Spring Practice Insider: Offense

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Football
Spring Practice Insider: Buckeye Offense Finding Receivers
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State took to the field for their first of 15 spring practices and the story of the day was the performance by the wide receivers.

Well, the big story is obviously that Braxton Miller isn't participating due to shoulder surgery, but other than that, the nod goes to the receivers.

Redshirt junior receiver Corey Smith was one of the stars of the practice, as he made a few acrobatic catches on the sideline while draped in coverage. He was quick in and out of his cuts and certainly looked like he will contribute this year.

In fact, Smith was so effective in the one-on-ones that when cornerback Armani Reeves broke up a pass intended for him, all of the defensive backs involved in the drill celebrated in seeming relief. Smith also had a sliding catch on the sidelines that was probably out of bounds, and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs came over and made sure to tell him that he was definitely out of bounds.

If Smith wasn't the player of the day for the offense, then it was Dontre Wilson. He was an unfair matchup in the slot against safeties and linebackers. Several times in one-on-one drills he got open against safeties Tyvis Powell and Cameron Burrows and outraced them down the sideline for huge gains. Being 7-on-7, however, the advantage is always going to go to the offensive player.

Redshirt freshman Jalin Marshall was also impressive in the slot, as safeties were also no match for him. He had a catch in the slot against linebacker Darron Lee and, pardon the cliche, but he stopped on a dime and left Lee with the change. There were even a few snaps with Marshall and Wilson on the field together, which looked extremely promising.

Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Greene looks like the former Georgia Tech receivers in the NFL. He's big, tall and can go up and get the football. He had a few nice catches and just looks like a tough matchup for defenders once he gets his body on them. He also had a fantastic back-shoulder catch from Cardale Jones against Gareon Conley. Greene is not yet on scholarship per OSU.

Evan Spencer is being held out of practice this spring while he recovers from a leg injury. Devin Smith was relatively quiet, which was a surprise given how he shined at this point a year ago.

True freshman Johnnie Dixon had some nice moments, but also had a few lapses in concentration. Urban Meyer beams when talking about him, but said that he wished he would have been better today.

Redshirt sophomore Michael Thomas worked with the ones and twos and performed well. He's got a big body, and he snatches the ball out of the air.

Second-year receiver James Clark, who had a nasty leg injury last season, took part in a few drills, but didn't participate in any scrimmaging or one-on-one play. That was to be expected, but it was still good to see him out there running around.

The tight ends also had some moments, specifically redshirt freshman Marcus Baugh, who showed himself to be a downfield threat. He was working with the twos today and Nick Vannett was with the ones. Jeff Heuerman was out today with a broken nose that happened in the weight room.

Braxton Miller Update
Miller was decked out in a black cast/sling on his right arm as he recovers from shoulder surgery. When asked about the lateness of the surgery, Urban Meyer said that Miller was injured in the Orange Bowl and that the preferred route was four weeks of rehab. When that didn't work, they had to opt for surgery.

Miller may be missing physical reps this spring, but he'll be getting plenty of mental reps as he has been outfitted with a camera and microphone so that he can verbalize everything that he is seeing, and offensive coordinator Tom Herman can go over it later to make sure Miller is seeing what he should be.

In Miller's Absence
With Braxton Miller out, the reps were split between redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett. Jones went first, which technically puts him with the ones, but the reps were split pretty evenly. True freshman Stephen Collier didn't get many, if any, reps in 7-on-7 or during the scrimmaging.

Overall, Jones had a nice day throwing the ball downfield, while Barrett was probably more accurate on the intermediate stuff. Urban Meyer said that he wasn't overly impressed with either, however.

Stacking Up the Offensive Line
It took a while before we were able to get any type of idea of a depth chart on the offensive line, but once they finally lined up for some scrimmaging the lineup looked like this:

LT - Taylor Decker / Kyle Dodson
LG - Antonio Underwood / Joel Hale
C - Jacoby Boren / Billy Price
RG - Patrick Elflein / Tommy Brown
RT - Darryl Baldwin / Evan Lisle

Both Joel Hale and Billy Price also got some reps with the ones. Price had a fantastic stalemate with Michael Bennett in one-on-ones, though some may have called it a hold.

Kyle Dodson had some issues with defensive end Joey Bosa, but that's to be expected of most offensive linemen this year. Hale had some moments today, but he's obviously still learning. He did have a nice shutdown of Tommy Schutt in one-on-ones. He was not, however, ready for Adolphus Washington.

The Tailback Situation
There was a bit of a surprise at running back as it was senior Rod Smith taking the first snaps at tailback, rather than sophomore Ezekiel Elliott, who was the decided favorite. Elliott was actually behind both Smith and Bri'onte Dunn in drills, but then when they went to 7-on-7 and scrimmaging, Elliott and Smith were splitting snaps with the ones.

It was hard for any tailback to really stand out today, though freshman Curtis Samuel had a few moves prior to tweaking a hamstring. He was fifth on the depth chart today.

Speaking of the Depth Chart

It should be noted that there's only so much stock to put into an opening day depth chart. So with that caveat, here's how things looked on offense. Also, don't get too caught up on the X and Z receiver positions because there's just so much movement going on right now.

QB - Cardale Jones / J.T. Barrett / Stephen Collier
RB - Rod Smith / Ezekiel Elliott / Bri'onte Dunn / Warren Ball / Curtis Samuel
HB - Dontre Wilson / Jalin Marshall
WR - Devin Smith / Johnnie Dixon
WR - Michael Thomas / Corey Smith / Jeff Greene
TE - Nick Vannett / Marcus Baugh
LT - Taylor Decker / Kyle Dodson
LG - Antonio Underwood / Joel Hale
C - Jacoby Boren / Billy Price
RG - Patrick Elflein / Tommy Brown
RT - Darryl Baldwin / Evan Lisle

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