Spring Practice Insider: Receivers Continue to Impress
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A year ago at this time, Urban Meyer had no idea where catches were going to come from. Having gone through an entire season, he has a much better idea now. After three practices this spring, things look even brighter.
Two weeks ago it was slot receiver Jordan Hall who stood out for the offense. On Tuesday, it was fellow receivers Michael Thomas and Devin Smith who were making plays.
During one-on-ones between defensive backs and receivers, the sophomore Thomas took on all comers, and caught just about everything thrown his way. He beat All-American Bradley Roby on a double move down the seam, then a few throws later he treated freshman Cameron Burrows to a similar result.
Up next for Thomas was sophomore Armani Reeves, who was discarded prior to Thomas snatching the pass out of the air. He didn't get over on every cornerback, however, as Doran Grant blanketed him and dropped an interception.
For the first day in pads, Thomas sure played with a physicality fitting such a day. Not bad for a second teamer.
Devin Smith continued his role as a deep threat, catching a long touchdown pass from Braxton Miller on a double move against Roby. There were a lot of short passes thrown in the scrimmage situations, and Smith was again effective there as well.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Interestingly, being a slot receiver, Corey Brown was pitted against safeties Christian Bryant and C.J. Barnett. A throw against Bryant was too high to be caught, but against Barnett, Miller lofted a perfect pass for a completion on a corner route. Brown also caught a nice in route on Adam Griffin. Overall, he seemed to be a favorable matchup against safeties.
Evan Spencer had some nice moments as well, including catching an in route from Kenny Guiton and taking it to the house against Doran Grant. He also drew a pass interference from Armani Reeves. He caught a nice comeback route on freshman Eli Apple, but was bested by the other freshman when Burrows broke up a streak route.
Frank Epitropoulos also had a nice play on a comeback route, catching a pass with Apple in coverage, then breaking free for a touchdown.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The Buckeyes did some work from scrimmage against a dime package, practicing with a third-and-long situation. As you might expect, Braxton Miller wasn't nearly as accurate during the scrimmage portions as he was during the one-on-ones sessions. (He was lights out during the one-on-ones, by the way.)
Carlos Hyde and Bri'onte Dunn rotated a bit with the ones, but don't read anything into that, as this is still Hyde's job. Running backs coach Stan Drayton said that one of the reasons Hyde is working so hard right now is because he sees the talent behind him. He is being pushed, but he's not interested in giving any ground.
As an aside, Hyde said that he is at 235 pounds right now and wants to play at 230 pounds. He also said that he is focusing on making the safety miss this season.
Taylor Decker had some good and bad moments at right tackle. Early on, Adolphus Washington went right around him to pressure Miller. Later, Noah Spence put an inside move on Decker and Decker had no choice by to drag Spence down. Later in one-on-ones, Decker stoned Washington twice.
Rod Smith had a run of around 50 yards off right tackle. Right guard Tommy Brown opened a nice hole, and Smith went right through it. He flipped the ball after the whistle, which earned the ire of his position coach.
On the very next play Brown and backup center Jacoby Boren were overwhelmed and gave up a sack to the left side of the defensive line.
Miller had a tremendous completion to Evan Spencer down the middle of the field for 50 yards or so. The completion came against Doran Grant. The only bad part about it was that Spencer couldn't stay on his feet and score.
One of the most impressive players on the day was redshirt freshman tailback Warren Ball. Drayton, who called the 220-pound Ball "rugged", said after practice that he might be the best of the running backs "in space". He certainly didn't disappoint, taking a shovel pass through the line of scrimmage and emerging in the secondary.
He displays some serious shake, but never at the expense of going forward. On one carry, Steve Miller blasted into the backfield, yet Ball shrugged him aside and once again got into the secondary. He runs the ball like a guy who didn't have much fun watching last year.
Braxton Miller threw a pair of interceptions. The first came on a streak route by Devin Smith. Armani Reeves played Smith and the ball perfectly, timing his jump to intercept the underthrown pass. Miller's second interception came while they were backed up in their own redzone, and saw Christian Bryant jump a pass in the flats and take it back the necessary few yards into the endzone.
H-Back Jordan Hall didn't practice because of a slight hamstring issue. Corey Brown worked the slot in his absence. I am interested to see how the offense looks when both are in the lineup.
J.T. Barrett participated again in most of the drills. However, during the scrimmaging, he would stand 10 yards behind the quarterbacks and take mental reps, progressing through his own reads. Many times, Urban Meyer would be right there with him.
Depth Charting the Offense
Ben St. John
H-BACK (SLOT WR)
Emptying the Notebook
* It really looks like Drew Basil is the man to beat for the punting job. He continues to run as the #1 punter, and was booming some kicks into the rafters of the WHAC.
* Prior to practice, Urban Meyer was again stressing to his team the importance of giving 4-6 seconds of effort, even if it's in the wrong direction, telling his players "If you make a mistake, we're good."
* Michael Thomas is clearly the biggest and tallest receiver on the roster right now. He looks like a legitimate 6'3", if not a tad bit taller.
* During one-on-ones, walk-on receiver Kato Mitchell was nearly perfect. Against Corey Brown, Brown was flagged for holding. He also bested safeties Ron Tanner and Adam Griffin. Tyvis Powell was the only defender to stop him during the drill.
* During the offensive and defensive line one-on-ones, the offensive line won for the most part. Right guard Marcus Hall was 2-0 against Tommy Schutt while I was watching. Darryl Baldwin twice stoned Steve Miller. Michael Bennett and Andrew Norwell split, as you might expect those two to do.
* During the one-on-ones, offensive line coach Ed Warinner had to get on one of his guys for leading a defender right to where Braxton Miller's knee would have been.
* Quarterback Cardale Jones did not have a very good day throwing the ball. He had some accuracy issues, including one throw at Rod Smith's feet from about eight yards away.
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