Practice Insider: Meyer Looking for Backups to ‘Give Something Back’
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Anyone who watched practice for the first time Tuesday would have thought Urban Meyer and his staff were trying to shake up the depth chart.
Cardale Jones was running with the second-team offense. Kenny Guiton wasn’t even practicing most of the day, but then suddenly reappeared to run the two-minute offense with the first group at the end of practice.
J. T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, and Kenny Guiton
Photo by Jim Davidson
Rod Smith went from being third in the pecking order last week to taking most of the first-team snaps at tailback during the 11-on-11 scrimmage portion of Ohio State’s sixth practice of the spring.
A lot of guys who typically don’t get much playing time were suddenly thrust into action for the Buckeyes during a hard-hitting day of practice inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“At some point, you’re getting free training table, you’ve got to give something back,” Meyer said, point-blank, after practice.
“Spring practice is to develop scheme, but more-importantly to develop guys. The guys I’ve talked about are good kids, but at some point you’ve got to give back to the program and play, so we’re force-feeding some guys. Especially the guys with some ability.”
Chief among those would be Rod Smith, a 6-3 tailback with an embarrassment of talent who has yet to put it all together in his first three seasons with the Buckeyes. He has shown glimpses of being the most dangerous back on the roster at times, but he has also struggled just to hold off sophomore Bri’onte Dunn for the backup tailback spot.
“Rod Smith and Bri’onte, I couldn’t tell you who our backup is right now,” Meyer said after practice.
“But I’m hoping that the guys like Rod Smith realize that they’re going to get a shot if they do what they’re supposed to do.”
Smith and Dunn got most of the reps on Tuesday, along with redshirt freshman Warren Ball, as the Buckeyes practiced a lot of their power-run game and goal line offense on a blistery day in Columbus, Ohio.
Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn, Warren Ball
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Carlos didn’t go much today because he doesn’t need much short-yardage work,” Meyer said of starting tailback Carlos Hyde.
Hall Sidelined Again
The Buckeyes also didn’t ask much out of wideout Devin Smith or cornerback Bradley Roby on Tuesday, and they were without fifth-year senior Jordan Hall for yet another practice.
Along with a lingering hamstring injury, Meyer said Hall is also dealing with an academic issues that has to get corrected before he can get back on the practice field with his teammates this spring.
“I worry about all these guys,” Meyer admitted.
“I think Jordan loves the game of football, but he’s got to take care of his business, too. And I trust he will.”
Ball Making a Move
With Hall out and Hyde getting a bit of a rest, Warren Ball took advantage of the opportunity to impress his head coach during a physical day of short-yardage opportunities.
“Warren Ball did good today,” Meyer said of the 220-pound back out of Columbus DeSales.
“He was actually slow and thinking too much (earlier this spring). Today was the first day he looked like a good back. He’s always been OK, but he was struggling. Today was his best day.”
Jones Less Than Impressive
The same could not be said for classmate Cardale Jones, a redshirt freshman quarterback who got his first real chance to lead the second-team offense during most of Tuesday’s practice.
He did have a hand in one of the biggest plays of the day for the OSU offense, but it was Chris Fields doing most of the work. Jones faked an inside handoff during a 4th-and-1 drill and then rolled to his left.
He fired the ball out in the flat to Fields, who beat safety Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown to the corner. Fields cut up field and turned on the jets. He might have gone the distance for a 70-yard touchdown if they had not blown the whistle.
That was really the only highlight of the day for Jones, who took a lot of Kenny Guiton’s snaps as the No. 2 quarterback behind Braxton Miller.
“I wanted to see Cardale,” Meyer acknowledged.
“I put Kenny with the ones in the two-minute drill, and then we went with Cardale (with the twos). Cardale’s got to play. As you saw, he wasn’t very good today. We’ve got to knock the rust off him and get him ready to play a little bit.”
Receivers Missing in Action
In fairness, Jones was a little hamstrung by a depleted receiving corps on Tuesday. While Devin Smith did not partake in many of the team activities, sophomore Michael Thomas was not out there at all during the scrimmage portion of Tuesday’s workout.
Evan Spencer, who was working primarily with the first-team offense, also left practice with what appeared to be a right shoulder injury. The defense also lost a couple key guys from the two-deep during what was probably the most intense practice of the spring thus far.
“I think he got a stinger; nothing major,” Meyer said of Spencer, who missed the final two weeks of last spring with a broken bone in his left shoulder.
“(Defensive tackle) Tommy Schutt has a minor sprained ankle and (linebacker) Josh Perry had an asthma attack or something like that. Nothing major.”
The asthma issue with Perry is something that has been ongoing since his freshman season at Ohio State. He was limited in a number of practices last fall by the inflammatory disease.
Catching Meyer’s Eye
There were a few guys on defense who caught Meyer’s attention on Tuesday, but still not enough to alleviate some of his concerns about a defense that is forced to replace seven starters from a year ago.
“(Corey) ‘Pitt’ Brown won the game down there,” he said of the senior safety.
“He made a great stop down there on Bri’onte Dunn on 4th-and-1 from the 1-yard line. (The defensive coaches) said Armani Reeves had a good day, but other than that, I don’t know. It’s off the top of my head.”
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