Fall Practice Insider: Offense Tries to Keep Momentum
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS — In last Saturday's scrimmage, quarterback Braxton Miller threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns against the second-team defense. Not only was it a milestone in terms of performance for Miller, but offensive coordinator Tom Herman also noticed a milestone of much greater importance.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“It was the first time that I felt that he looked comfortable with what we were doing and he wasn't thinking, but rather playing," he said.
"With him, the biggest thing is repetition, repetition, repetition. Coach Meyer uses a phrase with our team about competitive excellence, about doing something so many times over and over and over again, against all the different looks that a defense can present to you that eventually the game slows down and becomes second nature to you. I felt like for a lot of the scrimmage on Saturday he finally looked that way."
Things didn't quite go the same during Tuesday's practice, however.
"Today was a different story," Herman said of his sophomore signal caller.
"The defense always comes up with new and exciting things for us on offense and we've got to adjust. At some point, he'll have taken so many reps at our base things that there's nothing that a defense can throw at him.”
A Tired and Challenging Story
Saturday's scrimmage didn't just give Urban Meyer a glimpse at a Braxton Miller who looked completely comfortable, he also got to see what his defense looks like when it's been worn down by his offense.
Photo by Jim Davidson
"He [Meyer] finally felt after 15 practices in spring ball, after three weeks of training camp, finally felt that tempo take hold and affect the defense," Herman said on Tuesday.
"We're not perfect yet, we've still got a long ways to go in terms of the crispness that we want it at. But at least it was at the speed for parts of that scrimmage. Once the kids see that we're snapping the ball and there's not a guy with his hand on the ground yet, then it's 'Holy cow, my job's a lot easier if we do this the way it is supposed to be done.' So I think the kids are buying in, which makes the teaching that much more accelerated."
After practice on Tuesday, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins admitted that the offense is "pretty challenging" and said that no defense that he has even been on has been challenged by the offense like they have been during this fall camp.
Told that Herman said that the offense was catching up with the defense, defensive coordinator Luke Fickell asked in a mock confrontational manner, "Where's Tom Herman now?"
He then relented and said "It's not smoke and mirrors" regarding the offense, saying that there are some very good players on the other side of the ball.
When Zach Boren, one of the best fullbacks in the nation, found out that Urban Meyer was going to be Ohio State's head coach, a little bit of uneasiness would have been natural. After all, at Florida, Meyer didn't have much use for a 250-pound fullback that couldn't also throw the ball.
with Urban Meyer
Photo by Jim Davidson
The coaches, however, made it a point to explain to Boren that if he was worthy of being a part of their offense, then they would find room for him. He took that knowledge to heart and got to work.
"His attitude this fall is a lot different than it was this spring," Herman said.
"I think he was kind of feeling his way out as to what his role was going to be in this offense, and we kept trying to tell him to keep showing up every day to work and if you're good enough, we'll find a place for you in this offense. I think he did that and the fruits of his labor are paying off."
Those fruits saw him participating with the tailbacks during drills on Tuesday.
Running back Jordan Hall was still wearing a boot on his injured foot, but he was fielding some punts during drills. His current hope is still to be back for the California game.
Receiver Philly Brown twisted his right ankle very early in practice, but got it taped up and returned for drills. We're not sure if he participated in scrimmaging since we didn't get to see that part, but he was moving well enough in drills.
Freshman offensive tackle Kyle Dodson was in a green jersey, which usually means a player is healthy enough to drill - which he did - but not healthy enough to participate in scrimmaging.
Freshman receiver/punter Frank Epitropoulos did not participate in drills, and instead spent his time walking up and down the sideline as he was told to do.
Freshman offensive linemen Jacoby Boren and Patrick Elflein were both working at center during drills. Fellow freshman lineman Joey O'Connor had season-ending surgery on his knee and will redshirt.
Two more freshmen were practicing without their black stripes on Tuesday. Tailback Warren Ball and quarterback Cardale Jones participated as full-fledged members of the Ohio State football team.
