OSU Spring Practice Insider: Running Backs Make Some Noise
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State held their fourth practice of the spring on Thursday, and if there was a group that stood out more than any other on the day, it was probably the running backs.
With everybody in pads now, the running backs were finally able to dish out some contact. There was quite a bit of drilling on quick passes to the tailbacks in the flats, which the defense handled fairly well. There were still some decent gains, but nothing that the defense should be embarrassed about.
Ezekiel Elliott, who was splitting first-team reps with Rod Smith, took a nice swing pass up the sidelines for 20 or so yards, and also showed some nice wiggle on a 15-yard carry up the middle.
The play of the day, however, came from Bri'onte Dunn, who took a shovel pass in the middle of the line of scrimmage and went about 50 yards up field, making safety Tyvis Powell miss in the process.
After practice, running backs coach Stan Drayton said it's too early to differentiate between first team and second team or third team. He said he's extremely confident that his guys will be ready to go by the time the season gets here.
Drayton also said that Rod Smith is running harder than he ever has in his career. He said his room learned a lot about running hard from watching Carlos Hyde last year.
Drayton praised Dunn, saying that he's "starting to act like he knows what the hell is going on."
Asked if he would prefer to have one guy get 20 carries, he said, "I prefer a guy who's gonna be productive. Period." He said he has around 30 carries per game for his tailbacks, and it doesn't matter to him how they get distributed, as long as the carries go to productive guys.
Redshirt freshman receiver Jalin Marshall was on crutches after tearing the lateral meniscus in his left knee on Tuesday. He will undergo arthroscopic surgery on Friday and should be back working out at 100% in May.
Also not participating was freshman running back Curtis Samuel, who is possibly still nursing a tweaked hamstring. He spent his day jogging around the practice facility.
Receiver Corey Smith was also apparently dealing with a hamstring issue, and didn't make it through the entire practice. Nothing appeared to be serious, however.
Offensive guard Chase Farris spent his day on the stationary bike, as he is dealing with some type of ding, tweak or knock. Receiver Evan Spencer continues to be out for the spring with his leg injury. Redshirt freshman James Clark again participated in some drills, but he did not take part in any of the scrimmaging.
Mixed Bag in the Passing and Catching Area
It was not a great afternoon for either Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett at quarterback. Jones took the first-team reps today and threw some nice balls -- including a beautiful deep ball for a touchdown to receiver Devin Smith -- but he also dealt with some accuracy issues.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Barrett was similarly inconsistent, having difficulty connecting on some downfield throws. He did have a nice run, but with a black jersey, he didn't have a chance to do as much as he could have in that regard.
Interestingly, I don't recall Jones taking off at all while they were scrimmaging. He was always able to get rid of the ball. That might have something to do with the fact that the #1 offense was going against the #2 defense.
Jones had at least two interceptions on the afternoon, and Barrett had at least three.
As far as the receivers go, Dontre Wilson again had a very good day. Safeties aren't able to stay with him, but unlike the last practice we attended, Jones decided to spread the ball around to a few more receivers than just Wilson, which might explain some of his accuracy issues.
Freshman receiver Johnnie Dixon was mixing in with the ones today, and for good reason. He catches everything and is immediately turning up field looking for yardage.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Devin Smith had a nice afternoon, breaking free of an Eli Apple tackle in the redzone and running the final 10 yards into the endzone. He also hauled in a bomb from Jones with walk-on cornerback Nik Sarac in coverage.
Michael Thomas had a great catch in one-on-ones in the endzone, snatching the ball away from Gareon Conley. True freshman quarterback Stephen Collier also had a nice touch pass to Johnnie Dixon for a touchdown against Armani Reeves in one-on-ones.
Dixon was also used on the jet sweep a few times. He was on the field with Devin Smith, Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott in those instances. They also used him in some screen action, and he made a nice move on Conley, shrugging him off and heading up field. It reminded me of Urban Meyer talking on Tuesday about how they studied Clemson's use of Sammy Watkins with screens and jet sweeps.
Receiver Jeff Greene caught a corner route against Tyvis Powell, and then raced another 40 yards or so for a 60-odd yard touchdown.
The depth chart on the offensive line didn't change at all. In fact, there weren't many if any changes from two weeks ago. Here is what it looked like today.
QB - Cardale Jones / J.T. Barrett / Stephen Collier
RB - Rod Smith / Ezekiel Elliott / Bri'onte Dunn / Warren Ball
HB - Dontre Wilson
WR - Devin Smith / Johnnie Dixon / Frank Epitropoulos
WR - Michael Thomas / Jeff Greene
TE - Jeff Heuerman / 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
As mentioned above, Elliott and Smith split reps with the ones. Dunn's long 50-yard play came with the second-team offense against the first-team defense.
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