Observations from Ohio State's Inaugural Friday Night Lights
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State's first Friday Night Lights went off without a hitch last night, save for a twenty-minute rain shower that all of the players spent at the middle of the field being talked to by various OSU coaches.
Several dozen of the nation's top prospects in 2013 and 2014 worked out for the Buckeye coaches, showing their strengths and weaknesses, and doing it against top competition.
The camp had music blaring and Buckeye highlights playing on the new Ohio Stadium scoreboard. At various times the music would quiet down in order to have the play-by-play of various highlights heard. The sounds of Brent Musburger, Terry Smith and Paul Keels echoed through the stadium.
The event, which was open and free to the public, had a guesstimated attendance of around 1,000-2,000. The attendance was said to be more than the attendance at Florida's, which is where Urban Meyer started this tradition.
The counselors, who were former Buckeyes, would address the players after various drills. During one of these, former receiver Joey Galloway talked to the campers at the 50-yard line, and behind him on the scoreboard, highlights of his football career played behind him.
Other counselors included Orlando Pace, LeCharles Bentley, Jim Lachey, Mike Doss, Craig Krenzel and Bobby Hoying.
Various Sights and Thoughts from the Evening
* In an effort to break down the fourth wall, let me start out by stating that with no physical rosters to work with, knowing who players were was incredibly difficult at times. Even afterward there were national recruiting gurus comparing notes trying to figure out who was who.
That being said, I basically stayed where I knew who I was watching, which was the quarterbacks and receivers. The other side of the field featured the running backs, tight ends, linebackers and offensive and defensive lines.
As far as the quarterbacks were concerned, I thought Caleb Henderson (Burke, VA) was the best that I saw, or at least the most consistent. He was pin-point with the intermediate routes, and way more often than not, his deep passes were where they needed to be.
Right there with him was Drew Barker (Hebron, KY). He didn't float his deep balls, as Henderson tended to do at times, and threw a very catchable ball.
None of the quarterbacks at the camp received offers, and Barker was told that the staff won't be offering anybody until midseason so they can see a few of their games first.
Barker was told that the OSU staff has a list of five guys at quarterback, and he is on it. He said he felt he did well at the camp, but needs to work on his hips, which he called "stiff".
Deshone Kizer (Toledo, OH) was the other main attraction at quarterback, and he struggled early. His intermediate passing was off to begin, but he eventually picked it up and finished strong.
He said the staff told him that he has balance issues, so that's one of the little things that he has to "perfect" this season. I asked him to compare himself to Barker and Henderson and he said that he felt he had the better arm, but those two do some of the little things better than he does.
He knows that the competition for an offer at quarterback is stiff right now, and said he'd even be willing to work for an offer at next June's camp.
The final event of the camp was the "Smokehouse" competition, which was basically a 40-yard dash for each position group (though I think the offensive line group only had to run 30 yards). Kizer won the quarterback position group, which he said surprised him.
The finale of the Smokehouse then featured each of the position group winners facing off against eachother. Kentucky receiver Ryan Timmons, who is looking for an offer, won the overall event. Kizer said he just wanted to stay within five steps of the defensive back winner, which he said he did.
* It's pretty clear that Caleb Henderson wants an Ohio State offer. He has stated on more than one occasion that he wants to play in the Big Ten, so either he'll be playing for the Buckeyes or against them.
I spent a good portion of my time watching him throughout the night. Bobby Hoying did as well. He was always first or second in doing drills. He never strayed far from Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman. When the quarterbacks were given Gatorade breaks, he didn't always take them. When Herman would call for them to gather around, he was always the first player down on one knee. He was so quick to take a knee in fact that Herman walked right by him on one occasion because Herman hadn't gotten to his destination yet. So Henderson had to get up and move about ten feet in order to get back to his customary one-kneed position.
During the seemingly hour-long session of one-on-one drills featuring the QBs throwing to receivers against defenders, Henderson was always running after his receivers to either congratulate them or to hurry up and get the ball back so he could get back in line. There were even times he was so enthused with his receivers that Kerry Coombs had to tell him to tone it down. If Kerry Coombs is telling somebody to tone it down, that's saying something.
* One of the interesting aspects of going to these camps without knowing who everybody is, is that eventually you start noticing players and wondering who they are. Last night, that was number 62 at receiver.
Since I'm a white dude and I don't find the term offensive, I'll go ahead and tell you that watching #62, I found myself saying, "Who is this little white dude?", and I know I wasn't alone.
Afterward, Rivals' Marc Givler told me, and everybody else, that it was Braxton Berrios from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Berrios, a 2014 prospect with offers from Maryland, Minnesota and North Carolina caught everything that he could, and also tried to catch the ones he couldn't.
He quickly became a fan favorite for his diving attempts in the endzone, and frequently brought oohs and ahhs with his ability to shake defenders and break open. Listed at only 5'10 173 pounds, he's certainly not the biggest guy, but he fought for every pass and he fought for them up high.
He also had a little bit of fun towards the end of the one-on-one drills when he uncharacteristically celebrated a touchdown with a quick dance. He was doing it in response to fellow 2014 prospect Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, FL), who gave Berrios a similar dance after successfully defending him earlier in the night.
By the way, he stood out so much that fans seated in front of me assumed he was the similarly-pigmented Devon Allen.
After the event, Berrios spent a few minutes chatting with defensive coordinator Everett Withers, who recruits the state of North Carolina for the Buckeyes.
* Speaking of Devon Allen and Artavis Scott, they were both impressive. Allen snatches the ball and can turn up field very quickly. He runs right angles very well.
Scott, who is going to be a national recruit in the 2014 class, worked at receiver and cornerback, and performed very well at both. He's listed at only 5-10 175 pounds, but he can go up and get the ball offensively and defensively. He's not very big, but he's physical on both sides of the ball. He's got enough speed to never need all of it, and the attitude to match. He already has an OSU offer.
* Receiver Shelton Gibson (Cleveland, OH) should eventually be in Ohio State's 2013 class, and there's good reason for Buckeye fans to be excited about him.
Going into the evening, I knew Gibson was participating, but I didn't know what number he was wearing. It didn't take long to figure it out--of course, sporting #1 did make things easier.
Gibson has the proverbial "extra gear" when breaking out of his moves and can gain a yard or two on a defender in under two steps. He is an explosive runner when he shifts gears, and he can also catch the ball, which is nice.
* Defensive end commit Joey Bosa was at the camp as well. All I'll say about him is that he looks like John Simon after tattoo removal.
Fellow 2013 defensive prospects Tyquan Lewis and Donovan Munger both said that they would like to make their decisions in the next five weeks or so. Both would appear to be leaning towards Ohio State.
Lewis' mother was along on the trip with him this weekend. He said that he wouldn't want to go somewhere unless his mother approved of that place.
If you're interested, he said that she was very impressed with the Horseshoe, and on Sunday she would be speaking with the academic people at Ohio State.
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