."
And apparently, he’s getting better.
Asked the other day where Miller stands on a hypothetical improvement chart, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said, "I would say that if he was at a 1 this time last year, and a 4 at the end of the season, he’s at a 6 right now."
And his potential?
"He could be an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10," Herman said.
Miller showed during a practice last week part of the reason why Meyer and Herman hold him in such high regard. After taking a shotgun snap, Miller quickly judged that the pocket had been breached. In a blink, he was gone, sprinting through a gap between left guard and left tackle. He slowed about 15 yards later.
To go further would have been moot — he was wearing a black jersey, which in spring practice means "hands off" to defensive players. In other words, don’t put in jeopardy the player who is regarded as a Heisman Trophy candidate for 2013 and who hopes to put the Buckeyes in the hunt for a national title.
Progress is a process, though, and Meyer, Herman and the offensive staff have brought Miller along one step at a time to make sure his understanding is solid. That is crucial in the passing game, where Miller has made marked improvement recognizing coverages.
"Braxton is becoming more vocal," receiver Corey Brown said. "Everybody raves about how smart (senior backup quarterback) Kenny (Guiton) is, and how Kenny can yell out a coverage before we can even get out of the huddle. Braxton is starting to get a little Kenny Guiton swag to him as far as pre-snap. He’s locating coverages before the defense even gets into them."
Miller knows he has improved in that area, but his focus is on the next step.
"I’ve still got a lot of things to work on, leadership-wise, to keep the guys going when things aren’t going so well ... and get the ball to the guys that get open real quick," Miller said.
Herman said Miller has what it takes to be a great quarterback, perhaps even improve on his 3,310 total yards of last season.
"He can run real fast and throw real hard … the physical tools are all there," Herman said. "Now, we’ve got to catch the entire package up with that in terms of being a cerebral quarterback, a very fundamentally sound quarterback, being a manager of the game, being a leader out there.
"Once he masters that … the sky is the limit."
OSU had student appreciation day. It didn't end well for Brutus.
Among the roughly 2,500 students who turned up at Ohio State's spring practice Saturday morning that served as a student appreciation day, with food trucks (including one serving pitas), music and postgame mingling with the OSU players and coaches part of the festivities, almost everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
Except maybe Brutus. He got rocked.
As the 11th of 15 practices this spring, Ohio State couldn't sacrifice the day of work to a county fair atmosphere. So the Buckeyes got about two good hours of scrimmaging in, with students watching and crowding around at the end for some goalline series and field goals from kicker Drew Basil and two students chosen to kick...
At one point earlier mascot Brutus Buckeye jumped in for a play, and someone forget to tell sophomore linebacker David Perkins to ease up on the nut. So when Brutus got the ball, Perkins went to work, leveling the mascot with a form tackle. You'll remember that an actual human, not wearing pads, was inside those stripes and oversized noggin.
"That was crazy man," senior safety Christian Bryant said. "It brought a little bit of excitement and got the fans into it. They should have given him a black jersey if they didn't want him to get hit."
That black supposedly no-contact jersey didn't protect quarterback Braxton Miller from a hit earlier this week. So it probably wouldn't have helped here. Brutus wobbled to his feet and left practice, but there didn't appear to be any serious injury involved. Maybe it's a good sign that Perkins, who has worked with the first team all spring with Ryan Shazier out while recovering from surgery, showed solid fundamentals.
"I read pass, and I took my drop," said Perkins, describing the play as if he were tracking a Wolverine in November and not a mascot in April. "I saw the quarterback and I saw we lost contain, so I ran over to try to keep contain and just did my responsibility."...
@SamHubbard24 Committed to play football at Ohio State!!! #BuckeyeNation #dreamcometrue
It's another Urban Meyer flip – this time across sports.
Hubbard had pledged to Notre Dame's lacrosse team, but he rescinded that before visiting Ohio State this weekend.
"It was such an early process," Hubbard told ESPN.com's Buckeye Nation this week. "I made my decision in January of my sophomore year and that’s not really giving much thought to football. I hadn’t heard from many schools."
Once the Buckeyes and others offered for football, Hubbard chose to stick with that sport.
A 6-foot-6, 233-pounder, Hubbard is the sixth pledge to Ohio State's 2014 class, with Glenville lineman Marcelys Jones and St. Vincent-St. Mary running back Parris Campbell among those already on board.
Hubbard is No. 32 on Rivals.com's list of outside linebackers. He plays at Moeller High School, and with the Cincinnati connections of Meyer, who played at the University of Cincinnati, and assistant Kerry Coombs, a long-time Cincinnati high school coach, the Buckeyes are hoping to making recruit progress in the southwest part of Ohio.
Hubbard had scholarship offers from Michigan State, Stanford and Louisville, among others. (including Michigan, Illinois, Miami (Fl))
Buckeyes utilizing Dynavision machine April 5, 2013 Source: BuckeyeGrove.com - When the 2012 season came to a close, Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs knew that Doran Grant needed to improve his hand-eye coordination. So he turned to his Cincinnati roots and Buckeyes strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti.
With both coaches having a history at the University of Cincinnati, they each were familiar with the Dynavision machine that the Bearcats baseball program uses to improve its players' reaction times. The device is a large board with dozens of square bulbs that randomly light up and don't dim until its user hits them with his hand, prompting another random bulb to become the target.
The Dynavision machine has been used by Air Force jet fighter pilots for training, as well as NBA All-Star Tim Duncan, who holds the machine's all-time record with 132 lights hit in one minute.
Upon Grant's first use of the machine, Coombs' assessment proved to be correct. The junior-to-be scored just a 60- one of the lower postings on the team. Hard work and practice seem to have paid off for the Akron native, as he now holds the Buckeyes' high score with a 108.
Grant said that the Dynavision machine has not only been good for his bragging rights, but his on-field play as well.
"It's showing up on my breaks, me seeing plays better, my overall vision on the field," Grant said. "I can make more plays and do certain things that I can see."
For a program that thrives so much on intrasquad competition, the Dynavision is a natural fit. On any given day inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, you can find multiple Buckeyes lined up around the machine, encouraging each other, while also trying to top each others' scores.
On Thursday, it was wide receiver Chris Fields going at it with Grant, with the latter ultimately winning thanks to a score of 101 that topped Fields' 100.
"It's good 'cause it's competitive. It's kind of like a video game," Marotti said. "They're into it and they want to see who can get the highest score. They're fighting back in that back room to get the highest score. The object is obviously to decrease reaction time from the time they see a light sensor to they hit it. The theory is when you see a ball, the awareness of what's going on around them, they can speed that up a little bit."
According to Marotti, the device is especially useful for skill position players, such as wide receivers, defensive backs, and quarterbacks. Coombs said that each of his unit's meetings starts with a go-round with the Dynavision, which helps amp up the competitive spirit in the cornerbacks room.
"There's no downside to kids doing that kind of stuff on their own," Coombs said. "We train so hard. We train your body physically. We train your, frankly, your soul with ethical conduct and character. We train your heart with toughness and those kind of things. Why not train your eyes and your mind and try to close some of those synapses that are going on in your brain?"
The Buckeyes have only had the machine for a couple of weeks now, but it appears to be paying dividends. Like Grant, Fields mentioned that it has been helpful to his play as Ohio State enters its final week of spring practice.
"My skill position as a receiver, I've got to react fast. I gotta move fast, move quick" Fields said. "I feel like that's been beneficial."
Miller dyed the middle strip of his hair bright blonde while shaving down the sides, creating a "fro hawk" that was reminiscent of former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu's 'do. The Buckeyes quarterback unveiled the look during a spring kickoff luncheon, drawing gasps from the fans in attendance.
The highlighter-yellow color wasn't the only reason for shock. Miller normally isn't one to draw attention to himself, outside of his jaw-dropping moves on the football field. Despite finishing fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting and leading a 12-0 team last season as a sophomore, he still manages to maintain a relatively low profile.
