Spring Practice Insider: Defense Makes Plays in Defeat
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was a "Winner/Loser Day" at Ohio State football practice Tuesday, which usually takes the intensity to a solid eleven. The offense may have gotten the win thanks to a last-second touchdown pass from Kenny Guiton to Nick Vannett, but the defense had their share of moments.
Showing more blitzing during scrimmaging than they have at any point this spring, the Buckeyes had some success getting to the quarterback.
Curtis Grant and Josh Perry both showed some effectiveness in finding blitzing lanes. Perry got a tremendous shot in on Cardale Jones, who was not in a black jersey and was allowed to be hit. Grant forced Braxton Miller out of the pocket a couple of times on blitzes. Camren Williams also had some nice pressure.
It wasn't just the linebackers who were blitzing, however, as the cornerbacks also got into the mix. Freshman Eli Apple came free on a blitz, freezing a pass attempt by Guiton, who then tucked the ball and picked up a few yards on the scramble.
If the Buckeyes are solid enough in the back seven to be able to blitz their linebackers more this season, this could be an incredibly fun defense to watch.
Photo by Jim Davidson
I could also title this "Indefensible", because it would also describe defensive end Noah Spence's performance to this point, albeit without the aid of a pun.
This spring, the only offensive lineman who is having much luck against Spence is left tackle Jack Mewhort. Other than that, the sophomore Leo is having his way with the Ohio State offensive line. Granted, he's generally matched up just with the offensive tackles, though he did get some work in against right guard Marcus Hall today, and was successful there as well.
Spence also met his tag team partner Adolphus Washington in the backfield during the scrimmage portion, sharing a sack of Braxton Miller.
We talk about Spence every single week, but we only do it because he repeatedly gives us stuff to talk about. We haven't seen him do much in the way of dropping back, as all Leos have to do in this defense, and there is still plenty of room to go in terms of his run defense, but his natural ability as a pass rusher is pretty spectacular at times.
The Other Leo
Jamal Marcus's name has begun to pop up quite a bit over the last couple of weeks, and as with Spence, it's because he keeps making plays.
During one-on-ones, I saw him match up against Taylor Decker three times, winning at least two of the matchups. The third was a toss up. He is not as fast as Noah Spence, but his burst seems to carry a ton of power.
During the Winner/Loser portion of the scrimmage, Marcus collided with Bri'onte Dunn, sending Dunn backward and colliding into Braxton Miller. The hit was so violent that Urban Meyer even acknowledged it by slapping Marcus five. On the very next play, Marcus went around Decker for a sack.
After practice, defensive line coach Mike Vrabel talked with Marcus for quite a few minutes. It is clear that they like what they have in this youngster.
Photo by Dan Harker
Linebacker Ryan Shazier was still in his orange jersey, signifying that he is not yet full-go. However, he did partake in position drills for the first time this spring. He was frustrated with his rust a few times, but that's to be expected.
Cornerback Najee Murray also participated in some position drills for the first time. He is still in an orange jersey as he recovers from a torn ACL last year.
Nose tackle Tommy Schutt was limited today, perhaps due to his ankle injury last week. He was not wearing an orange jersey, however. Joel Hale continues to work with the ones at nose tackle. I don't know how much of that is due to Hale, and how much of that is due to Schutt's injury. However, Hale did start the spring as the #1 nose tackle, and he performed well at times on Tuesday.
Safety Devan Bogard is still in his orange jersey and I did not see him going through any position drills.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Around the Corners
Early in practice, cornerback Armani Reeves made a tremendous play on a pass, breaking it up, but ultimately dropping an interception. It would have been a tough catch, but Kerry Coombs still made Reeves give him 10 push ups.
As Reeves was getting down to do his push ups, Coombs looked over at his group of cornerbacks, whistled at them, and then pointed at Reeves, signifying that they all needed to be giving him 10 push ups.
A few plays later, Eli Apple broke on a pass, but began to fall as he was trying to intercept it. He got two hands on it, but couldn't come down with the pass. Yep, pushups.
During the scrimmage, Braxton Miller threw deep to Devin Smith, but Reeves came down with it, and returned the interception 60 yards down the sideline.
Earlier, Smith beat Reeves on a deep pass across the field. There were no deep safeties, so Miller lofted the ball away from the defense, and Smith ran right under it for a big gain.
Bradley Roby didn't do too much today, as he continues to get the John Simon Treatment during the spring. In his place, Reeves was with the ones, which left Apple and Burrows with the twos. Reeves was beaten deep by Philly Brown today, but this spring everybody is getting beaten by Brown.
(What can Brown do for you? He can make you look bad in coverage.)
Emptying the Notebook
* The kickoff return units were Bradley Roby and Rod Smith; Devin Smith and Bri'onte Dunn; and Philly Brown and Rod Smith. In each instance, Smith and Dunn were blocking.
* Former safety Orhian Johnson was in attendance today, as was former linebacker Conner Crowell, whose career was cut short due to an ankle injury.
* Former defensive coordinator Jim Heacock was also at practice, as he has been all spring. He and Urban Meyer had a fairly long discussion during drills.
* During position drills, Kerry Coombs was urging his cornerbacks to take mental reps, including Bradley Roby.
* The Buckeyes broke out a defensive front during a two-minute drill that was all defensive ends. It was Jamal Marcus and Tyquan Lewis on the ends, and J.T. Moore and Steve Miller on the inside.
* Freshman defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle worked at both strongside defensive end and defensive tackle. Tyquan Lewis had some nice moments in the one-on-ones against Tommy Brown.
* Safety C.J. Barnett had a very good day, reading the passing plays well, and also helping in run support. He was stout at the point of attack, and he was also able to chase the running plays to the sideline.
* It looks as though back-up offensive guard Ivon Blackman has moved to defense.
* Weakside linebacker David Perkins continues to work with the ones in place of Ryan Shazier. Twice he jumped a pass to Devin Smith in the flats, batting the passes down. Had he been one step quicker, he would have had two pick sixes. Both plays were perfect examples of the athleticism that his coaches love.
* Tailback Warren Ball had a 35-yard run during the scrimmage. The most impressive part was that it was 340-pound Chris Carter bringing Ball down at the end of the play. Meyer wasn't as impressed with Carter, however, saying that he's playing okay, but needs to continue improving.
* Adolphus Washington had a good day. Chase Farris had trouble with him throughout practice. Jack Mewhort held up against Washington's bull rush, however.
Depth Charting the Defense
8 Noah Spence
34 Jamal Marcus
59 Tyquan Lewis
63 Michael Bennett
93 Tracy Sprinkle
NOSE TACKLE (Nickel)
51 Joel Hale
90 Tommy Schutt
72 Chris Carter
92 Adolphus Washington
88 Steve Miller
50 J.T. Moore
93 Tracy Sprinkle
94 Rashad Frazier
14 Curtis Grant
5 Cam Williams
21 David Perkins
42 Luke Roberts
SLB (In Base)
37 Josh Perry
48 Joe Burger
38 Craig Fada
STAR 1 (Nickel)
23 Tyvis Powell
11 Adam Griffin
STAR 2 (Dime)
3 Corey Brown
16 Cam Burrows
1 Bradley Roby
13 Eli Apple
16 Cam Burrows
12 Doran Grant
26 Armani Reeves
2 Christian Bryant
20 Ron Tanner
4 C.J. Barnett
3 Corey Brown
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