Five for Friday

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Last updated: 03/07/2014 3:52 AM
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Football
Five for Friday: Thoughts From the First Week of Spring Practice
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — I have one basic tenet in my life, and that is there is nothing that happens in spring football that can't be over-analyzed.

Some people believe in things like doing good to other people, or loving their neighbors, or being good parents. Me? I believe in the hyper-focus of not-actual football.

After all, before we can over-analyze the regular season, we have to over-analyze the preseason. And before we can over-analyze the preseason, we have to over-analyze the pre-pre-season.

Having now witnessed the very first practice of the spring, and then talked to coaches after the second practice of the spring, I feel immensely qualified to voice my thoughts on a few aspects of what has gone down to this point with the Ohio State football team.

Don't get too worked up about it though, because I've already done that for you. I'm like New Jersey, I pump the gas for you.

1. The loss of Vonn Bell is bad, but it's not the end of the world.
Had the coaching staff not finally given in last December and repped Bell with the first team throughout the bowl practices, then this injury would be much bigger than it is. It's still bad, but at least Bell had the benefit of bowl practices last year. Of course, he was repping at nickel and not safety, but he showed himself to be a quick study, and he should be again this summer.

2. Luke Fickell and Urban Meyer are trying not to jinx things, but they're not doing a very good job of it.
What am I talking about? I'm talking about the effusive praise for freshman middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, and then the subsequent dialing back of said praise for fear of jinxing it. Fickell on Thursday mentioned holding his breath and and holding his tongue until they actually see McMillan in pads, but both he and Meyer seem like the type of poker players who bluff about as well as an EKG machine.

3. Not having Braxton Miller is kind of a blessing.
This was my opinion long before Tom Herman admitted it on Thursday. There is zero doubt that the Buckeyes are going to need to have a productive backup, and the best way to get that is by giving the candidates as much opportunity as possible. Both J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones are absolutely getting that now, and it will carry them through the offseason. Plus, with Miller out, there's almost no chance of him suffering a serious injury in practice. In other words, where he is at right now is the safest place for him and the team.

4. The back seven is pretty thin right now.

Urban Meyer said on Tuesday that the Buckeyes basically only have three safeties right now, and with the Vonn Bell injury, that number is down to two with Tyvis Powell and Cameron Burrows. In the first practice of the season, Ohio State couldn't even field four scholarship cornerbacks because Eli Apple wasn't practicing. I assume that changed on Thursday, but still, the Buckeyes only have four scholarship cornerbacks right now. Regarding the linebackers, I asked Luke Fickell what Darron Lee had done in the offseason to warrant being with the first team right now and he said it was because there aren't many other guys to choose from. He was joking a bit, but his point was clear. The good news, however, is that even though they are thin, there are going to be plenty of quality reps for each player. There won't be much standing around and watching. I also asked Fickell if he was looking forward to getting the rest of the freshmen on campus to fill out the roster, but he told me that the focus is only on this group for these next 13 practices.

5. You're going to have to deal with another year of Dontre Wilson hype.
Look, I really don't care if you don't want to hear about Dontre Wilson. I know there is a portion of the fanbase out there who get angry because they believe he failed to live up to the expectations that they read and heard about, and that's fine. But I'm going to talk about players who perform well at practice, and that's what Wilson did on Tuesday. I assume it's what he also did on Thursday. Yes, the H-back has looked dynamic in springs of yore, and then when the fall came most of you were left asking, "So, what happened with that whole Percy Harvin deal?" It's cool, I can understand why the lack of expectation fulfillment would upset you. That being said, my job is to tell you what I'm seeing and hearing, and oftentimes that involves Dontre Wilson.

Bonus: The defense is going to be different, and probably in a good way.
Luke Fickell said on Thursday that the goal of the defense in 2014 will be to "challenge everything". This would be in stark contrast to defenses of the past where everything actually challenged them.

Bonus: I really like the potential of this receiver group.
The amazing thing about the wide receivers is that possibly the best of the group (Devin Smith) is being almost completely ignored. There are all shapes and sizes of possibilities on the roster, but as we know, receivers coach Zach Smith's only true interest is in playmakers, regardless of physical attributes. This would also be good time to again mention how impressed I was by Corey Smith.

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