"If you didn't know him and you saw him walking down the street, you would never know that was Braxton Miller," Ohio State offensive tackle Jack Mewhort said. "He doesn't talk about all that stuff. It's like he doesn't want the spotlight."
Miller had some posters made up of his recent Sports Illustrated cover, but he hasn't hung them up. He has a Twitter account but uses it mostly to talk to friends. A normal night, he said, involves going home after practice or film work, studying some more football on his iPad and "chilling with the homies at the house." He laughed when I asked him if he'd ever be spotted courtside at an NBA game or posing with celebrities like Texas A&M's Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel.
"I don't go out much," he said. "I'm not out there to get seen or to get talked about. That's not in my blood."
It's hard to hide when you're the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year and a leading 2013 Heisman candidate for a team that should be ranked in the preseason Top 5. But it's unlikely you'll hear Miller stumping for his Heisman chances like South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney has done.
"He's one of the greatest kids I've ever been around," Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. "He's so humble. That's unique for a starting quarterback who has that kind of exposure."
Miller's actions have always spoken louder, anyway. He's already created volumes of highlights in less than two full years as a starter, leaving defenders grasping for air with his open-field -- and sometimes open-air -- moves. But Meyer said Miller -- who ran for 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns last season -- has thus far gotten by mostly on pure athleticism. The next step is for him to master the fundamentals and become a precise passer.
He completed just 58.3 percent of his passes last season, placing him in the lower half of Big Ten starting quarterbacks in that regard. Meyer said Miller's mechanics often broke down whenever there was pressure or he was scrambling to make a play.
"He's probably the best athlete I've ever coached at that position, which is a great thing but also a hindrance," Meyer said. "He gets away with things lesser athletes don't, and it's gotten him out of so much trouble. That's great, and I don't want to lose that. We just have to coach him through it."
Miller worked with private quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr. this offseason to hone his footwork and throwing motion, a process that has continued under offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Tom Herman. Reviews of his progress this spring have been positive so far.
"He's been working on his mechanics, and his arm looks way better," cornerback Bradley Roby said. "I already see him getting better, and we still have a whole summer. It's going to be scary once he gets it all down."
Miller admits he has more work to do on his fundamentals, and that he has to concentrate on maintaining them when he's on the move, where he's made some of his biggest plays as a Buckeye. His goal is to complete 70 percent of his passes this season, which he thinks is realistic because of the improvement of his receiving corps and a better knowledge of the offensive system.
"The sky's the limit, really," he said. "Last year, the concepts of the plays were so different, but now it's like the back of my hand. I know where everybody is going to be and I know how to get them open. It's going to be fun."
Like it or not, Miller will be one of the most scrutinized players in college football next season. And if he can make great strides as a passer -- to go along with his running ability and knack for clutch plays -- more than just his hair will be shining brightly in Columbus this season.
Ohio State recruiting: State Secrets, 4/5 - Colossal recruiting weekend, visitors' expectations for their trip
April 5, 2013 Source: Land-Grant Holy Grant - Before getting you all adequately prepared for this monumental recruiting weekend in Columbus, I'd like to note that the Notre Dame coaches were working the phones early and often on Thursday morning. In a very short timeframe, the world was alerted via twitter that the Irish offered three key Buckeye targets. Wide receivers Dallis Todd (our talk with Todd last month) and Derek Kief, along with tight end Tyler Luatua (Todd's high school teammate), were issued full rides from Brian Kelly and his staff in South Bend. The Buckeyes better hope Todd holds value in the fact that Ohio State was one of the first major schools to notice him, because he is racking up offers left and right. The same goes for Kief- let's hope he wants to stick around close to home for his college career. Check out Todd and Kief's highlight tapes.
Moving on to this epic recruiting weekend, I'm certain Urban Meyer has his staff fully prepared and ready to host this bevy of talented prep athletes. Yesterday, we provided a comprehensive visitor list to fully suit up for the weekend, and our very own Luke Zimmermann (among many others) stated that he believes recent Notre Dame lacrosse decommit Sam Hubbard may be the next in line to join Buckeye pledges Damon Webb, Parris Campbell, Kyle Trout, Marcelys Jones, and Dylan Thompson in the 2014 class.
Speaking of Campbell, I caught up with him and asked about his plans in his visit to Ohio State and what other recruits he is looking forward to speaking with. Here's what he had to say:
"I'm looking forward to the atmosphere of the practice, and I'm looking forward to meeting all of the families [of the other visitors]. I'm most looking forward to hanging out with, of course, my boy Dante Booker. But another guy I'm looking forward to hanging with is Damon Webb."
Sounds like the sole running back commit (as of now) in the Buckeyes' 2014 recruiting class is pumped to get to know the other members of his class. Campbell also told me a few weeks ago that the chances linebacker Dante Booker ends up a Buckeye are "really high." Here's some film for Booker, who, ya know, just may end up a Buckeye, according to Campbell:
One out-of-state prospect who everyone considers a Buckeye lean is offensive lineman Sam Mustipher, out of Maryland. Mustipher told me a few months ago that he doesn't plan on deciding on a school until sometime during the fall of his senior season (this upcoming fall) and probably sometime in December. Well, he certainly isn't short on choices, as he holds offers from juggernauts like Alabama, Michigan (I really don't want to call TSUN a "juggernaut," so ignore that adjective), Notre Dame, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Clemson, among others. Regardless, among the names being mentioned by fans and social media contributors when discussing potential Buckeye commitments this weekend is Mustipher. I chatted with him and asked about what he's looking forward to doing in Columbus this weekend. Here's what he said:
"I'm just looking forward to getting back up there and furthering relationships with the staff. Also, seeing a practice."
I'll be sure to catch up with him post-visit, and hopefully he comes away impressed. Sam's currently in Ann Arbor visiting the Wolverines, so it'll be easy for him to compare the two visits as they are back-to-back trips.
Another highly heralded out-of-state offensive line target is Alex Bookser, out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Bookser holds schollies from many of the big boys as well, including Ohio State's SEC rival, Alabama. He's listed at 6-6, 295 pounds and projects as an offensive tackle, where the aforementioned Mustipher projects as a guard. I asked Bookser about his expectations for his Columbus trip, and here's what he said he's looking forward to:
"I really want to meet the coaches and just check out the environment. From what I hear, it's a special place, so I'd like to see for myself."
We discussed Coach Meyer's struggle to haul in out-of-state offensive line talent a little over a week ago, and commitments from Bookser and Mustipher would surely buck that trend.
On Tuesday, we gave you guys the details on Ohio State's latest punting target, Corbin Daly, out of Charlotte, North Carolina. As we stated in that piece, Daly is very interested in the Buckeyes and is looking forward to checking out campus. Aside from checking out the Fisher College of Business, Daly detailed the football-related activities he is excited to partake in:
"I am really looking forward to seeing the campus and the football program as a whole. I am looking to get a feel for the atmosphere at the campus and watching Urban Meyer coach his team that he had rebuilt from scratch."
Although Daly doesn't yet hold a Buckeye offer, we'll keep you detailed on the progression of his recruitment.
Last but certainly not least, Ohio State commit Damon Webb, from Detroit, Michigan, is ready to do some recruiting of his own this weekend. He told me this late Thursday:
"I'm just looking forward to hanging out with my Buckeye family and recruiting other players."
Prepare yourself, Buckeye nation. Expectations are undoubtedly high, but it has a chance to be EPIC.
Meyer Post Practice April 2, 2012 Source: The Ozone
Ohio State Spring Football Notebook: Practice No. 9 April 2, 2013 Source: Eleven Warriors - Spring practice is never a time for perfection. Coaches are always looking for the best blocks, a great throwing motion from the quarterback, crisp route running and form tackles. But they’re also realistic. March and April are used for fine-tuning and housecleaning.
