Fall Camp Primer
By Rob Ogden
It’s been 252 days since Ohio State last played a football game. For a fanbase highly accustomed to January bowl games, that’s a long time to have to wait. But fear not, Buckeye fans, fall camp is finally upon us, and the season is just around the corner.
Biggest Position Battles
No fall camp would be complete without at least a couple of guys battling it out for a spot on the first team, and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the Buckeyes still have a few starting positions up for grabs as we enter August.
One of the biggest (or should I say heaviest?) position battles is at right tackle, a spot vacated by Reid Fragel, who started every game at the position last season.
Photo by Dan Harker
The position is sure to be won by either sophomore Taylor Decker or redshirt sophomore Chase Farris.
Decker challenged Fragel for the position prior to last season, and appears to be the favorite heading into camp this year, though the coaching staff has given little indication.
Both guys lack real experience, although Farris might still be trying to get a complete grasp on the position after moving from the defensive side of the line prior to last season.
Across the line of scrimmage, another battle is taking place on the defensive line. With sophomores Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence occupying the ends, Tommy Schutt, Joel Hale and Michael Bennett are competing for the two interior positions.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Schutt saw the most action of the three last season, appearing in 10 games as a true freshman.
Meyer said Hale and Bennett looked good during the spring, and that the three could be used on a rotating basis.
“Inside you have Mike Bennett and Joel Hale, our two guys that have talent and have really come on, and we'll try to get a little bit of rotation in there, which you need to have if you have a quality defensive line,” he said.
Other notable competitions are at nickel back, where senior Corey Brown and redshirt freshman Tyvis Powell are battling for the starting spot and at middle linebacker, where Curtis Grant is trying to retain his starting spot.
Biggest Question Marks
With the loss of six starters from the defensive front seven, that group has to be considered the biggest uncertainty entering 2013.
The return of All-American candidate Ryan Shazier at outside linebacker certainly helps, but replacing guys like John Simon and Johnathan Hankins off the line will be no easy task.
Senior safety Christian Bryant, however, isn’t losing any sleep over it.
“All those guys are young, but they have some experience under their belt so it’s not like they’re coming in fresh and don’t know anything about the game or our system,” Bryant said. “This whole offseason they’ve been working as hard or harder than anyone else in the country.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Everyone wants to talk about how young they are so I think they’ll be out to prove a point.”
Washington and Spence played sparingly last season, but both looked fantastic in spring ball as they combined for seven sacks in the spring game.
“Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington are two guys that if they continue to develop will become Big Ten candidate players as they continue in their journey and their career,” Meyer said in Chicago during Big Ten Media Days last week.
Also in question heading into fall camp is the depth of the offensive line. With four returning starters, the first-team seems to be a formidable group, one that Meyer said should be one of the best in the Big Ten.
But beyond the first team is a very inexperienced and unproven group comprised of freshmen and sophomores.
Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley, Marcus Hall make a veteran group, but take one of those guys away, and it could spell trouble.
Taking on a Leadership Role
Among other things, former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is famous for a speech he gave following a loss to Mississippi in 2009. It was the only game the Gators would lose that season as they went on to win Meyer his second national championship.
Meyer later had the speech immortalized in the form of a plaque that hangs outside Florida’s football facility.
Following a game in which the Buckeyes surrendered 49 points to Indiana last season, Bryant delivered a similar message to his defensive teammates.
“After watching the film, it seemed like we fell apart out there in the fourth quarter,” Bryant said. “Coach Meyer came in the meeting room and said the performance was disappointing, so I felt that I had to stand up and finally say something.
“I didn't want us getting down on ourselves. I wanted to re energize everybody and refocus everybody back on what our goals were and what we were trying to accomplish, and that was a 12-0 season.”
In each of the five games following Bryant’s speech, the defense didn’t allow more than 23 points. Bryant said it was a defining moment in his career.
“That was definitely one of those moments,” he said. “I knew someone had to stand up and say something. If no one were to speak that day, it's no telling what would've happened throughout that season.
“It was a great growing point for me.”
Meyer has since repeatedly singled out Bryant, saying he expects that same type of leadership in 2013.
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