Taking Stock: Thoughts on OSU's Offense at the Midway Point of Spring
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes have 15 practices this spring to lay the groundwork for what is expected to be another exciting and dynamic offense.
Even though there is no Braxton Miller at quarterback right now, there has been no slow down in the proceedings. Each position group is full steam ahead as the coaches look to see which players thrive with the pressure, and which ones do not.
On Saturday, the Buckeyes held their eighth practice, which means it is time to take stock of where things stand at the halfway point. And, with seven practices remaining, where they might head from here.
Even though I expected the offensive line to be okay this season, when Ed Warinner and Tom Herman are saying that they are way ahead of where they were with the 2012 offensive line, that's a bit of a surprise. Taylor Decker and Pat Elflein were seen as sure things, and Jacoby Boren was seen as a promising starter as well, but there were still question marks looming. While those question marks are still out there, it looks like Antonio Underwood and Darryl Baldwin continue to solidify their spots in the top five. They haven't wrapped up starting jobs just yet, and neither has Boren, but they have certainly given their coaches and teammates confidence that the 2014 offensive line won't be the weak spot that many may have thought it would be.
The lack of Braxton Miller this spring is certainly disappointing because not only does he still need to improve, but he could have also used this time to gain more of a rapport with the young receivers. Instead, he will have a busy summer organizing his own workouts with receivers like Dontre Wilson, Johnnie Dixon and Jalin Marshall. Tom Herman and Zach Smith aren't too concerned about it because he has been around for three-plus years now, and so have a few of his receivers. Ideally, Miller would have been able to knock these 15 practices out, but instead will have to settle for the ballyhooed "mental reps". Even though this is one disappointing aspect of the spring for the Ohio State offense, quarterbacks Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett have gotten experience that they never would have gotten with a healthy Miller taking their reps. The hope is that this ends up being a net positive for the Buckeyes.
It would be hard to argue against the impact that Taylor Decker has had as a leader already this spring on the offensive line. He is not alone, however, as Darryl Baldwin has also provided maturity and experience for the offense as a whole. Perhaps surprisingly, Rod Smith has had a busy spring both competing for a starting job and helping the young Buckeye running backs get up to speed. At receiver, even though he is not participating, Evan Spencer can be seen coaching up freshman Johnnie Dixon. And watching over all of this is Braxton Miller, because all he is capable of doing right now is watching. Miller is not only missing reps, he is also missing opportunities to lead. He has to make up for both in other ways, and so far according to his coaches, he's doing just that. He is leading the quarterback room even though he hasn't thrown a single pass this spring.
It has been a pretty good spring for the early enrollees on offense. Receiver Johnnie Dixon has been impressive every time we've seen him, and we haven't even seen him at his best like his coaches have. Running back Curtis Samuel has been hampered by a hamstring, but the few times he's been in, we've either seen him make moves, or heard reports of them. He might be fifth in the pecking order right now at running back, but that doesn't mean there won't be some snaps for him in the fall. On the offensive line, guard Marcelys Jones has been pushing for a spot with the twos, which I would consider a surprise given the he was also with the twos at times during his senior season at Glenville. Kyle Trout is running third in the battle for right tackle right now, which is actually good news because it showcases the depth that the Buckeyes have on the offensive line despite the loss of four starters from a season ago.
Prediction for the Second Half
You should expect to continue hearing good things about the skill players on this offense. Each position group is probably the deepest they have been since Urban Meyer's arrival, and that competition is only going to make players better. Even players running as backups, like J.T. Barrett or Bri'onte Dunn, will have their names heard down the stretch.
Related Article: Taking /stock of the defense
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