And staying healthy.
The Buckeyes narrowly averted disaster in that category during Tuesday’s practice.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State’s do-everything quarterback, took a vicious hit from defensive end Noah Spence on an option toss to running back Rod Smith. Miller – wearing a black no-contact jersey – remained on the turf for several minutes, flat on his back. When he finally got to his feet, he wasn’t interested in keeping the peace.
Miller walked straight to the culprit and a skirmish broke out on the defensive sideline. Words and shoves were exchanged. Mike Vrabel and a mob of players broke up the brief brouhaha. Urban Meyer said there wasn’t intent in the hit.
"It’s football," the head coach said. "We ran option to the left and he got dinged. He’s fine."
Meyer said Miller already has sore ribs from a hit he suffered during a scrimmage on Saturday. As for the fire inside Miller, Meyer is A-OK with it.
"I like quarterbacks that want to go get in a street fight and get after it," he said. "That’s not probably the time to do it, but he’s a competitor.
"Braxton is a competitor. I guess that’s better than the opposite, just curl up and say, ‘Why did he hit me?’ So he’s a tough kid."
Meyer is among the head coaches that are always striving for everything to go as designed. That’s why he was so displeased during much of the spring a year ago.
The Buckeyes had taken a step back in performance and were coming off a horrendous losing season. With a new coaching staff and offensive system, it took weeks to get the offensive line, quarterback, running backs and wide receivers on the same page. Meyer uttered his now infamous "clown show" line during that period of transition.
One year and 12 wins later, his tune has changed. Through nine practices, Meyer sees a team that’s competitive in most, if not all, areas of the game. His baby, though, is the offense, where nine starters return and a bevy of backups are pining for playing time.
"Spring practice you develop scheme but more importantly develop guys," Meyer said. "You’ve got to get something back. They seem like good kids, but at some point you’ve got to give back to the program and play. So we’re force-feeding some guys. There are guys who have ability, but for 100 different reasons, they haven’t played."
Running back is the most noteworthy position where depth has become a non-issue. Carlos Hyde and his 1,021 total yards and 17 touchdowns ended any discussion of an open competition for the starting job. But behind him is an influx of talent just waiting to get on the field.
Rod Smith, Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball have all staked a claim in the running backs sweepstakes. Smith’s ball security problems look like an issue of the past, Dunn has been running through and around the defense and Ball, a redshirt freshman who missed last season with a foot injury, is 100 percent healthy and flashing the skills that made him a highly coveted recruit.
"I couldn’t tell you who our backup is right now," Meyer said. "They’re battling pretty good."
And the list doesn’t include Braxton Miller, who is quite mobile on his legs, and incoming freshmen not already enrolled. The Buckeyes possessed the 10th-best rushing attack in the country last season, averaging more than 242 yards per game on the ground while scoring 37 touchdowns.
With an overflowing stable of horses and four of five offensive linemen returning, there’s no reason why the run game shouldn’t improve tenfold. Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall proved vital during Ohio State’s 12-0 season.
Listening to Meyer, it sounds like more of the same is coming in 2013, and the rest of the Big Ten should be wary.
"I like 80 percent of our offensive line starters," he said. "I still don’t know who the fifth guy is. Those four (returning starters) are tough guys. They’ve picked up right where they left off last year."
Concern regarding the fifth starter should be minimal. Taylor Decker nearly took the job from Reid Fragel last fall, and Fragel ended up being the Buckeyes’ top lineman. Battling Decker is Chase Farris, who came to Ohio State as a defensive lineman, and Pat Elflein.
Meyer said Decker is ahead of Fragel’s pace, but it was during the fall when Fragel improved by leaps and bounds.
It isn’t all roses and cherry blossoms for the Buckeyes, though. The defense remains the biggest concern after seven starters departed, including instrumental leaders like John Simon, Garrett Goebel and Zach Boren.
"I keep looking for Goebel and Simon," Meyer said. "They’re getting better, though. Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence, you just wish there was one or two older guys in there to help them out."
Michael Bennett, a junior, is the most experienced lineman, while fellow junior Ryan Shaizer is the most senior member of the linebacker corps. The only seniors on the defense are in the secondary – C.J. Barnett, Christian Bryant and Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown.
Whether it’s Meyer or Thad Matta, invariably, the talk of senior leadership becomes a topic. In an era where both coaches want blue-chip prospects to make an immediate impact, there’s still something to be said about having a veteran presence on the field and in the locker room.
"We need leaders," Meyer said.
Notes • With Braxton getting dinged, it brings to mind the backup QBs. Kenny Guiton led the Purdue comeback last season, but he's still a major drop off.
• After Braxton and the defense were separated, Vrabel took him aside and talked to him for a few minutes.
• When Braxton returned, he ran out of the pocket and lowered his shoulder into David Perkins. He wasn't going to shy away from hits.
• The offense won the winners/losers session today, even without Braxton part of the time. The game-winning play was a fade to Nick Vannett from Guiton.
• Antonio Underwood has a torn ACL. Out for season. He will redshirt.
• Ohio State ran some of the diamond set/pistol that the San Francisco 49ers run with Colin Kaepernick. Hyde, Dunn and Smith were all in the backfield with Braxton.
• Meyer said he and some coaches went to San Francisco during the offseason to study the 49ers’ offensive sets. You'll see similar formations throughout the season.
• Spence continues to be the most impressive member of the defense. Unblockable once again. Mewhort had no answer for him off edge.
• When Marcus Hall went against Spence, he did the only he could do: hold. The official tossed the penalty flag.
• The second biggest hit of the day went to Jamal Marcus. He laid out Dunn in the backfield. Was in backfield a lot.
• Armani Reeves intercepted Guiton and returned the pick 70 yards. But the end was not good for him. Farris absolutely leveled him.
• The running backs continue to look good, especially Ball. He missed last season with foot injury. Ball has been great all spring. It equals depth.
• Chris Carter continues to impress along the D-line. Meyer said they set his weight limit at 340. If he goes over, he won’t play.
• The best pass/catch of the day came from Guiton on a bomb to Michael Thomas. He caught it with Eli Apple defending.
• Jordan Hall was wearing an orange jersey again today.
• The defense won Saturday's scrimmage, according to Meyer.
• Armani Reeves actually had a pretty decent day of practice. But he was still Kerry Coombs' favorite target.
• Special teams highlights: Philly Brown and Bradley Roby returned punts. Drew Basil made a 51-yard FG.
• Ryan Shazier took part in drills today, though he was wearing an orange jersey.
• Chris Fields did some slot work today. Braxton got him a pitch on a broken play that resulted in a first down.
• Meyer said the wide receivers are "much better" at this point compared to last year. He singled out Philly Brown as someone who’s impressed. Meyer also talked up the tight ends.
• Meyer called Elflein a big surprise. "I love who he is, tough guy."
The Big Ten’s player of the year in 2012 was hit on an option pitch by defensive end Noah Spence even though Miller was wearing a black (for no contact) jersey.
Miller stayed down for several minutes. As backup Kenny Guiton replaced him, Miller confronted some defensive players on the sideline before being restrained by teammates.
Miller was held out of three series before returning to practice in preparation for the spring game on April 13.
It will be held at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium because of concrete work being done to Ohio Stadium.
Afterward, Meyer was unfazed, noting that Miller was already nursing a sore rib from a hit last week but that the tackle by Spence was in no way malicious.
"It’s football," Meyer said. "We ran option. (Miller) got hit in the same spot."
Neither was he displeased that Miller got up and went after the defensive players.
"I like quarterbacks that want to go get in a street fight and go after it," Meyer said. "That’s not probably the time to do it, but he’s a competitor. So you’re asking what kind of reaction would I want out of a quarterback? I didn’t really see what happened, but Braxton’s a competitor.
