Spring Practice Insider: Big Plays Headline Practice No. 11
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Saturday’s practice included a little bit of everything for the Ohio State students who flocked to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. They were treated to an close-up view of Urban Meyer’s football team during the program’s second annual Student Appreciation Day.
This year’s even included Brutus taking a snap from center (not to mention a harder-than-expected hit from linebacker David Perkins). It also included some female students getting a chance to kick field goals at the end of practice.
The biggest highlights of the day, however, came from the Buckeyes wearing helmets and pads. Here’s an inside look at Ohio State 11th practice of the spring. They will have three more this spring, including the spring game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on April 13.
Braxton’s Air Attack
Photo by Jim Davidson
Quarterback Braxton Miller had one of his best days throwing the ball this spring, with a number of big plays down the field on Saturday. Wearing his bleach blonde Mohawk look, Miller did not show an ill effects from the hit he took from Noah Spence during Tuesday’s practice.
With the students huddled in close, the Buckeyes were only working with about 60 yards of the field on Saturday, but Miller was taking advantage of all of them. His first big play of the day was a beautiful 25-yard touchdown pass to Evan Spencer. Miller threw a perfect ball over top of freshman Cam Burrows that hit Spencer right in the finger tips for a score.
His next big play didn’t go for a touchdown, but Miller put the ball out in front of Corey Brown, who had gotten behind Burrows down the right sideline. Brown had to leave his feet to make a great grab, but it was a catchable ball that netted the Buckeyes 48 yards and put them inside the five yard line.
On the next play, Miller ran an option to the left and pitched the ball to Rod Smith for a two-yard touchdown run.
Miller did misfire on a pass to Devin Smith, who was battling Armani Reeves down the field, but he would connect with his favorite downfield target a little later in the day. Miller saw Smith had gotten behind Doran Grant along the right sideline and he threw it up for him.
Smith had to make a spectacular catch along the sideline. He tipped the ball with his finger tips and pulled it in off the bobble while dotting his toes inbounds along the white line. It was a tremendous grab in tight coverage from Grant.
Thomas Continue to Shine
Photo by Dan Harker
If Smith’s catch wasn’t the best catch of the day, then it had to go to sophomore Michael Thomas. The 6-3 receiver from California went up for a one-hand grab in the back corner of the end zone on a pass from Kenny Guiton.
He had freshman corner Eli Apple draped all over him. Apple was actually flagged for interference on the play, but it didn’t stop Thomas from coming down with another tough catch.
That’s something he continues to do with regularity this spring, but he has also shown he can catch the easy ones. He made another nice grab on an in route with Apple in coverage again, and those two actually got into it after one play on Saturday.
Thomas continues to work as the backup split end behind Devin Smith, but he has been one of the team’s most reliable weapons offensively this spring.
Bumps and Bruises
There were a few key players missing from practice on Saturday, starting with running back Jordan Hall. He was out there running around with the running backs during position drills, but he had his orange jersey tucked into his pants.
Hall did not take part in the scrimmage portion of practice, we can assume because of the hamstring injury, and the same goes for Corey Linsley. Ohio State’s starting center has not practiced much this spring because he is rehabbing a foot injury suffered during last season.
With Linsley out, Jacoby Boren and Pat Elflein shared first-team reps at center. Senior Chris Fields replaced Hall as the first-team H-back on Saturday. He even had a few toss plays come his way.
The other injury that happened on Saturday was tailback Rod Smith, who had his bell rung during an onfield collision. Smith seemed a little woozy after coming off the field. He was tended to by the medical staff on the sideline and eventually left practice.
Ball and Dunn
Photo by Jim Davidson
With Smith gone, Warren Ball and Bri’onte Dunn both got a chance to show what they could do running behind the first-team offensive line. Senior Carlos Hyde has been held back this spring so they can get a better look at some of the younger running backs.
That continued on Saturday, and it’s easy to see why. Both Dunn and Ball looked good during practice No. 10 of the spring. Ball in particular continues to be impressive coming off a freshman season where he redshirted because of a foot injury.
Ball had the run of the day on Saturday. He bounced outside and took off down the left sideline for 45 yards before the defense finally caught him inside the five. The offense failed to punch it in on that series, but Ball scored up the middle in the red zone drill and Dunn scored the game-winning TD on an option pitch from a few yards out.
Dunn did a lot of hard running on Saturday. He had 2-3 runs of 10-12 yards and broke off a big 35-yard gain down the right sideline. It came on a an option toss play to the right, and Dunn made linebacker Craig Fada miss at the line of scrimmage before he rumbled down the sideline for 35 yards.
No More Mr. Nice Guy
It appears Braxton Miller’s offensive line didn’t take too kindly to the big hit from Noah Spence on Tuesday. Spence was in the backfield a lot on Saturday, but on one play he finally drew the fire of left guard Andrew Norwell.
Miller had fumbled the snap (a good snap, by the way) and by the time he scooped the ball off the ground both Spence and Adolphus Washington were right on top of him. This time, Spence pulled up and gave the quarterback a hard two-hand touch.
Norwell immediately shoved Spence with both hands right in the chest. They had to be held back from each other and Washington came over to get involved before Joel Hale pulled him away.
Emptying the Notebook
* The Buckeyes ran a nice little shovel pass from Braxton Miller to Rod Smith today that went for 10-15 yards up the middle.
* Tyvis Powell also had a monster hit on TE Jeff Heuerman. He made the catch, but Heuerman was a little shaken up after.
* QB Cardale Jones didn't get many opportunities today, but he showed me something as a scrambler. Took off for 25 yards one time.
* QB Kenny Guiton had a few nice scrambles today, but he took a shot from Adam Griffin on one of them. Guiton came up holding his ribs, but he was OK to stay in the game.
Depth Charting the Offense
There were not many notable changes to the depth chart during Saturday’s practice. With Jordan Hall still sidelined, Chris Fields continued to get reps in the slotback role with the first offense. Jacoby Boren and Pat Elflein split reps at center with the first-team offense. It looked like Warren Ball was the third tailback today, but he and Bri’onte Dunn were both getting a lot of carries down the stretch.
Jacoby Boren OR
H-BACK (SLOT WR)
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