Spring Practice Insider: Big Plays Spark the Offense
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Big plays are one of those things that an offensive coach loves to see, except for maybe when he's also the head coach.
What Urban Meyer saw during Saturday's practice -- which was mostly a 90-minute scrimmage -- was several big plays that had to make him smile, and then immediately cringe.
The first big play came from freshman running back Curtis Samuel. All of the running backs got snaps with the first team today, and during a series with Samuel in against the first-team defense, he took a handoff up the middle and went untouched for a 50-yard touchdown.
While that is the big-play potential that Meyer signed Samuel for, that doesn't necessarily mean he wants to see if against his own defense.
Later in the scrimmage, with twos versus twos, quarterback J.T. Barrett rolled right to escape pressure and found tight end Marcus Baugh running towards the sideline and hit him about 30 yards downfield. Baugh ran the final 10 yards or so into the endzone.
One series later Barrett found Baugh again, this time on a deep corner to the left side. Baugh again ran the final 10 yards for around a 55-yard touchdown strike.
Baugh had a few other catches as well, and was easily over 100 yards in receptions on the day.
Running back Rod Smith did not participate in Saturday's practice. Because of that, Ezekiel Elliott got the bulk of the reps with the first team, though each running back took turns with the ones. I don't recall Elliott ever being with the twos, however.
When he was in there, Elliott showed nice power and quick moves that allowed him to stay north and south. He was always looking to turn the ball upfield, but also stayed patient on the outside runs.
He was also very effective in the flats, which is an area of weakness against a quarters defense, which is what Ohio State is now playing. They did this twice with success inside the redzone.
On a day with big plays from both sides of the ball, Elliott may have been the most consistent performer for the offense.
Quarterbacks Continue to Battle
Cardale Jones once again took ever rep with the first team. He was more accurate today than he was a week ago, though they were focused more on short and intermediate passes.
He was protected fairly well on the day, though defensive tackle Michael Bennett did get to him from the blind side once, knocking the ball out of his hand in the process. Bennett's sack came when Billy Price was at center with the ones. Noah Spence also got a sack, racing around right tackle Darryl Baldwin.
Jones' ability as a powerful runner is negated in practice as he can be "tackled" by a single touch. When he gets going, however, it is hard to imagine him being tackled by a single hand.
Safety Tyvis Powell intercepted Jones when he stepped in front of a route by receiver Michael Thomas. It was difficult to tell if the throw was off target, or if Thomas stopped his route short.
J.T. Barrett had two very good moments in the aforementioned touchdowns to Marcus Baugh, but he also threw a couple of interceptions and put the ball on the ground two or three times.
He showed good burst in the running game, but like Jones, he is not a live runner and is brought down with simply a touch.
The depth chart is still a work in progress, and today being a scrimmage day, there was an absolute ton of rotating in with the ones. There were a few changes, with Tommy Brown working at right tackle with the twos and Evan Lisle switching over to right guard. Lisle would then move back out to tackle when freshman Marcelys Jones came in to play guard.
Jacoby Boren and Billy Price split the reps with the ones pretty evenly today as well. Both Johnnie Dixon and Michael Thomas worked with the ones at times today also.
Here's what the depth chart looked like today.
QB - Cardale Jones / J.T. Barrett / Stephen Collier
RB - Ezekiel Elliott / Curtis Samuel / Bri'onte Dunn / Warren Ball
HB - Dontre Wilson
WR - Devin Smith / Johnnie Dixon / Frank Epitropoulos
WR - Corey Smith / Michael Thomas / 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
Emptying the Notebook
Dontre Wilson wasn't as active in this practice, but did carry the ball a couple of times. He also had a nice catch downfield on a deep out route from Cardale Jones.
Towards the end of practice, the Buckeyes went with some goal line drills. The first carry went to Elliott, who scored. Samuel went next and scored, followed by Bri'onte Dunn for six as well. Warren Ball went fourth and got tripped up and stopped. J.T. Barrett then fumbled the next snap. He kept the ball on the following snap and was immediately stood up by linebacker Darron Lee.
Related Article: Practice Report Defense
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