Meyer said of Ball that he was a guy that he didn't know, but the freshman out of Columbus is certainly growing on him.
"I didn’t recruit Warren," Meyer said.
"But the more I get to know him, the more glad I am that he’s a Buckeye. Tough guy, hard runner."
As for Jones, he probably would have been a fair choice for the freshman to wear his stripe the longest. The rookie from Cleveland Glenville didn't take any meaningful snaps in the spring while we were watching, but has certainly turned his fortunes around of late.
“And a guy that’s probably made as much progress as anybody – he was really a non-factor for five or six months – is Cardale Jones," Meyer said on Monday. "He’s done a nice job."
When Jordan Hall went down with his injured foot, the coaches turned to tailback Carlos Hyde and wanted to see something more from him. Even though they were happy with his performance to that point, they wanted to see a player step up and lead where a void now stood. According to Herman, Hyde didn't disappoint.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“He's a guy that's really grown up," he said.
"I think the thing about Carlos is that he's really stepped up his mental game in the last couple of months and really taken ownership of that meeting room and that position group and said, 'With Jordan out, this is going to be my time to shine.' He's embraced it and really played with the toughness and fortitude that we would ask of him, and he's risen to the occasion."
It also doesn't hurt that he's a pretty talented running back.
"He's got more speed than you'd think in the open field," Herman said. "He's very elusive, good hips."
Emptying the Notebook
- A few of the punt returners on the day were Devin Smith, Bradley Roby, Armani Reeves and Jordan Hall.
- When an offensive lineman wasn't doing what he was told, offensive line coach Ed Warinner growled, "Do you guys have any common sense? Absolutely not. I should have known before I even asked."
- The Buckeyes seem to be working on a number of different punts this season. Spirals, corner kicks, kicks with backspin, rugby kicks, rollers, runners, and even a few worm burners.
- According to the coaches, Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman are still neck and neck for the number one tight end spot now that Jake Stoneburner is playing his own flex receiver spot. Heuerman is the better blocker at the point of attack according to Meyer and Vannett is the better receiver. Both will play a lot.
There really haven't been many changes, which is probably how the coaches like it right now.
5 Braxton Miller (6-2, 210, So.)
13 Kenny Guiton (6-3, 206, Jr.)
12 Cardale Jones (6-5, 226, Fr.)
34 Carlos Hyde (6-0, 235, Jr.)
2 Rod Smith (6-3, 230, So.)
44 Zach Boren (6-1, 246, Sr.)
49 Adam Homan (6-3, 245, Sr.)
SPLIT END (X)
15 Devin Smith (6-1, 196, So.)
83 Mike Thomas (6-2, 193, Fr.)
16 Evan Spencer (6-1, 190, So.)
9 Verlon Reed (6-0, 205, rSo.)
10 Corey Brown (5-11, 182, Jr.)
80 Chris Fields (6-0, 180, rJr.)
TIGHT END (Flex)
11 Jake Stoneburner (6-5, 245, rSr.)
81 Nick Vannett (6-6, 248, rFr.) OR
86 Jeff Heuerman (6-6, 247, So.)
74 Jack Mewhort (6-6, 310, rJr.)
76 Darryl Baldwin (6-6, 292, rSo.)
66 Kyle Dodson (6-6, 315, Fr.)
78 Andrew Norwell (6-6, 304, Jr.)
73 Antonio Underwood (6-2, 301, So.
55 Tommy Brown (6-4, 310, rFr.)
71 Corey Linsley (6-3, 292, rJr.)
50 Jacoby Boren (6-2, 283, Fr.)
69 Eric Kramer (6-4, 285, rSo.)
65 Patrick Elflein (6-3, 290, Fr.)
79 Marcus Hall (6-5, 315, rJr.)
57 Chase Farris (6-4, 285, rFr.)
64 Ivon Blackman (6-3, 310, Jr.)
77 Reid Fragel (6-8, 298, Sr.) OR
68 Taylor Decker (6-8, 313, Fr.)
67 Ben St. John (6-3, 277, So.)
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