Spring Practice Insider: Short-Yardage Drills Set the Tone
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was a very spirited Tuesday afternoon on the practice field inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and for good reason. Urban Meyer put his team through a series of short-yardage situations, and the collisions were constant.
Carlos Hyde didn't take too many snaps, as Meyer already knows what he has in the senior. Today's practice mainly featured Rod Smith, Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball out of the backfield, running behind various offensive line incarnations.
In terms of overall performance, the offense more than held its own against a defense that had a pretty good idea of what was coming.
The teams spent quite a bit of time in a goal-line situation with the offense having a second and goal at the four-yard line. There was very little throwing, as this was a test of power and strength.
Interestingly, Braxton Miller started the drill under center, but as Kenny Guiton and Cardale Jones took their snaps, they were out of the shotgun.
Rod Smith fumbled one of his early attempts, but scored on his next attempt behind Andrew Norwell and Patrick Elflein, who was getting some work at center with the ones and twos.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Bri'onte Dunn was nearly unstoppable in this drill, constantly driving and falling forward, scoring at least three touchdowns. One of Dunn's touchdowns came right behind Jacoby Boren, who did a tremendous job of containing big Chris Carter.
Warren Ball scored with a nice cut to the left, but never stopped moving forward. He hit linebacker David Perkins and drove him back into the endzone for the touchdown.
Guiton also had a touchdown run on a zone read keeper. He was untouched and obviously caught the defense off guard. There were a few snaps out of the pistol during this drill, as well.
Miller got sacked by Michael Bennett on a play-action pass attempt.
Paving the Way
As Meyer said after practice, he's very confident in 80% of his offensive line, as returning starters Jack Mewhort, Andrew Norwell, Corey Linsley and Marcus Hall are all proven.
Mewhort showed again that he will be one of the top offensive linemen in the conference, if not the country. During one-on-ones, he went against freshman Tyquan Lewis and not only did he not allow Lewis to get to the "quarterback", but then escorted him all the way around the pocket and back to his defensive line group.
Mewhort split a pair of one-on-ones with sophomore defensive end Adolphus Washington, which could probably be considered very good news for Buckeye fans.
Jacoby Boren and Patrick Elflein got the bulk of the snaps at center. Elflein twice handled defensive end Jamal Marcus during one-on-ones, but then was twice beaten by Steve Miller.
Taylor Decker had some good and bad moments against defensive end Noah Spence, getting beaten badly in their first duel as Spence put an inside move on Decker and got to the quarterback. On the next snap, Decker had to hold Spence to keep him from getting to his destination. Spence slipped on his third attempt, and Decker got the better of him the fourth time. It was a good showing by both, but sometimes it doesn't matter what is done to try to combat Spence on the pass rush.
Marcus Hall routinely stoned defensive tackle Michael Bennett in one-on-ones, handling him at least four times as Bennett kept trying a bull rush. Hall has been touted by offensive line coach Ed Warinner as perhaps the most improved lineman overall, and so far there's little reason to doubt that assessment.
Even though the bulk of the practice was spent in the shadow of the goal posts, that doesn't mean there weren't also some big plays.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The first came on a quick flare pass to Chris Fields in the flats, who utilized one block and then outraced the entire defense 75 yards to the endzone. It appeared that Corey Brown had the angle on him at around the 50-yard line, but Fields turned the speed on and went in nearly untouched. It continued a very solid spring for Fields, who is currently backing up Jordan Hall as the H-back.
The second big play came when Braxton Miller lofted a perfect pass to tight end Jeff Heuerman downfield, which was just out of the reach of C.J. Barnett. Heuerman pulled the ball down, then turned and ran for the endzone perhaps faster than he's ever run before. In the end, it was a 90-yard touchdown catch and run that was a surprise due to how fast and athletic the 6'6" 250-pound tight end looked.
Cardale Jones Gets His Shot
Redshirt freshman quarterback Cardale Jones got more snaps in this practice than perhaps any before it. Urban Meyer didn't see a need to get Kenny Guiton too many reps because they need to see what Jones can do. Meyer reiterated that they need Jones to be ready to play this season.
After seeing his performance on Tuesday, it's clear that he is not yet comfortable. If his inaccuracy was the only problem, that would be one thing. However, he also fumbled a snap, lost a fumble on an option play, threw a pick six on a pass behind his receiver to Eli Apple, and then simply fumbled the ball on a rollout.
Jones has a long way to go, but that isn't going to stop Meyer and Tom Herman from trying to get him there.
Emptying the Notebook
* Freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett was pretty erratic on the afternoon, generally throwing the ball too high to be caught. He is still not taking snaps in scrimmage situations.
* Receiver Evan Spencer had a bit of a stinger about halfway through practice and had to sit out the rest of the afternoon.
* Quarterback Braxton Miller threw an interception to safety Christian Bryant. The pass was intended for receiver Devin Smith who was running a streak against cornerback Bradley Roby.
* One of tailback Rod Smith's biggest issues is ball security, and he certainly didn't help himself by fumbling the ball inside the five-yard line.
* Kenny Guiton did get some snaps with the ones during a two-minute drill and did a nice job of leading the offense down the field.
* Taylor Decker and Chase Farris again split time at right tackle with the ones, though there were a few times when Decker slid over to left tackle and Farris went in at right tackle with the ones. Neither player seemed out of place.
* Urban Meyer said Braxton Miller is doing just fine, but he does wish that Miller didn't have to play his freshman year. He said he wasn't ready, but the fact that he was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year speaks to just how talented he is.
* As a unit, the running backs were very impressive. They keep their legs churning and they fall forward. Last year Meyer said that he expected his team to be very good inside the redzone, which they were. This year they should be even better. There will be a lot of third-and-short situations which end in first downs for the Buckeyes in 2013.
Rod Smith (2), Bri'onte Dunn (25), Warren Ball (28)
Photo by Jim Davidson
Depth Charting the Offense
The only notable changes were that Rod Smith has moved ahead of Bri'onte Dunn, and the first-team fullback looks like it is tight end Blake Thomas. The team ran several three tight end formations during the short-yardage drills, and Thomas was the tight end lined up in the backfield.
Ben St. John
H-BACK (SLOT WR)
Jordan Hall/Corey Brown
Corey Brown/Evan Spencer
Donate by Check :
1380 King Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43212
Help us bring you more Buckeye coverage. Donate to the-Ozone.
Click here to email this the-Ozone feature to a friend...or even a foe.
(c) 2010 The O-Zone, O-Zone Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, rebroadcast,rewritten, or redistributed.