"I guess that’s better than the opposite, just lay on the ground and curl up and, ‘Why did he hit me?’ So, he’s a tough kid."...
Ohio State recruiting: State Secrets, 4/2 April 2, 2013 Source: Land-Grant Holy Grant - Over the weekend, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff played host to a few talented recruits. One of those prospects to visit was 2014 Lima Central Catholic defensive back Darius West. The 6-0 195 pound West, who has already made the short trip down to Columbus a few times told Land-Grant Holy Land, "the visit was a lot of fun." Even though Darius is no stranger to the program and has watched the Buckeyes beat Michigan in the 'Shoe, this visit definitely had its highlights, West had the opportunity to sit in during position meetings and talk with the coaching staff.
His day on campus didn't stop there; West took in a spring practice Saturday and liked what he saw out of the staff. He also told us he really enjoyed seeing the staff fly around the field as well as having the chance to watch how the position coaches coach. Darius even got to meet a couple of the other top prospects the Buckeye state has to offer in Ohio State commit Kyle Trout and Cincinnati LaSalle wide receiver Derek Kief.
West, had an impressive junior campaign where he finished with 47 tackles and 5 interceptions. His hard work didn't go unnoticed teams such as Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Penn State, Purdue and West Virginia are just some of the schools that have offered full ride scholarships to West. Even though the Bucks have yet to issue an offer themselves, they continue to show increased interest. He also told us,"the coaches said they wanted to see a track meet and come see me at school. I feel like an offer could be coming soon." See what Darius could bring to the Buckeyes in these highlights.
The Ohio State recruiting express didn't stop Saturday; Monday started off an important week in Ohio State football recruiting with one of the nations top linebackers kicking things off. Five star Georgia native Raekwon McMillan started his three day visit Monday. 247Sports rates McMillan as the 19th prospect in the nation the #1 inside linebacker in the nation and the second best player the peach state has to offer. The Buckeyes, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Southern Cal seem to be the teams at the top of the lengthy list of schools after the talented McMillan, who had close to 100 tackles and five forced fumbles for his Liberty County squad last season. Fellow Georgia native Myles Autry, a four star running back had previously stated he would join McMillan on the trip but it seems the 5-10 175 pound speedster had to cancel. As for McMillan:
After the Buckeyes recently had Virginia quarterback Caleb Henderson on campus, the Buckeyes will host another signal caller this week. Delaware dual threat quarterback Darius Wade told me he is in contact with Coach Herman the most amongst Ohio State's recruiters and is really looking forward to checking out the facilities while he is in town. The 6-2 190 pound Wade, who is sporting offers from Boston College, Nebraska and Syracuse to name a few, would like to meet with academic support while on campus and try to get a feel where he stands with the Buckeye coaching staff. With Wade having had an impressive junior season in which he accounted for nearly 3000 total yards from scrimmage, it was only a matter of time before the big boys came calling.
Check out what Wade prospectively brings to the table for the Buckeyes:
As many of you well know, the Buckeyes have a hard and fast need when it comes to the punter position. Another one of the many talented recruits to visit this coming weekend is North Carolina punter Corbin Daly. While Daly wouldn't be able to help this coming fall, the 6-1 185 pound Daly told Land-Grant Holy Land that he is in contact with Mark Pantoni and is looking forward to watching practice and checking out the campus. Like Darius Wade, Daly would like to see what the Buckeyes have to offer off the field, stating he would like to check out the Fisher College of Business since that is what he plans to major in. Even though Daly doesn't have an OSU offer yet, that doesn't mean he won't soon. Schools such as Alabama, Duke, North Carolina, NC State and LSU are just a few of the other programs showing interest in the talented punter who averages well over 40 yards a boot.
Stud New Jersey running back Jonathan Hilliman announced his top ten on Monday afternoon. The 6-1 210 pound Hilliman is down to (in order) the Buckeyes, Michigan, Alabama, Rutgers, Stanford, Georgia, Oregon, Boston College, Arkansas and Vanderbilt. No wonder why so many of the nations top programs are after Hilliman; the talented back rushed for 1400 yards and 20 touchdowns last season for St. Peter's Prep. Hilliman had the following to say when a Buckeye fan asked him what made him put the good guys on top:
The Buckeyes have offered a pair of talented 2014 defensive backs the last few days in Oklahoma safety Steven Parker and Tennessee corner Rico McGraw. Parker is a 6-2 175 pound ball hawk who has programs such as home state schools Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and out of staters Texas A&M, Alabama and Arizona State all after him for his talents. McGraw is a 6-0, 180 lb shut down corner who has scholarships from Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Georgia Tech and most of the other top southern schools.
In Buckeye basketball news, 2014 Georgia guard Keith Pinckney told me he has been in contact with Dave Dickerson recently. The 6-1 170 pound point guard told me when it comes to Ohio State, he thinks of a tough, big time basketball program. The Bucks aren't the only team showing interest in the Miller Grove baller; Miami, Xavier (both have offered), Georgia Tech and Clemson are just a few of the teams eyeing Pinckney who averaged over 14 points and five assists a game last season...
No, this isn't a re-run of an article from a year ago, when Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer named the senior running back his team's top playmaker following spring practice. Multiple injuries- including one freak accident before the start of fall camp- derailed those plans, but Hall has hopes of making the most of a second, and final chance in 2013.
"We have a lot of playmakers on offense. I think I can be another one," Hall said following OSU's third spring practice of the preseason. "I'm another person that people will have to prepare for."
That was the plan a year ago also, when Meyer ranted and raved about Hall's ability in his spread offense. The Jeannette, Pa. native was even held out of the spring game, because the OSU coaching staff felt that he had nothing left to prove until the start of the season.
Plans for Hall, however, soon hit a snag.
On June 29- nearly two months before the start of the season- Hall cut his foot on a piece of glass outside of his apartment. The injury kept him out of action for a full 10 weeks, with Hall returning for the Buckeyes' third game of the season, where he rushed for 87 yards in a 35-28 win over California.
A week later, Hall enjoyed the best game of his college career, rushing for 105 yards in Ohio State's win over UAB, and against Michigan State, he ran for a touchdown in the Buckeyes' 17-16 victory. The running back's performance against the Spartans, however, came at a price.
After attempting just six carries in East Lansing, Hall suffered a partial tear of his PCL, which ultimately kept him out of Ohio State's remaining seven games. The good news, however, was that having participated in just three games in 2012, Hall was still eligible for a medical redshirt.
Meyer said that there was never a discussion regarding whether or not Hall would return for a fifth season in Columbus.
"He just wasn't healthy enough to play. There wasn't a decision," Meyer said. "He could've moved on to what? The NFL? He's gotta have a good year. I think he will. Because I do think he could play in the NFL if he has a good year."
Through three weeks of spring practice, the prognosis on Hall has been a microcosm of his college career: there's been plenty of optimism, but also some setbacks along the way.
It was Hall who stole the show in the Buckeyes' first spring practice on March 5, excelling in Ohio State's hybrid wide receiver-running back position while dodging would-be tacklers and slipping by mismatched defenders. The burst was reminiscent of the effort that he showed a year ago, which led to the high praise from the OSU coaching staff.
"The one thing about Jordan Hall, you look at his stature - he looks small, but the kid is a 400-pound bencher, he is 200 pounds, he is quick as a hiccup and he can make you miss in space," running backs coach Stan Drayton said. "You have a kid that you can put in space that has all these talents that are versatile, and you're just trying to put it into one system. He is a valuable threat in a significant player in this system."
Despite his resurgence, Hall is been slowed down by a slight hamstring pull, as well as an academic issue that kept him out of Ohio State's sixth spring practice. He returned in time for the Buckeyes' seventh spring practice, but Meyer admitted that he needs every minute that he can get on the practice field.
"He's going to play a new position," Meyer said. "The amount of running compared to a running back that a receiver does, he just wasn't ready."
