Football

Ohio State Spring Practice Insider: Freshman Receivers Impress

Mookie Cooper, Garrett Wilson Ohio State Football Buckeyes Receivers

COLUMBUS — The Ohio State Football Buckeyes opened spring camp with a Monday morning practice. Credentialed media was permitted to watch the entire practice, so there was plenty to see. As head coach Ryan Day said afterward, however, “It’s just day one.” Any conclusions made based on one day will need to be taken with a grain of salt and could border on foolish.

That being said, freshman receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba is going to be really, really good.

Okay, let’s calm down a bit. Did he catch everything? Sure. Did he look like Garrett Wilson on the sideline last year? Of course. Does he have deep speed? Affirmative. Was it just day one like Ryan Day said? Yes, but what does Ryan Day know?

These weren’t easy catches for Smith-Njigba either. They were contested, in traffic, with hands ripping at him like threshers. He shields the ball away from defenders, keeping passes like a secret. He’s a selfish receiver in that regard, but that’s okay. His body control and concentration were on point, even as he routinely ran routes toward an intimidating group of media onlookers.

Gee Scott and Julian Fleming also caught passes in traffic on the sideline. Scott had some nice catches where he was battling for position while the ball was in the air. Mookie Cooper had some catches in the slot, but didn’t break anything of note. There also isn’t any tackling just yet and nobody is supposed to be taken to the ground, so the whistles are quick.

These Slots Pay Out

The slot receiver (H-back) with the ones today was sophomore Garrett Wilson, who was previously at X with Binjimen Victor last year. He was joined by fifth-year senior Demario McCall and freshmen Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Mookie Cooper.

Day said after practice that Wilson’s skill set makes him an effective slot receiver. He showed some of that skill set when he took a simple 6-yard drag route and outraced everyone to the edge and turned it upfield for a 70-yard (or so) score. Wilson is fast enough, but he looked faster than that on this play.

Possible sixth-year senior CJ Saunders is out this spring. Ohio State is still awaiting word on his eligibility, which should be known in April.

Toward the end of practice, freshman quarterback CJ Stroud threw a corner route to McCall for a touchdown from 20 yards or so out. Stroud dropped the ball in perfectly and McCall snagged it and still got two feet in. The catch happened on redshirt freshman safety Bryson Shaw. McCall then tapped Shaw on the helmet with the ball for the extra point.

Miller Time

Sophomore center Harry Miller spent time at both center and left guard today. When he was with the ones he was at left guard. When he was with the twos, he was at center. Also getting time with the ones at left guard was redshirt sophomore Matthew Jones.

After practice, Day said Miller is the kind of guy who can handle both positions. Greg Studrawa’s job is to find the five best offensive linemen, and if Miller is one of those, then they’ll fit him in.

It seemed pretty clear that if anything was to happen to starting center Josh Myers that Miller would be the guy to go in.

The Walking/Stretching/Jogging Wounded

Following practice, Ohio State released an availability report for the spring.

Limited

§  CB Cameron Brown

§  LB Baron Browning

§  DE Jonathan Cooper

§  H-B Jaelen Gill

§  SAF Ronnie Hickman

§  DL Jaden McKenzie

§  DT Taron Vincent

§  CB Shaun Wade

 Unavailable

§  WR Kamryn Babb

§  RB Marcus Crowley

§  OG Gavin Cupp

§  SAF Josh Proctor

§  H-B C.J. Saunders

Hickman, Vincent, Wade, and possibly a couple more of the limited group did some work, almost as if they were being…limited.

Chris Olave spent most of the morning riding a stationary bike, so he is dealing with something minor it would seem.

Emptying the Notebook

+ Gunnar Hoak connected on a beautiful deep ball to Jameson Williams for a touchdown. Williams had at least five yards of open space between him and the defender, who appeared to be a walk-on cornerback.

+ Freshman cornerback Ryan Watts stands out physically. He is listed at 6-3 195 and he looks every bit of it. He had an interception on a bad pass midway through practice.

+ Justin Fields looked… to be honest, there’s no point in passing judgement on anything he does on the first day of spring. The three quarterbacks behind him all rotated as they begin their competition to be Fields’ backup. Gunnar Hoak and CJ Stroud had more downfield completions than Jack Miller while I was watching. That can sometimes just be the luck of the draw regarding receivers and luck of the draw regarding the play being called. Both Miller and Stroud had some decent runs on read-option keepers.

+ The first-team offensive line was LT Thayer Munford, LG Harry Miller and Matthew Jones, C Josh Myers, RG Wyatt Davis, RT Nicholas Petit-Frere. Freshman Paris Johnson was with the twos at RT along with redshirt sophomore Max Wray. Sophomore Dawand Jones was the No. 2 left tackle. The backup guards were plentiful.

+ Linebacker Pete Werner was moving around, playing more inside linebacker than outside. That may stick or it may not. “It’s just day one.”

+ When one freshman quarterback threw an interception during team drills, he had to take a lap around the field.

+ Marcus Hooker was the No. 1 free safety with Josh Proctor out. He had a pick six that he saw coming and waited until the last minute to step in front of the Justin Fields pass. Also getting time at free safety was freshman Kourt Williams. He has been talked about as a Bullet, but since there is no real Bullet yet this early, they’re getting him a look at safety.

+ The first group at defensive tackle was Tommy Togiai and Haskell Garrett, followed by Jerron Cage and Antwuan Jackson, and then Taron Vincent and walk-on Zaid Hamdan.

+ Sevyn Banks had a nice interception on a Justin Fields throw in the mini-field portion of practice.

+ Garrett Wilson, Demario McCall, and Mookie Cooper were all back returning punts. They rarely got a chance to field any punts, as Drue Chrisman hit the ceiling of the WHAC with virtually every punt he kicked. They occasionally got to field balls that only bounced off the ceiling instead of hitting one of the support beams.

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7 Responses

  1. Sounds like Fields was underwhelming today…no biggie there.

    Wilson in the slot seems a bit odd. Sure, he can do it…but it just seems to create more log jam at that position. Regardless, I am sure the best 3 WRs will play.

    Werner at MLB is interesting. So does that put Borland at Sam…I mean we know he has to start right?

    1. Yeah, I would read less than zero into Fields today. The passing game always looks ragged this time of year.

      Borland would almost certainly stay at one of the “inside” positions, WILL or MIKE.

      SAM is more of a pass-coverage position, which is more like Justin Hilliard or someone like that.

      1. I was being a little sarcastic about Borland at Sam… that would be disastrous!

    2. CPerry …. also, the Will and Mike are both “inside” so when it says Pete was inside, there’s two positions there to consider. And as Day said, they’re just trying him out in different spots to see. They know what he can do at Sam.

  2. Who are the players in the photo? Cooper and Smith?

    The paragraph about Justin Fields is a puzzler. Do you have a lineman throwing downfield passes? I gather from other places that JF threw interceptions but I need a decoder (I dont have) to make this paragraph work.

    1. The photo is Mookie Cooper and Garrett Wilson.

    2. Cooper and Garrett Wilson. There were no other practice photos of freshmen receivers, so I made do with what I had at the moment.

      Regarding Fields and INTs, I’m not sure where your confusion set in, but this is what I wrote.

      + Marcus Hooker was the No. 1 free safety with Josh Proctor out. He had a pick six that he saw coming and waited until the last minute to step in front of the Justin Fields pass. Also getting time at free safety was freshman Kourt Williams. He has been talked about as a Bullet, but since there is no real Bullet yet this early, they’re getting him a look at safety.

      + Sevyn Banks had a nice interception on a Justin Fields throw in the mini-field portion of practice.

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