Spring Practice Insider: New Look Buckeyes?

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Last updated: 04/12/2011 7:50 PM
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Football
Spring Practice Insider: New Look Buckeyes?
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State coaching staff visited a number of places this spring in hopes of learning something new they could use on the football field.

That included the University of Oklahoma, LSU and even the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the biggest wrinkles may have actually come to them.

Tuesday’s spring practice featured some new-look screen plays that seemed oddly familiar, familiar because they were being run by new wide receivers coach Stan Drayton.

Now in his first spring with the Buckeyes, Drayton came to Columbus by way of Florida where he helped former Gators’ head coach Urban Meyer put together one of the most unique offenses in college football.

Drayton actually coached the running backs in Gainesville, but in that offense it was often hard to tell the difference between a tailback and a guy like Percy Harvin.

The Secret Weapon

Ohio State doesn’t have a Percy Harvin on the roster, but they do have a Jordan Hall. There were a number of players being used in these new-look screen plays Tuesday as Jim Tressel looked on, but Hall was clearly the most effective.

Jordan Hall makes a move to elude Etienne Sabino.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Jordan Hall

He isn’t as fast as Jaamal Berry in a straight foot race, but he is easily the most elusive back on the roster. When he gets out in space, it is tough to bring him down. That’s why these screen plays seem like a match made in heaven for Hall, who seemed to be catching a lot of passes in general during Tuesday’s practice.

Berry was also very good catching the ball in space and Tressel kept preaching “accuracy, accuracy, accuracy” to the quarterbacks as they zipped the ball into the flat. We also got a chance to see both Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde with the ball in their hands out in space, and there was an obvious difference between the two.

They are both big backs, but Hyde is much more of a run to contact back. He seems to enjoy it. He lowers his shoulder and runs through guys, even in shells and shorts like they were wearing Tuesday.

 Smith, on the other hand, runs around them. He is a legitimate 6-3 and 220 pounds, but he is slippery for a big guy. I'd call him smooth; elusive in traffic. He’s not afraid of contact but not a guy who is going to break 2-3 tackles on ever run.

Braxton Looks Sharp

Braxton Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

There was no change in the order of the quarterbacks Tuesday. With Terrelle Pryor still wearing sweatpants and a yellow “no contact” jersey, Joe Bauserman took the bulk of snaps with the first group. Sophomore Kenny Guiton went with the second group while Braxton Miller and Taylor Graham primarily split time with the third group.

We didn’t see a lot of downfield passing Tuesday, but Miller was particularly sharp despite the fact he had the least to work with. During one of the screen drills, Miller pump-faked a pass into the flat and then threw a great pass down the right sideline to an open T.Y. Williams. The pass fell perfectly into Williams’ outstretched arms as he tip-toed the sideline.

Miller also had another nice pass to tight end Jake Stoneburner on a post route and had to scramble away from Dorian Bell when he came through the middle on a blitz.

Hit of the Day

Boom Herron is rudely upended by Nathan Williams
Photo by Jim Davidson
Boom Herron is rudely upended by Nathan Williams

Considering the players were indoors wearing shells and shorts, there shouldn’t have been any serious hitting going on Tuesday. Someone forgot to tell Nathan Williams.

On Saturday Williams admitted he probably hit Pryor during practice more than the coaches would have liked last season. Now they might be asking him to back of Boom Herron as well. The hit made a loud ‘smack’ and even drew some 'wows' from the media on the sideline.

From the look on his face, I'm not sure Herron expected to get hit that hard, especially in shorts.

Hagan Getting a Look

While Etienne Sabino continued to work as the first-team middle linebacker Tuesday, there was one major change on the defense. After rumors that he might never play again, redshirt freshman Chad Hagan was working as the fist-team Star (nickel back).

That’s because the coaches still being cautious with senior Tyler Moeller (pectoral) and his backup, Christian Bryant, is nursing an injury suffered during Saturday’s scrimmage. It was great to see that kid getting a chance, but not great sign for senior Nate Oliver, who was still working with the second team despite all the guys missing at Star.

Shugarts Hurting?

We only got to watch a small portion of practice Tuesday, but it looked like senior J.B. Shugarts was being held out during the scrimmage portion. Ohio State’s starting right tackle has had a history of foot problems, but recently said his feet feel great this spring thanks to his new orthotics.

Something seemed to be bothering him Tuesday, however, as both Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall took snaps at right tackle with the first-team. Hall spent most of the day on the left side as the backup to Mike Adams, but Norwell and Jack Mewhort also saw time at left tackle.

The first team offensive line for most of the day went LT Adams, LG Mewhort, C Brewster, RG Linsley and RT Norwell. The second group was LT Hall, LG Norwell, C Linsley, RG Ivan Blackman and RT Tommy Brown.

Extra Points

*With C.J. Barnett still wearing a ‘limited’ blue jersey, the first-team safeties were Orhian Johnson and Zach Domicone, but I thought Jamie Wood made a few nice plays. He had a great breakup on a pass to Spencer Smith.

*Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson was doing a lot of teaching, as usual, often with Bradley Roby. Physically he is probably better than Dominic Clarke, but he's still learning the system and the position. Both players saw time with the first-team defense.

*Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown was still working on the side, doing some light jogging.

*A number of former players were in attendance for Tuesday’s practice, including Bobby Carpenter, Jim Cordle and Nick Mangold.

Injury Report

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