Regardless of his setbacks, Hall remains confident that he'll be an integral part of the OSU offense once the season starts this fall.
"I'm not worried about that," Hall said. "I figure if I'm on the field, I have a chance to make plays and people will see it."
As he's learned in the last year, doing just that can be easier said than done.
The Buckeyes hit the practice fields of the indoor facility of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Tuesday and today's practice saw the Buckeyes pay special attention to the second team as practice No. 6 is in the books.
It was an opportunity for many defensive players to see extra reps as well as some of the running back depth with both Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball focusing on most of the carries as Rod Smith saw a couple of carries as well.
Things got a little feisty as well with the team still having nine more practices (spring game included) left. Joel Hale and Corey Linsley got into it with much hooping and hollering coming from the team as things got to be pretty physical with the pads popping.
We talked with Urban Meyer after the practice to get his thoughts on how things went and as usual, he pulled no punches when talking about the progress of his team. Check it out in this free update. If you want to get our more detailed practice result, join us in the Horseshoe Lounge for Ben Axelrod's practice report. Source: BuckeyeGrove.com
Meyer concerned about defensive front seven March 27, 2013 Source: AP/News Herald - Speaking after Tuesday's indoor workout at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Meyer said he was pleased with many players and positions as the Buckeyes approached the midpoint of spring workouts.
But he remains concerned by the fill-ins for the departed John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Nathan Williams and Garrett Goebel on the defensive line and Zach Boren and Etienne Sabino at linebacker.
"I'm still worried about defense," the second-year coach of the Buckeyes said. "I still keep looking for Goebel and Simon and those guys up front. They're getting better though: Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence. There's some talent. You just wish there were one or two older guys up there to help them out."...
Co-Defensive Coordinator & Assistant Head Coach/Safeties Coach Everett Withers answers questions from reporters following practice on Tues. Source: The Ozone
No one hauled in a better 2013 recruiting class than Urban Meyer and Ohio State, according to Scout.com. In all, the Buckeyes inked 24 players, including five five-star recruits. On Monday night’s "Football Report," BTN analyst Gerry DiNardo sat down with Mark Pantoni, Ohio State’s director of player personnel. How do the Buckeyes go about recruiting some of the nation’s elite talent? Find out in the video now.
Dylan Thompson is #5 for 2014 March 19, 2013 Source: Eleven Warriors - Many Chicago area targets have emerged on the Buckeyes' coaching staff's radar for the 2014 class and the first one has dropped. Montini Catholic's DL Dylan Thompson announced today that he will play his college football in Columbus.
Thompson pledged to the Scarlet and Gray while on his first visit to campus this weekend. His first looks at the university were enough to convince him it should be his home for his college years.
He was offered by Ohio State on February 7 and told me that an early commit was possible if he found the perfect situation for himself. He found it on the banks of the Olentangy.
Thompson, 6-foot-5 and tipping the scales at over 270 pounds, picked Ohio State over 10 other offers that included Ole Miss, Clemson, Illinois, Indiana, USC, Vanderbilt, Syracuse, Tennessee, Purdue, and Missouri.
The addition of Thompson could give the Buckeyes a leg up in the recruitment of two of their top targets, LB Clifton Garrett and OT Jamarco Jones. The three both work out for and represent the Core 6 Athletes organization in the Chicago area that assists kids in talent progression and obtaining exposure from college programs. All three performed in the Core 6 Showcase in Cincinnati. The next time the trio is in Ohio together it could be a permanent arrangement.
Keep an eye out in the coming days as we connect with the future Buckeye.
You can follow Dylan on Twitter at @BRONCODE59.
After practice, Coach Urban Meyer met with the media for close to 15 minutes. Among his observations and comments were the following...
Urban Meyer Q&A Following Tuesday Practice
Buckeyes in pads for first time in 2013 March 19, 2013 Source: OSU Official Site - The team held its third of 15 practices this spring in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center... After a 12-day break from practicing while Ohio State students enjoyed spring break, the Ohio State Buckeyes returned to the practice field Tuesday with a session that lasted just over two hours in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
The team members were in full pads for the first time but full contact drills weren't on the agenda for this third of 15 spring practice sessions. The session opened with the prototypical tough man competition: the circle drill. A half dozen battles ensued along the west 15 yard line in the WHAC with RB Rod Smith tangling with LB Cameron Williams to lead things off and other skirmishes between WR Frank Epitropolis and CB Eli Apple, RB Warren Ball and CB Tyvis Powell, WR Evan Spencer and CB Armani Reeves, DL Adolphus Washington and OT Taylor Decker, and DL Chris Carter and OC Pat Elflein.
After practice, Coach Urban Meyer met with the media for close to 15 minutes. Among his observations and comments were the following...
RBs Coach Stan Drayton after practice Tues March 19, 2013
2013 Ohio State Spring Football Analysis March 11, 2013 Source: CollegeFootballNews.com - Why To Be Excited: Yeah, yeah, yeah, the offense is expected to be special after leading the Big Ten in scoring and with nine starters returning, but don’t sleep on a pass defense that could surprise. The secondary gave up yards but rarely got beaten deep, allowing 15 touchdown passes and coming up with 14 picks. There were a few lapses – oddly enough, Miami University, Indiana and Penn State had the best passing days against the Buckeyes – but overall the secondary did a nice job. Three starters return, and while there’s work to do up front, there’s enough athleticism to come up with a good pass rush.
Why To Be Grouchy: There might be an adjustment period up front. It’s Ohio State, so the lost star talent will be replaced by new start talent, but it’ll still sting for a while with all four starters gone including John Simon and Nathan Williams on the ends and Johnathan Hankins on the inside. Throw in the losses of linebackers Zach Boren and Etienne Sabino, and the front seven is going to be the focus throughout the spring.
What Needs Working On: Protecting Braxton Miller. The offense is loaded with talent and experience, the depth is there across the board with a terrific set of young options for the line and several good position battles for time at all the skill spots except quarterback. While Kenny Guiton proved he could come in cold and save the day against Purdue, the difference between a good season and a possible national championship run depends on keeping Miller alive and kicking. He takes way too many big pops and was sacked way too often. Being tough as nails is one thing, but he’s not built like Tim Tebow – its asking too much to expect him to last the season if he’s getting blasted.
Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Buffalo, San Diego State, at California, Florida A&M, Wisconsin, at Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State, at Purdue, at Illinois, Indiana
Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: at Michigan
Schedule Analysis: The Buckeyes have the schedule to go unbeaten again, or they’ll at least have the ability and potential to get close. Considering California is rebuilding, San Diego State might be the most dangerous non-conference game. Buffalo and Florida A&M will be warm-ups, and they’ll need them before starting out the Big Ten schedule with the game they must have.
Michigan might be Ohio State’s biggest rival, but Wisconsin is the team that matters in the division; Ohio State can’t blow the Big Ten home opener. Going to Northwestern the week after isn’t going to be easy, but then it’s time to relax with a week off before hosting Iowa and Penn State before going to Purdue. With another week off before the finishing kick, there shouldn’t be any problems with a road trip to Illinois and a home game against Indiana. OSU will be favored in every with the possible exception of the finale. No matter what else happens throughout the year, the road trip to Michigan will be focused on all season long.
Team Concerns For 2013: Defensive line, defensive line and defensive line. Of course, it would be nice if the passing game became a bit more sophisticated, but that's not what the offense is about with Braxton Miller able to make big plays down the field when needed. The run defense improved as the year went on and the talent level is being raised by Urban Meyer, but the Buckeyes have to replace all four starters up front along with linebackers Zach Boren, Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein. It's Ohio State - there are more talents waiting in the wings - but it's going to be the concern early on.
