Jersey Scrimmage Could Shake Things Up
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — After nearly two weeks of fall practice, the rotations are starting to take shape on the football field for Ohio State as they prepare for their Sept. 3 opener.
The Buckeyes are narrowing in on a quarterback, or quarterbacks, who are going to lead this team into the post-Jim Tressel, post-Terrelle Pryor era. Position battles are a little clearer and the coaches are getting a feel for which players are going to be in the mix this fall.
Or maybe all of that is about to change.
Ohio State Head Football Coach Luke Fickell
Photo by Dan Harker
After a week in pads, the Buckeyes will take the field at Ohio Stadium this Saturday for the team’s jersey scrimmage. The offense and defense will square off in a battle of pride, with the scarlet practice jerseys on the line. They currently belong to the offense, winners of the spring jersey scrimmage, but there is a whole lot more on the line Saturday.
“We’d like to say all of them are, but there’s a lot,” OSU Head Coach Luke Fickell said when asked how many jobs were up for grabs Saturday.
The jersey scrimmage has long been considered the most important, most intense and most competitive day of fall camp. It will also likely feature the most hitting this team has seen all fall as the coaches try to create a game-like situation with two weeks to go before the season.
“It’s the time for the coaches to back off like they are in a game and time for (the players) to perform,” Fickell said after Thursday’s practice.
“We don’t see us acting kind of like we do at practice sometimes. We try to say being in the stadium in the pressure, not us hollering at you and screaming at you and making sure you get lined up right and doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s your time to shine and play.”
Fickell has said numerous times that he considers all four of Ohio State’s quarterbacks to be “young guys” because they haven’t had much experience playing in front of 106,000 fans. There won’t be anywhere near that many out there Saturday—the scrimmage is open to the media but closed to the general public—but it is a great opportunity to make a lasting impression on the coaching staff.
"Every day is a critical moment for those guys, just showing their poise and showing their leadership and showing their competitive nature. But it isn’t every day that you’re completely live,” Fickell said.
“So I think that’s what the neat thing about everybody. You don’t go as much live as you used to probably. In a jersey scrimmage is when you’ll go live. It’s time for everybody.”
Including the quarterback job, there are still at least a half dozen starting spots up for grabs. Some of those positions are filling up quickly—C.J. Barnett seems to have all but locked up the starting safety spot next to Orhian Johnson—but others are still in hot contention—Bradley Roby appears to have taken a slight lead on Dominic Clarke for the open corner position.
The Buckeyes have done a lot of scrimmaging this fall, but not a lot of it has been truly “live,” especially for the quarterbacks.
“We’ll have some different situations. We’re not sure just exactly what we’re going to do yet, but they haven’t had a lot of black jerseys on, but we’ve been smart with them,” Fickell said.
“They are what we call active, but they might be live all of the time.”
They are going to need to be live part of the time Saturday because Akron isn’t going to allow them to dip their toes in the water to the test the temperature on opening day.
“We’re trying to identify the top 22 players this week,” Defensive Coordinator Jim Heacock said.
“This week is a heavy emphasis on a lot of reps. We’ve got to identify who we have to get ready to play the first game.”
It’s going to be here before we know it.
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