Fall Practice Insider: Meyer Pleasantly Surprised by Offense
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Monday marked the second practice of the season, but the first full team practice for the Buckeyes as the freshmen practiced away from the rest of the team last Friday.
Photo by Dan Harker
After the practice, Urban Meyer said "I was hoping to see what I saw on offense," indicating that he thought things went pretty well. It may have been the first overly positive thing that he has said about the Buckeye offense as a whole since his arrival.
Meyer also took some time to update the status of the three Buckeyes who have found themselves in legal trouble of late. Left tackle Jack Mewhort and tight end Jake Stoneburner will both be back on scholarship once the next semester starts, barring any further issues.
Freshman tailback Bri'onte Dunn doesn't appear to be in any doghouse. Meyer said that Dunn will be pleading not guilty to his recent charges, and that if there ended up being a charge that sticks, then he will address it.
Senior tailback Jordan Hall is still recovering from his foot injury, with the initial prognosis being a ten-week recovery that would have him missing two games. Meyer said that Hall is still on schedule, if not a little ahead of it.
The Buckeyes, for perhaps the first time in over a decade, practiced with 17 offensive linemen, and that doesn't even include freshman Patrick Elflein, who is still recovering from an injury.
Here's how the top three lines looked:
LT - Jack Mewhort / Darryl Baldwin / Kyle Dodson
LG - Andrew Norwell / Eric Kramer / Tommy Brown
C - Corey Linsley / Antonio Underwood / Jacoby Boren / Joey O'Connor
RG - Marcus Hall / Chase Farris / Ivon Blackman / #62
RT - Reid Fragel / Taylor Decker / Ben St. John
Offensive line coach Ed Warinner told Jacoby Boren that he would be the second center as soon as his shoulder was healed. Boren did do some snapping and some other drills, but he's still recovering.
When Boren does move up to the second line, that will likely move Antonio Underwood over to a guard spot, and may impact redshirt freshman Chase Farris, who recently moved to the offensive line from the defensive side.
|Photo by Jim Davidson
Farris showed terrific quickness in a combo block drill which asks a lineman to help the man next to him block a defensive lineman, then come off of him and take on a linebacker or safety who is trying to get into the backfield. He is likely already the team's fastest offensive lineman, but it will be a while before we know if or when he will see the field this year.
The quarterback depth chart is exactly what you would expect. Braxton Miller is the definitive starter and Kenny Guiton is his backup. Meyer took time to mention that both quarterbacks have improved tremendously over the last few months.
True freshman Cardale Jones is currently third on the depth chart and walk-on Justin Siems is fourth. Jones had a terrible time in seven-on-seven drills trying to throw over the middle. He threw two or three interceptions, but would have doubled that number had safety Christian Bryant been able to hang onto them.
The tailback situation looked like this: Carlos Hyde / Rod Smith / Bri'onte Dunn / Warren Ball. Jordan Hall obviously didn't partake in any of the drills, but he was working by himself doing some rehabbing.
The tailbacks spent a good portion of the day catching passes in the flats and turning it up the field. As you would expect, there was not a lot of room to run for the ball carriers. During scrimmaging, the longest run of practice went to Dunn on a five or six-yard carry.
The offense showed two basic skill set alignments. The first was with two receivers (Devin Smith and Philly Brown), a tailback (Carlos Hyde), a fullback (Zach Boren) and a tight end (Jake Stoneburner). The other set was a three-receiver look with Evan Spencer replacing Boren.
True freshman Michael Thomas was with the twos at receiver, as were Chris Fields and walk-on Taylor Rice. Sophomore receiver Verlon Reed was not in attendance.
The pecking order at tight end still appears to be Jake Stoneburner / Jeff Heuerman / Nick Vannett / Blake Thomas. Fullback is still Zach Boren backed up by Adam Homan.
Miller Knows What He's Doing
Photo by Dan Harker
After practice, Meyer said that Braxton Miller recently came to him to let him know that he knows what he's doing. Meyer quipped that Miller doesn't know everything yet, but implied that things are going very well for the sophomore.
Throughout the practice he was the most accurate passer on the team. He routinely hit receivers in stride down the sideline with touch passes, and also bought time enough during scrimmaging to find Stoneburner for a couple of large gains.
The first big play between Miller and Stoneburner took place on a slight scramble to the right side for Miller, who then simply flicked the ball to Stoneburner who had cut up into the middle of the field and picked up about 40 yards on a catch and run.
The second was a pass about 35 yards down the left side of the sideline to Stoneburner, who had gotten behind his defender. He went up for the ball, came down with it and raced the final 30 or so yards into the endzone with defenders in tow.
Meyer Impressed by Receivers and Quarterbacks
"We were all disappointed," Meyer said of the spring that the QBs and receivers had. "But when we evaluated it, we probably weren’t that disappointed from early spring to later in the spring because it was all new for them. I could tell you this: They did something in the summer. They sure did."
What that something was was constant work between Braxton Miller, Kenny Guiton and their receivers. So much so that Meyer found it noticeable.
He cited the quarterbacks' execution, the throwing and catching. He said it was still early, but he was pleased with both of his quarterbacks.
Photo by Jim Davidson
One of the guys that Meyer really noticed today was sophomore receiver Devin Smith. Meyer has said before that his receivers that run a 4.4 on the track also need to run it on the football field. Today Meyer saw that type of speed in Smith on a streak down the sideline and it certainly impressed him.
“My gosh, do we need a guy like that to step up," he said of last year's returning leading receiver.
Another guy that he mentioned was fellow sophomore receiver Evan Spencer, who he singled out as a 4.4 guy who needs to be a 4.4 guy during game.
Overall, he thinks he has the guys he needs to implement his full offense, but if that turns out not to be the case, slight alterations aren't that difficult.
Emptying the Notebook
+ While stretching, cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs was walking up and down the line talking to players, which is his custom. Part of that custom is also telling the receivers that they won't be catching any passes today.
When he got to receiver Michael Thomas, a California native, Coombs told him, "Two hours in the hot sun not catching any balls. That's a long day, Michael." He also told him that he was gonna have to tell his mom that he moved all the way from California just to stand out in the sun for two hours and not catch any passes.
+ The offense ran quite a few no huddle drills up one side of the field and down the other, and the only noticeable personnel changes were the running backs subbing in and out.
+ The offense also threw a few play-action passes that will eventually become reads by Braxton Miller. Either he will hand the ball off, or will keep it and then either throw it or run it. It will put a ton of pressure on a defense, but Miller has to be able to execute it perfectly before it becomes a major portion of the offense.
+ Freshman receivers Frank Epitropoulos and Ricquan Southward had some issues catching the football at times today, not that they were given a lot of opportunity. It was very similar to how Michael Thomas started out during the spring, and we all saw how that ended up.
+ Philly Brown did line up in the backfield at least once during practice, and immediately ran a flat route. He has the speed to run east/west that this staff covets, and they will try to find the absolute best ways to get him involved.
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