The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Defensive backs. It was already a fantastic class, and then came Signing Day and the pickup of running back Ezekiel Elliott, Oregon flip Ezekiel Elliott at running back and receiver James Clark. Much is being made about the haul on the defensive line, and rightly so, with Joey Bosa and Tyquan Lewis among the nation's top end prospects and Michael Hill, Donovan Munger and Billy Price three excellent tackle prospects, but the key is the secondary. It was great, and then came the signing of safety Vonn Bell to make it special. Corner Eli Apple was a nice get out of New Jersey, and Cameron Burrows and Gareon Conley are just as strong, while safeties Darron Lee and Jayme Thompson are going to someday be excellent starting safeties. Overall, this is a special class - even for Ohio State - with linebacker Mike Mitchell, receiver Jalin Marshall and tackle Evan Lyle all destined to be all-stars.
2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 2. That Class Was Heavy On ... Welcome to Urban being Urban. Meyer appears to have a renewed energy, and it shows with a typically great Ohio State recruiting class. Even with almost no time to work, he’s getting just about everyone he wants from Ohio and has been able to get a few key players from outside the state. In just a short time he’s putting together a monster that’s as good as any class in the country, particularly on the defensive front where he’s loading up with the best prospects for any line in America. The skill positions aren’t being ignored, but the Buckeyes need to keep building up the defense. Meyer will go more for the offensive side next year...
He'd won the starting middle linebacker job for the 2012 season, then lost it after three games, and didn't get back on the field even as injuries at the position forced fullback Zach Boren to switch to linebacker.
A five-star recruit out of high school, ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Class of 2011 by Rivals.com, he'd come to realize how different the college game is from high school.
"Nine times out of 10 coming out of high school, you're usually the man," Grant said. "So you don't get yelled at as much and you get away with a lot of stuff. But nothing goes unnoticed here."
When he lost the job, he didn't handle it well.
"I was real mad. I didn't know what to do," Grant said Thursday after Ohio State's second practice of spring football. "I would just sit back and watch and I wasn't used to that."
He'd calmed down by Christmas, but he had to decide what he wanted. When a college career gets off track, especially for a major recruit, change is often the choice. Grant said Thursday he at least considered transferring.
"Either you man up or get out," Grant said. "It's pretty straight forward. So I manned up."
That's why he's back, in the same fight he was a year ago, battling for the starting middle linebacker job on a team that once again lacks established answers at the heart of its defense. Ryan Shazier is the only returning starter at linebacker, and he's not practicing for now after having surgery on a sports hernia.
So it's Grant that's left to lead a group of sophomores that include Josh Perry and Camren Williams, who are also fighting for that middle linebacker spot.
"I'm very determined," Grant said. "Your junior year, if you don't do anything, there are no guarantees you'll have another year to do it."
Especially when the Buckeyes need him right now. And when he proved he wasn't ready to deal with the rough spots a year ago.
"That's where the maturity is showing. 'Can he respond?'" linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. "If you sat with him and talked, that's probably what he didn't do a great job of last year. That's how you learn and how you grow. That's the joy of coaching is seeing guys move through things."
Grant isn't there yet. At 6-3 and 241 pounds, he looked like he had the body of college linebacker when he stepped on campus as a freshman. But his problem has been playing stiff and not letting his instincts lead him to the play. He still doesn't look as natural as you'd want someone with those measurables to be.
Get to the right spot and find the ball.
"Everybody matures at different times," Fickell said. "It's not a lack of ability. It's having some confidence and the ability to let loose."
Fickell said that confidence can be gained during spring ball, especially if it starts with veterans like safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett and seeps into the rest of the team.
"Energy is contagious and confidence is contagious," Fickell said.
Grant said he tried to pick up on some of that last year from seniors John Simon and Etienne Sabino.
"It was like, 'John Simon never stops, so why should I?'" Grant said. "I use that as a big motivation every time I come out here. I'm not tired anymore. It's like, you've got to go get what you want."
Asked what he wants, Grant didn't say stardom. He wants to be a team player who contributes. Sabino is the most frequent comparison. Another five-star recruit whose career got off to a slow start, Sabino took a surprising redshirt in his third season as he tried to find his game and his role. It paid off. He never became an All-American, but Sabino was a reliable starter, a captain and one of Urban Meyer's favorite guys by the time he graduated.
So it's not yet time to write off Grant, especially when he said he knows where he went wrong last year.
"I got too complacent," Grant said. ''That's the only thing I can say. I couldn't handle the glory, I guess, of being a starter. I should have kept working harder."
If he gets back in the starting lineup, Grant said that won't happen again.
Ohio State assistants Mike Vrabel and Everett Withers working with their defensive position groups during the first day of spring practice in Columbus. Source: The Ozone
Ohio State assistant coach Kerry Coombs is always getting after someone at practice. His first targets of the spring were kicker Drew Basil and freshman corner Eli Apple. Source: The Ozone
Ohio State recruiting: State Secrets, 3/8 - One big visitor March 8, 2013 Source: Land-Grant Holy Grant - Ohio State played host to a 6-foot 5-inch, 260-pound bruiser from Lakota East on Thursday while the SEC's top two programs offered scholarships to several Buckeye targets. Check out the recruit's reactions and all of Thursday's recruiting news...While Coach Urban Meyer was coaching up the troops and hosting LaRubbio, Nick Saban and Les Miles made some serious moves, offering several key 2014 Buckeye targets. 4-star outside linebacker Dillon Bates, 4-star wide receiver Derek Kief, and 3-star cornerback Chris Lammons were offered by the Alabama Crimson Tide yesterday, and all expressed their excitement via twitter:...The Michigan State Spartans played host last night to two Buckeye targets, one of which was a recent (but short in duration) Ohio State commit. Ex-Buckeye commit and 4-star defensive end Lawrence Marshall joined wide receiver Maurice Ways for a visit to East Lansing:...
"If we put together a good D-line and linebackers, I think we'll have a good team. If not, we won't. It's pretty simple." - Buckeyes HC Urban Meyer
Buckeyes HC Urban Meyer press conference after Ohio State first football practice of the Spring, Tuesday March 5, 2013
Buckeyes storm through first practice March 5, 2013 Source: OSU Official Site - The winter weather forecasted for central Ohio and the Midwest hadn't hit Columbus when the Ohio State Buckeyes took to the practice field Tuesday afternoon for the first of 15 spring practices. Regardless: there was a flurry of activity inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as coach Urban Meyerand his staff welcomed the team, including 51 lettermen, to its initial session in preparation for the 2013 football season.
The Buckeyes went through a 25-period session in the "Woody" in front of about 50 members of the media and another 30 or so coaches from smaller colleges around the Midwest. The offense was in scarlet jerseys with gray pants. The defense was in white jerseys. The quarterbacks wore black jerseys and those recovering from injuries were in orange.
Punting drills with senior kicker Drew Basil leading the way led off the practice with lots of positional drills following. The practice closed with passing game exercises that included some fine throws by Braxton Miller, a spectacular reception from "H" back Jordan Hall over the middle and a couple of interceptions by standout cornerback Bradley Roby.
"I thought Braxton Miller had one heck of a day," Meyer said. "His fundamentals and his footwork were not very good last year, but it was fantastic today."
Meyer met with the media for about 15 minutes in the team room following the practice. (See his comments above)...
Urban Meyer didn't say the goal was a national championship, but its clear what the Buckeye's goals are this coming season. Austin Ward of ESPN BuckeyeNation explains.
The bowl ban is lifted, and the scary part is a 12-0 team returns a lot of pieces. The coaching staff returns intact. There are 51 letterwinners back. Nine offensive starters return from a crew that led the Big Ten with 37.2 points per game. Included is Miller, who randomly found himself on a Sports Illustrated cover last month and is a Heisman Trophy candidate.
There's not much reason to think that Ohio State won't be favored in every game it plays until the regular-season finale at Michigan. The defense has to replace seven starters including almost the entire front seven, but if the new defense can survive a September trip to Cal and a home game against Wisconsin, it should be just fine for the rest of the season. It's not like the Buckeyes don't have talented players to step in.
