Spring Practice Insider: Offense Finally Gets Victory on Winner/Loser Day
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was only joy and celebration for the Ohio State offense as they finally punched in their scrimmage-clinching touchdown on the goal line Wednesday.
The offense had been 0-3 on Winner/Loser days this spring and the defense was threatening to make it 0-4 with a late interception thrown by backup quarterback Kenny Guiton to defensive lineman Chase Farris.
A stop on the goal line might have given the defense a big victory on a day where the offense looked as sharp as it has all spring.
“That was our best practice of the spring, one of the best spring practices that I've seen," head coach Urban Meyer said afterward.
“The intensity level was an 'A.' Competitiveness was an 'A.' Coaching was an 'A' by our assistant coaches.”
Offense Coming Together
The OSU offense looked like an offense...for the first time this spring. You could finally see some of the new Urban Meyer elements really taking shape.
They were using the entire field and stretching the defense horizontally, forcing the linebackers to make tackles in space and making them pay for over-pursuing.
The defensive line was still dominating up front, especially when John Simon was in there, but the offense was finally moving the ball with some consistency. At one point, however, it looked like the coaches had Simon on the sideline so they could get a better look at the offense with J.T. Moore or Steve Miller playing the Leo spot.
That’s how good Simon is right now. He’s the same guy he was last year—big, strong, tough and smart—except now he’s faster.
The Braxton Watch
Braxton Miller completed a 75-yard touchdown pass to tailback Carlos Hyde on a broken play, which did not surprise Meyer in the least. Hyde ran an out route and took off down the sideline when Miller scrambled out of the pocket to his right.
He saw Hyde running alone behind the defense and lofted it up for the score after Hyde outran safety Christian Bryant to the goal line.
Miller also had a pretty fantastic practice, which probably explains why the offense was able to come away with the victory, despite the fact Simon and Johnathan Hankins were once again disrupting things up front.
Miller was sharp with his passes Wednesday, throwing a number of good balls on the run. He also had an excellent pitch on the option play to Jordan Hall that went for a touchdown, and a nice little reverse play to Corey Brown.
Backup Kenny Guiton had the opposite kind of day. Unlike last week, his accuracy was all over the place out there Wednesday. He didn't look comfortable on the run and threw the big pick to Farris with the game on the line.
He is still the only quarterback other than Miller getting reps during the scrimmages on Winner/Loser day.
Hyde Drinking the Kool-Aid
Along with his big touchdown catch from Miller, Carlos Hyde had a pretty solid day running the ball for the Buckeyes Wednesday. He has always been strong, and he usually breaks a lot of tackles with his violent running style, but he showed off some good speed in this practice as well.
At one point, he turned the corner and outran Steve Miller to the edge. He also put a nice move on safety Corey Brown to free himself up for a 15-yard gain.
“He had an excellent practice,” Meyer said of Hyde.
“He's drinking the Kool-Aid.”
It was also a nice practice for Jordan Hall, who seems to have finally turned the corner in his development. Meyer talked about Hall being one of the few playmakers on offense for the Buckeyes, and he showed that off during Wednesday’s practice.
At one point, the quarterbacks were practicing their passing with just Hall on some goal line out routes.
Rod Smith was also having a nice day before he left the practice with an injury. He also got into it a little bit with Etienne Sabino, Stewart Smith and the linebackers. Luke Fickell and Stan Drayton had to pull Smith away.
WR’s Making Plays
Another reason Meyer was feeling good after Wednesday’s practice was the fact his wide receivers actually made some plays. Meyer said it still comes back to consistency, which he hasn’t seen yet from that group, but there were some guys making plays out there Wednesday.
Tyrone (T.Y.) Williams got things started in the right direction during the 1-on-1 red zone drills. Williams was beaming with new confidence as he caught touchdown after touchdown in the red zone—which is exactly where he might have a chance to make an impact this year.
He made a nice play on a jump ball in the corner, though it wasn’t quite fair against 5-8 Adam Griffin. Williams did drop some balls later in practice, including one that he had both hands around, but this was one of his better days.
It was also a great day for Corey Brown and freshman Mike Thomas, who replaced Evan Spencer with the first group Wednesday. Spencer had his left arm in a sling and did not participate in practice.
Verlon Reed seemed to be moving better and was evening returning punts today, but he isn’t ready for full-go practice yet.
That left Thomas to work with Brown and Devin Smith on the first group. Thomas showed good instincts out there and made a couple nice catches. He also drew some praise from Meyer after practice.
Brown was also making plays, and proved once again that once he gets the ball in his hands, he can be electric. The key for him has been—and always will be—hanging on to the passes that come his way.
Chris Fields was at practice and working as the No. 2 slot receiver behind Brown. It didn't look like he was being limited.
Looking at the Offensive Line
The first-team offensive line remained the same Wednesday, but there were some changes to the second group. With Chris Carter now working at defensive tackle, walk-on Eric Kramer took his spot as the second-team left guard.
Redshirt freshman Tommy Brown continued to work as the No. 3 right tackle behind freshman Taylor Decker, who spent time at both right and left tackle, while Brian Bobek replaced Jacoby Boren as the No. 2 center.
Meyer said after practice that Boren had surgery for a torn labrum this week, but he earned the No. 2 center spot during the first half of spring practice.
Neither Jack Mewhort nor Reid Fragel was any match for John Simon during the 1-on-1 drills, but they held their own against the other defensive linemen. Andrew Norwell had a couple really good battles with Garrett Goebel—two strong guys—and the same with Corey Linsley and Big Johnathan Hankins.
Mewhort had his way with J.T. Moore in 1-on-1's, but Moore got by Darryl Baldwin rather easily. Decker looked GREAT in the 1-on-1's for a freshman. He held his own against second team d-linemen, and Kramer also had a couple nice battles with Chase Farris.
Second-year lineman Brian Bobek also looked good in 1-on-1's, as he took the No. 2 center spot behind Linsley on Wednesday. Bobek stonewalled Joe Hale in one battle and had his way with Chris Carter, who outweighs him by at least 80 pounds.
The one guy who really struggled was right guard Marcus Hall, who lost three straight battles with Michael Bennett.
1st Team Line: LT Mewhort, LG Norwell, C Linsley, RG M.Hall, RT Fragel
2nd Team Line: LT Baldwin/Decker, LG Kramer, C Bobek, RG Underwood, RT Decker/Brown
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