Fall Practice Insider: Grant’s Return Bolsters Defense
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With temperatures once again nearing 90 degrees in Columbus, the Buckeyes finally strapped on the shoulder pads for the first real day of contact this fall.
It wasn’t full-scale hitting, as the players were only in shells (shoulder pads and helmets), but there were some big thuds during Tuesday’s practice. Some of the biggest ones of the day came at the start of practice, as head coach Urban Meyer gathered his players for an all-freshmen version of the “circle drill.”
This is the same drill Meyer did with his players at midfield of Ohio Stadium prior to the spring game back in April. This time around, the matchups included linebacker David Perkins vs. running back Warren Ball, cornerback Armani Reeves vs. receiver Ricquan Southward and offensive tackle Kyle Dodson vs. the big defensive lineman, Adolphus Washington.
Spence Steals the Show
With the absence of Adam Bellamy, who had been working as the No. 2 defensive tackle behind Johnathan Hankins on day one of camp, Washington was the guy who moved up to the second-team defensive line.
The coaches love Washington’s intensity and at one point Mike Vrabel told the freshman from Cincinnati to jump into a drill and show everyone what real competition looks like.
It was Washington’s classmate, Noah Spence, however, who stole the show during Tuesday’s practice. An explosive rush end out of Harrisburg, Pa., Spence has been working as the No. 3 Leo behind John Simon and Steve Miller.
He was still working primarily with the third group on Tuesday, but really got to show what he could bring to the defensive line this fall during one-on-one drills. It wasn’t 100 percent live, because they still aren’t in full pads. That happens Thursday morning, with the first two-a-day of fall camp coming Friday.
It was only shells, but Spence looked borderline unblockable against most of Ohio State’s offensive tackles Tuesday. His first step is one of the quickest I have personally seen in a while. It reminded me of a young Thad Gibson with the way he exploded of the ball. He was on the tackles' hip before the offensive lineman could even get in his stance.
Spence typically blew right past his man, or else he was grabbed on his way by. That didn’t include starting left tackle Jack Mewhort, who looked like the best pass blocker on the line Tuesday.
Grant Makes His Return
Photo by Jim Davidson
One of the biggest items on note on Tuesday was the return of inside linebacker Curtis Grant. Ohio State’s projected starter at the middle linebacker spot missed Monday’s practice so he could be with his ailing grandfather back in Virginia.
Grant was back in action Tuesday and back in the middle of Ohio State’s first-team defense. His presence was felt immediately, as he and Ryan Shazier teamed up to stuff the second-team offense a number of times in the red zone.
Redshirt freshman Conner Crowell had been manning the middle while Grant was gone, but he slid down to the second group on Tuesday. Freshman Luke Roberts moved outside to the Will linebacker spot behind Shazier, while fellow freshman Camren Williams slide inside to play Mike linebacker with the third group.
After practice, defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said he believes a lack of leadership at middle linebacker was Ohio State’s biggest problem on defense last season. He said they can’t rely on guys like Simon and C.J. Barnett to get them lined up defensively. It has to come from the core of the defense.
Williams Takes First Big Step
Photo by Jim Davidson
Nathan Williams was hovering around the defensive line drills Tuesday like he wanted to be out there with his teammates. Who could blame him? Williams has been out since week two of the 2011 season after playing in the season-opener with a knee injury.
Williams had microfracture surgery in the offseason, and the doctors are taking it slow with his recovery, but that didn’t stop the fifth-year senior from hopping into one drill Tuesday.
With Vrabel barking orders at the younger d-linemen, Williams jumped into a contact drill during the middle of practice. Vrabel yelled over to make sure he was ready for this kind of drill and Williams gave him the green light.
It wasn’t a tackling drill, but it was a big first step. Williams hit the sled and then formed up on a would-be ball-carrier running to the outside. Afterward, he received a huge applause from his teammates, who are obviously anxious to have him back.
Williams spent the rest of practice working on the side, but he did work on hitting a practice dummy for quite a while.
Roby Sticking to Corner
Bradley Roby made a play Tuesday that makes everyone wonder if he could really be something special on both sides of the ball. Roby tracked down a deep ball from Braxton Miller that was intended for Devin Smith on the fly route down the left sideline.
Roby found the ball in the air and played it all the way for an easy over-the-shoulder grab. After practice, however, Fickell said there are no plans to let Roby try his hand on offense.
“That’s the self-confidence we love about him, though,” Fickell said.
“I’ve told him, ‘let’s work on being great at one thing before we try to become good at another.’”
Other Injury Notes
* Freshman linebacker Josh Perry was back in action after leaving Monday’s practice with an unspecified leg injury. Perry missed much of spring ball with an injury, but he was back out there as the No. 2 Sam linebacker behind Shazier on Tuesday.
* Safety Orhian Johnson limped off the practice field at one point, but he returned with his ankle securely taped. He also blocked a 45-yard field goal attempt, which drew some excitement from Urban Meyer.
* Safety Jamie Wood limped off the field at the end of the day and had to be carted to the locker room. He missed all of spring ball after undergoing shoulder surgery in January.
Depth Charting Tuesday’s Practice
54 John Simon (6-2, 260, Sr.)
88 Steve Miller (6-3, 255, So.)
8 Noah Spence (6-3, 240, Fr.)
52 Johnathan Hankins (6-4, 317, Jr.)
92 Adolphus Washington (6-3, 289, Fr.)
90 Tommy Schutt (6-2, 305, Fr.)
53 Garrett Goebel (6-4, 285, rSr.)
51 Joel Hale (6-4, 295, So.)
72 Chris Carter (6-4, 358, rFr.)
63 Michael Bennett (6-3, 277, So.)
50 J.T. Moore (6-3, 250, rSo.)
95 Se’Von Pittman (6-3, 259, Fr.)
10 Ryan Shazier (6-1, 226, So.)
42 Luke Roberts (6-2, 230, Fr.)
25 David Perkins (6-2, 220, Fr.)
14 Curtis Grant (6-2, 235, So.)
36 Connor Crowell (6-1, 233, rFr.)
5 Camren Williams (6-1, 225, Fr.)
6 Etienne Sabino (6-3, 237, rSr.)
15 Josh Perry (6-4, 231, Fr.)
34 Jamal Marcus (6-2, 225, Fr.)
1 Bradley Roby (5-11, 185 rSo.)
9 Adam Griffin (5-8, 180, rSo.)
23 Tyvis Powell (6-3, 196, Fr.)
12 Doran Grant (5-11, 188, So.)
7 Travis Howard (6-1, 196, rSr.)
18 Najee Murray (5-9, 178, Fr.)
2 Christian Bryant (5-10, 190, Jr.)
19 Orhian Johnson (6-3, 210, rSr.)
16 Zach Domicone (6-2, 216, Sr.)
4 C.J. Barnett (6-1, 202, rJr.)
3 Corey Brown (6-1, 197, rJr.)
28 Ron Tanner (6-0, 192, rFr.)
Practice Report: Offense
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