What needs to happen this spring
The big issue is on defense. Not much issue in the secondary, where three starters including tremendous cornerback Bradley Roby return. The front seven needs a ton of work.
The entire front four is gone, including defensive end John Simon, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, and tackle Johnathan Hankins, a second-team AP All-American. Ohio State always seems to have NFL-caliber defensive linemen, so the line should end up being OK. Sophomores Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington played plenty in the rotation last year. Defensive end Joey Bosa is a four-star recruit, and maybe he'll get a chance in the fall. But they key in spring is sorting out who will contribute early in the season on the line, as well as figuring out who will start at linebacker alongside Ryan Shazier. No other returning linebacker got significant reps in 2012...
5 Most Important Spring Practice Position Battles March 4, 2013 Source: Bleacher Report - Outside Receiver Corey Brown and Devin Smith led the OSU wideouts last season from the perimeter, but Brown will move to the slot per Brandon Castel of The-Ozone.net.
With Brown moving to the slot and Jake Stoneburner graduating, there is a void opposite of Smith at the edge wideout.
Experienced receivers Evan Spencer and Michael Thomas will be among the favorites for the position through the spring, with JUCO commit Corey Smith jumping into the race in the fall.
Spencer and Thomas have had mixed success, so one of the two will need to have a big spring to help out Devin Smith and Corey Brown in the passing game.
Punter Considering Jim Tressel was the coach not too long ago, it's pretty surprising to see that the punter would become a major concern.
Kicker Drew Basil is likely to assume punting duties in addition to place kicking, but keep an eye out for receiver Frank Epitropoulos, who was a punter at Upper Arlington H.S. outside of Columbus.
Basil or walk-on Kevin Niehoff are among the favorites, but don't sleep on Epitropoulos, who can provide a unique threat if OSU decides to run fake punt packages. Meyer may never run one, but Epitropoulos can at least give them a threat.
The Buckeyes don't have many holes to fill on offense, but their biggest will be at the right tackle position after converted tight end Reid Fragel graduated.
OSU has a pair of young tackles vying for the starting job in sophomore Taylor Decker and redshirt freshman Kyle Dodson.
Decker saw spot time early last season before falling out of the rotation, and Dodson is healthy after rehabbing from the shoulder surgery he had before enrolling last year.
While Decker may be the more balanced tackle, Dodson has plenty of power in his game that should give him just as good a chance to win the job.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier is the only returning front-seven starter this season. And even though he is one of the most talented linebackers in the country, he needs a lot of help.
The Buckeyes do have a lot of young players with potential already in Columbus, including sophomores Josh Perry, who saw the most time of the 2012 recruits at the position, Camren Williams and David Perkins.
Junior Curtis Grant may get one last crack at it despite losing his starting job three weeks into the 2012 season and looking nearly invisible when he was on the field.
Whoever wins the job in the spring will have to fend off a pair of talented freshmen in Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson, who will both enroll in the summer.
Defensive Line It's rare that a team has to completely replace an entire starting unit. Unfortunately, that's the case this year as the Buckeyes have to replace their entire defensive line from the 2012 season.
Sophomores Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt and Adolphus Washington are expected to have big years and live up to their respective billings. Another player who should be able to step in is junior Michael Bennett, who was outstanding in replacing John Simon against Michigan.
Other players like J.T. Moore, Joel Hale, Steve Miller and Se'Von Pittman are also in contention for jobs, though most are somewhat unknown commodities.
This year's freshman class is very deep at defensive line, including two camp attendees Tyquan Lewis and Tracy Sprinkle. Lewis is more of a pure pass-rushing end, but Sprinkle has the size and motor to move all over the defensive front...
Burning questions for spring practice March 3, 2013 Source: Columbus Dispatch - It is time to turn the page for the Ohio State football team. Its undefeated 2012 season is history. Irreplaceable leaders such as John Simon and Zach Boren must be ... well, replaced.
But also gone is the postseason ban that prevented Ohio State from winning the Big Ten title or playing for the national championship. With most of the offense and defensive secondary back, Ohio State has been anointed as a legitimate contender for the national title. On Tuesday, Ohio State begins spring practice, which will culminate with the spring game in Cincinnati. Ohio Stadium is unavailable because of maintenance work.
As the Buckeyes start preparation for the 2013 season, they must begin to answer several pressing questions. Beat writers Tim May and Bill Rabinowitz will take turns addressing six of them.
Who could be a breakout performer on offense?
May: Certainly it won’t be Braxton Miller, he of the Sports Illustrated cover, who last year set the season school record for total offense. Nor will it be running back Carlos Hyde, who came within a whisper of a 1,000-yard season. But it could be fifth-year senior Jordan Hall. He was expected to be the hybrid slotback in the spread before a cut foot in the summer delayed his debut, and then a knee injury cut his season short after 21/2 games. With blue-chip recruits Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson headed this way in the summer, Hall — elected a co-captain last season — needs to reassert why coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman had such grand plans for him this time a year ago. Without such a consistent slotback presence in 2012, the new offense only scratched the surface of its on-paper capabilities.
Who replaces Reid Fragel at right tackle?
Rabinowitz: With four starters back, the offensive line should be a major strength after its surprisingly impressive performance last year. Fragel, the final piece of last year’s puzzle after a successful conversion from tight end, leaves a large void. But the Buckeyes are confident they can fill it. Taylor Decker gave a stiff challenge to Fragel as a true freshman last year. Decker has the size, strength and smarts to step in and be effective. But don’t overlook Chase Farris. He was one of the few Buckeyes backup offensive linemen who impressed Meyer with his steady improvement in practice. Whoever doesn’t win the job at right tackle probably will be the top replacement anywhere on the line.
The Buckeyes were fortunate in 2012 that their starters were durable. Expecting that again might not be realistic, and other reserves must emerge as viable players.
What is the biggest task facing the defense?
May: It is establishing the rotation on the line, which lost all four starters: John Simon, Johnathan Hankins (left early for the NFL draft), Garrett Goebel and Nathan Williams. The first line going into Tuesday probably will be Noah Spence at the Leo end, Tommy Schutt and Adolphus Washington at the tackles, and Michael Bennett at the strong-side end. Bennett, a junior, is the old man of the group; the others are sophomores. He has been hindered by nagging injuries the past couple of years and still seems hampered a bit. Like the other three, he was a blue-chip recruit just a couple of years ago and could emerge as a leader on a defense that lost seven starters. Linebacker Jamal Marcus actually might gain a strong look at defensive end, and Joel Hale — along with Steve Miller, J.T. Moore and Se’Von Pittman — will contend for time. Of keen interest will be the play of Tracy Sprinkle and Tyquan Lewis, two pass-rushing early enrollees from the 2013 recruiting class, which was ranked in the consensus top three nationally.
Who will play alongside Ryan Shazier at linebacker?
Rabinowitz: As 2012 progressed, Shazier added discipline to his extraordinary dynamic playmaking ability. The junior-to-be outside linebacker figures to contend for Big Ten defensive player of the year honors. But around him are huge question marks. The biggest is at middle linebacker. The Buckeyes desperately wanted Curtis Grant to seize control of the position last year, but he didn’t. Grant has the physical skills befitting a former five-star recruit and is purported to be a hard worker, but it simply hasn’t clicked for him. Now is the time for Grant to make it happen. The other top contender probably is Camren Williams, who battled injuries as a freshman. Replacing Etienne Sabino at strong-side linebacker also will be crucial. Joshua Perry is likely to get the first crack at it, though Marcus and David Perkins have a chance to compete, as well. If no one takes control of those vacancies, they could be filled by freshmen Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson, who arrive in the summer. To expect either to earn a starting job in the fall probably would reflect failures of veterans to step up to the challenge.
How will the team address its concerns at punter?
