The-Ozone Mailbag: Spring Practice Reactions

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Last updated: 04/16/2014 11:26 AM
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The-Ozone Mailbag: Spring Practice Reactions
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Spring Football has come and gone for the Buckeyes, and now all that's left to do is somehow survive the next 100 days or so until Fall Camp begins.

In the meantime there will still be plenty to talk about, and right now the #1 topic is the Spring Game and wrapping up spring practice. I wasn't able to get to everyone's questions, but that has given me a good start towards next week's mailbag.

If you have anything you'd like to add, feel free to email me, tweet me, or just throw it in the comments down below.

What has happened to Devin Smith? Seemed to be on the field a lot in the Spring Game and had zero catches? – go-bucks

This is a question that I was asking myself as well. Last spring, Devin Smith was all over the field making catches. He was used on inside routes, and yet was still dangerous deep downfield. This spring, receivers coach Zach Smith said that he wanted to put Devin Smith in uncomfortable situations to get him better prepared for the season. I don't know how comfortable he was this spring, but he was certainly less noticeable. But don't underestimate the quarterbacks' role in Smith's "quiet" spring. While deep routes might be Smith's strengths, they weren't necessarily the strength of Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett this spring.

Will Jeff Heuerman have a bigger year than Ricky Dudley as senior? How big of a role is the tight end in this year's offense? – BuckeyeCountry

Yes, or at least marginally the same, unless Nick Vannett steals too many catches from him. I think when people read this question, many might chuckle at the thought of Jeff Heuerman besting Rickey Dudley's numbers in 1995. Dudley finished that season with 37 catches for 575 yards (15.5 ypc) and seven touchdowns, with a long reception of 41 yards. Last season, Heuerman caught 26 passes for 466 yards (17.9 ypc) and four touchdowns, with a long reception of 57 yards. He wasn't that far off a year ago. We have seen the role of the tight end increase of late, and that will continue much more so this season per Urban Meyer. Heuerman is the perfect candidate for that, but his production waned at the end of the season a year ago -- like every other pass catcher on the OSU roster. But what he did in his limited catches down the stretch -- receptions of 40, 34, 37, 36 and 57 yards -- tells you how dangerous he can be down the field, which is where most remember Dudley doing his damage.

Based on the poor passing performance yesterday, will OSU be as one dimensional to start 2014 as at the end of 2013? – Buckaroo

No, they will be as two dimensional to start the 2014 season as they were to start the 2013 season. The real test will be whether or not they can stay that way.

Fifteen practices in the books, which freshmen does Urban send a car for in June. I say Knox, and Urban drives. Then maybe a town car for Jones and Webb. – Smartwater

I'm with you on Demetrius Knox and Jamarco Jones. Even though everybody has said the offensive line is ahead of where it was in 2012, that offensive line never missed a start, which hid the lack of depth. Knox and Jones will both add to the depth, and Meyer is hoping both are ready to be in the two deep. A few weeks ago I would have also added linebacker Kyle Berger to this list, but I think Meyer feels better about that position than he did back in February. I wouldn't put Damon Webb on the list because of how well the cornerbacks played this spring. But Webb is so good that he could push his way onto the depth chart regardless. The other name that I would add is safety Erick Smith. Urban would go up to Cleveland and pick him up himself, and then swing by Port Columbus to pick up Knox on his way back to campus. There are three safeties that Meyer is comfortable with, and that's not good enough. Smith was arguably the best player on defense at the Army All-American game in January, and Meyer has said he'll immediately be in the mix in nickel and dime situations.

On a scale of 1 (fresh) to 10 (exhausted), how tired were their legs? I thought everyone looked "slow" yesterday. I know you want the max effort out of everyone all spring long . . . . but the rigor of winter conditioning and then full-out spring drills seemed to take the edge off everyone. – Indiana Buckeye

I didn't notice any tired legs or anything like that, but I can tell you that their normal practice schedule during the spring was Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, until the final week. During the final week the schedule was Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, so they had an extra practice that week, as well as practice on back-to-back days. That could have been the culprit for any perceived slowness.

Plain and simple, there are too many WRs for them to all see the field this year. Guys like Dixon, Greene, Smith, Marshall, Thomas, and Clark all get rave reviews....but you've got (Devin) Smith, Spencer, and Wilson ahead of them. Obviously they can't all play. Playmaking is obviously key, but who of the young kids can block too? Who of these guys that are looking good just may be on the outside looking in? – Gold Pants

This is a great point, and it's something that Urban Meyer has spoken about regarding the emergence of tight end Nick Vannett. If Vannett is playing more, that means there will be even fewer snaps for the receivers. I still think there will be enough snaps to go around for the following guys: Devin Smith, Evan Spencer, Johnnie Dixon, Corey Smith, and Michael Thomas. I don't include Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall here, as they will get their own snaps at H-Back. Marshall could also steal some snaps from the other receivers as well. Could a freshman or two sneak into the depth chart? It will be difficult because of the numbers, but if they are good enough, the talent ahead of them isn't so established as to keep the youngsters from moving up. Just look at the running back situation with Curtis Samuel. When he began the spring he was the #5 running back who might mix in with the receivers at some point. When he left the spring he was the #2 tailback overall. Yes, there seems to be too many options at receiver, but none of those options are so established as to eliminate anybody else. The competition will be fun to watch because there are certainly snaps available, and all it will take to get on the field is production.

Really impressed with McMillan and Lee's ability to cover pass routes down field. Any other young Bucks catch your attention on D? – @MoeKnowz

Like you, I was also impressed with Raekwon McMillan and Darron Lee's ability to cover ground. I'll be writing about this hopefully this week, but the sheer number of redshirt freshmen who were impressive on defense this spring is pretty stunning. The defensive line has three or four alone who will fight for playing time. If you're asking for me to name a couple of young defenders, then the first two I'm going to mention that you haven't already mentioned would be cornerbacks Eli Apple and Gareon Conley. If these guys were OSU's starting corners this coming season, I think some people would be nervous, but I think others would be excited by the possibilities of two young guys like this stepping up at the same time. Another redshirt freshman is linebacker Chris Worley, who is playing behind Darron Lee, but gets mentioned just as much.

After the Spring Game, in your opinion has the pecking order for back up QB changed? – jaxstor

Nope, no changes. It's still Cardale Jones first and J.T. Barrett second, but as I've said before, I don't think the gap is so wide that Barrett can't close it and cross it by the time they hop on a plane to play Navy. This was the most action Barrett has seen since his arrival, as his redshirt season was spent watching and recovering from a knee injury as a senior in high school. Jones, meanwhile, just went through his third spring, and spent last season knowing that he had to prepare to play. So nothing has changed, but nothing has really been settled yet either. The coaches saw what they wanted out of Jones this spring, but they obviously still want to see more.


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