Spring Practice Insider: Stoneburner’s Big Day Not Enough for Offense
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer was not about to rig Wednesday scrimmage. If the offense was going to make a game of it, they were going to have to earn it on their own.
After falling behind horribly in the early stages of Wednesday’s Winner/Loser day at Ohio State, the offense came roaring back with some big plays by Rod Smith, Chris Fields, Carlos Hyde and T.Y. Williams.
It wasn’t enough to overcome the defense’s lead however, as the offensive players and coaches ended up running gassers after practice. It was the second-straight win for the defense on what Meyer considers to be the most competitive days of spring practice, but he was at least impressed with their ability to fight back.
“I’d expect our offense to be a little bit more competitive right now, but they’re trying,” Meyer said after practice.
“Right now there are two guys on defense disrupting everything, and that’s John Simon and (Johnathan) Hankins.”
Buckeyes ‘Adequate’ Up Front
Besides being arguably the two best players on the team, one reason Simon and Hankins have been so dominant this spring is the lack of cohesion on the offensive line. The only returning starter playing the same position he was in last year is Andrew Norwell, who started the first five games at left tackle before moving over to left guard.
Simon was simply unstoppable for most of the day Wednesday. He had a few plays where he probably made right tackle Reid Fragel want to quit football. Jack Mewhort faired a little better on the other side, and Meyer called him the team's most consistent offensive lineman.
“We don't have any tackles right now,” he said.
Meyer went as far as to call his first-string offensive line "adequate,” and said the backups are “a problem” right now. The first group remained the same from last week, with Mewhort and Fragel at the two tackle spots and Norwell and Marcus Hall inside at guard.
Corey Linsley is cementing himself as the team’s starting center this spring, and freshman Jacoby Boren seemed to have moved ahead of Brian Bobek for the second team center spot.
Fellow freshman Taylor Decker was also working ahead of Tommy Brown as the second team right tackle. He got a little bit of time on the left side, alternating with Darryl Baldwin, and even took a series at right tackle with the first team during the scrimmage.
He held his own, despite the fact Michael Bennett was coming at him fast and furious.
1st Team O-Line: LT Mewhort, LG Norwell, C Linsley, RG Hall, RT Fragel
2nd Team O-Line: LT Baldwin/Decker, LG Carter, C Boren/Bobek, RG Underwood, RT Decker/Brown
The Braxton Watch
Sophomore QB Braxton Miller had another up and down passing day. He threw a few perfect passes to tight end Jake Stoneburner then missed the next few.
He was much more effective with short and intermediate passes, and not so much with deep stuff. His best play of the day, however, did come on a deep ball to wideout Corey “Philly” Brown.
Brown got behind the first-team defense and Miller threw it up for a 45-yard touchdown. It wasn't a perfect pass because Brown had to wait on it, but it was a good spiral with good velocity and Philly had so much room, he was able to slow down, grab it and score before the safeties caught him.
When Miller struggles, he seems to be thinking too much, or he’s too worried about making a mistake. Miller is at his best when he’s playing fast, and seems to be throwing some of his best passes on the move.
That makes sense considering offensive coordinator Tom Herman said his footwork is all over the place.
Backup Kenny Guiton also looked pretty good again. He isn’t going to threaten Miller for any playing time, but he’s starting to look more like a quarterback. He’s throwing the ball with more velocity and seems to have more control of the offense.
Stoneburner Making Plays
If Miller had a favorite target Wednesday, it was definitely tight end Jake Stoneburner. The Buckeyes lined him up more in the slot during 7-on-7 and also during the scrimmage at the end of practice.
He made a couple nice catches around the goal line, including a touchdown catch from Miller, and actually spent the day working with Zach Smith and the wide receivers instead of the tight ends.
Backup Nick Vannett also made a few nice plays today. He seemed to be out there just as much as Jeff Heuerman, and Meyer singled out Stoneburner and Vannett as two guys who impressed him today.
Philly Back with the Ones
The reason Philly Brown was there to make the 45-yard touchdown catch from Miller was the fact he was finally back with the first-team offense Wednesday. Brown was in the slot with sophomore Devin Smith and Evan Spencer outside.
Meyer said Spencer has been the most consistent receiver this spring, but Tyrone (T.Y.) Williams had another pretty good day catching the ball. He only dropped one pass that I saw and made a nice grab in the scrimmage.
Chris Fields was in the slot with the second group and had two nice catches over the middle during the scrimmage. He fumbled the first one, which was stripped by Corey Brown.
Freshman Michael Thomas was also with Fields and Williams on the second group. He made a nice one-handed, tumbling grab during wide receiver drills.
Verlon Reed was in a green jersey today, which means he could do a little bit but not much. He did some wide receivers drills with Zach Smith and the other guys, but still looks hesitant with his cuts. He didn't participate in the team scrimmage.
Who’s Going to Carry the Ball?
Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith both looked good running the ball today after Jordan Hall got his bell rung and had to miss the scrimmage. Hyde is definitely much better when the pads are on. He runs like he wants to hurt someone and it was very hard to bring him down, although Curtis Grant made a nice stop on him in the hole.
Smith was really fluid today. Had a couple nice runs, but did fumble the ball after a 15-yard pick up, but both he and Hyde looked much better than freshman Bri’onte Dunn.
I was not impressed with seeing Dunn for the first time in pads. He seemed hesitant, shied away from contact and didn’t run with authority the way you want a running back to do.
He’s young and it’s early. He is probably just trying to remember the plays at this point, but Dunn has a long way to go if he is going to compete for the starting tailback job.
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