May: When OSU ran out of room in its 2013 class and thus tried to delay the signing of long-time commitment Johnny Townsend of Orlando, Fla., the punter opted to sign the next day with Florida. The chances were very good he was going to walk right in and become the starting punter for the Buckeyes, who lost Ben Buchanan. But they have a couple of capable legs, not the lesser of which belongs to kicker Drew Basil. As he showed during pregame warmups last season, he can do both jobs, though that might not his preference, or the coaches’. Reserve wide receiver Frank Epitropoulos was a standout punter at Upper Arlington, but he has been bothered by injuries for the past year. If the coaches add punting to Basil’s chores, he might be relieved of kickoff duty by Kyle Clinton, who has proved he can boom it.
Are the receivers ready to take the next step?
Rabinowitz: From 2011 to ’12, the Buckeyes’ wide receivers went from embarrassingly unproductive to decent. But adequate play isn’t sufficient if Ohio State is to become as explosive as it should be in Meyer’s spread. Devin Smith has game-breaking speed but needs to have more-consistent hands and be more adept at gaining separation from defensive backs. Corey Brown found his niche as a short-yardage receiver.
He became better at breaking tackles later in the year, but there’s still room for improvement. Evan Spencer had some good moments and is capable of more. Michael Thomas was a star last spring but mostly a nonfactor once the season started. With freshmen reinforcements coming in the summer, the holdover receivers will want to make an impression now.
Make up for the 15 bowl practices lost because of NCAA sanctions, replace seven starters on defense, take quarterback Braxton Miller from good to great, develop more playmakers, run the unbeaten streak to 25 games, make the Big Ten title game for the first time and, maybe, win a national title in Urban Meyer's second year, just as he did at Florida and Jim Tressel did with the Buckeyes.
High bar? Sure. But it comes with success and the belief that everything in year two of a coach's system has to be easier.
"It's just the year two of not having to deal with, 'Here's what we call this formation,'" offensive coordinator Tom Herman said while describing how working with Miller will change. "Just the speed and progress should be a lot faster than it was ever was. So it'll be a little neat to get the signals out of the way and just work on refinement rather than just knowledge."
It all starts Tuesday with the first day of spring football practice.
The switch to semesters at Ohio State has led to spring ball starting earlier, rather than in April. The spring game will be April 13 in Cincinnati because of renovations at Ohio Stadium. Still the Buckeyes will have gone 101 days since they were on a football field together -- that 26-21 win over Michigan on Nov. 24 that finished off a 12-0 year.
Meyer talked a lot -- a whole lot -- about the blow the Buckeyes were absorbing by missing bowl practice. That's valuable time to develop depth and get a read on young players for the following year, not just to prep for a bowl opponent.
"We have to catch up 15 practices by August, or we're not as good as our rivals, so we have to find those," Meyer said.
Meyer said he'll know by August if the Buckeyes made them up or not. When they hit the field at 4 p.m. Tuesday, the opener with Buffalo on Aug. 31 will be 179 days away. There's plenty of time. And plenty to live up to.
With that, here are five questions, five prominent players to watch and five young guys to keep an eye on when it gets real on Tuesday.
1. Are the playmakers going to change much?
The Buckeyes gained 423.8 yards per game last season, 47th in the nation and third in the Big Ten. Not bad, but it can get better, not just because of a greater understanding of the system, but because nearly everyone's back.
Of the 5,085 yards gained in 2012, they lose just 370 with the graduation of tight Jake Stoneburner, fullback Zach Boren, punter Ben Buchanan (who ran for six yards on a fake) and the transfer of receiver Verlon Reed, who gained 13 yards. That means 92.7 percent of the offense returns.
But some of the guys with the ball in their hands will change. Newly-signed receiving recruits Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, James Clark and Corey Smith could get on the field and make a difference, at least in spots.
"I can see them right now that they can come in and catch a couple passes and make some gains," Miller said, "so I can't wait till they get here."
None of those four will be around for spring ball, though, and neither will running back recruit Ezekiel Elliot. In the end, it's more important for the experienced guys to improve. But come August, the young guys could push them.
2. Can the defense be good enough?
While nearly everyone is back on offense, with nine starters returning, the defense lost seven starters, including the entire line.
The four leading tacklers are back in linebacker Ryan Shazier, safety Christian Bryant, cornerback Bradley Roby and safety C.J. Barnett, but 45.5 percent of the tackles from last season have left in the form of Johnathan Hankins, John Simon, Zach Boren, Etienne Sabino and others. There's a lot of young talent ready to step in, but it took a while for a veteran defense to get the basics down last season. A new crew might fix that problem immediately. Or a young group could struggle even more.
3. Does Braxton Miller look any different?
Meyer threw down the gauntlet for Miller after the end of last season.
"If he becomes fundamentally the best quarterback in America, I think he will be the best quarterback in America. I think it'll be comical what he'll do," Meyer said. "But he's not there yet."
Every little thing with Miller will be tested this spring, from footwork to reading the defense to making better decisions while scrambling. Meyer will have his eyes on all of it.
4. How do you motivate a team that didn't lose last year?
Motivation will be much harder in year two, especially with what Meyer has called "a huge void" to fill with leadership. In 2012, Meyer could tell the Buckeyes they were forgotten and disrespected coming off a 6-7 year plagued by NCAA sanctions. Now coming off perfection, he'll have to use another theme. He said "truth and fundamental improvement," would be the mantra.
5. Who's going to punt?
This is a real thing. Once recruit Johnny Townsend changed his mind and went to Florida, the Buckeyes were put in a bit of a bind. Kicker Drew Basil is listed as both the kicker and punter for now, but swinging your leg isn't just swinging your leg. The two skills are completely different motions, and if you're doing both, you just can't be as good at either as if you were focusing on one.
There could be a new player found to answer this over the summer -- a fan emailed a suggestion this week -- and redshirt freshman Frank Epitropoulos could get a shot. But this might be the most real question of all right now.
Five players to watch • 1. Adolphus Washington: The sophomore defensive lineman could be a star in the making. He’ll certainly start. At 6-3 and 289 pounds, the Buckeyes need him to be a Cameron Heyward-like presence.
• 2. Curtis Grant: A five-star recruit, he hasn’t panned out for two seasons. The Buckeyes almost moved him to defensive end, but instead they’ll give him another shot at middle linebacker. It could change the defense if it finally clicks for him.
• 3. Bradley Roby: Instead of leaving for the NFL, Roby returns as maybe the best player on the team. Meyer said he’s as good as any corner in America when at his best. If he makes the jump, he’ll give a young line more time to get to the quarterback.
• 4. Jordan Hall: The 2012 captain is back as a fifth-year senior. After four seasons at running back, Hall will shift to the slot. Freshmen Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson will also play there, but Hall will get a good long look this spring.
• 5. Jeff Heuerman: The junior tight end is a physical specimen, and graduated tackle Reid Fragel Tweeted that Heuerman will be the next Rob Gronkowski, “but better. Mark my words.”
Five new guys • 1. Taylor Decker: The sophomore should take over for Fragel at right tackle as the only new starter on an offensive line otherwise made up of seniors — Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall.
• 2. Camren Williams: The sophomore should fight Curtis Grant at middle linebacker. Right now, linebackers are Ryan Shazier and lot of unknowns.
• 3. Cam Burrows: The freshman cornerback is in early and could replace Travis Howard, though junior Doran Grant is the leading candidate.
• 4. Eli Apple: Same as Burrows. The two corners were major signings in the 2013 recruiting class and they could wind up at least as the second-team corners this season.
• 5. J.T. Barrett: Already enrolled, the QB is limited by an ACL injury suffered in high school. But a speech he gave while recruits were visiting in the fall is already something of an OSU legend. His natural leadership should help the QB meeting room, despite his youth.
The Ohio State Pump Up! CB coach Kerry Coombs delivers recruiting pitch of the decade!