Ohio State has now had two fall practices to further evaluate the handful of open positions waiting to be settled. Speaking at the Big Ten Media Days in Chicago one week ago, Urban Meyer talked about the current position battles as he saw them.
We’ll run them down for you here.
Redshirt sophomore Matt Burrell left the spring as the No. 1 right guard and enters fall camp as the favorite. That doesn’t mean he’s a large favorite, however. There are a number of candidates vying for the spot, including tackles. The Buckeyes may not be able to spare a tackle, but if he’s the best option at guard, he’s going to be in the lineup.
“I actually counted seven names,” Meyer revealed. “We had this discussion. We just had our coach’s retreat yesterday and had some conversation. You have Matt Burrell, and Malcolm Pridgeon and you have even (Branden) Bowen we’ll look at at this spot. You have Demetrius Knox and you have some talented young players, Josh Myers, Wyatt Davis, and I know I’m forgetting someone, but we have — this kid named Thayer Munford has come in and had a really great 30 days of training with us. It’s wide open as we speak, and obviously right guard is as critical a position as there is. So it’s going to be a great training camp.”
Losing A.J. Alexander has put the tight end position in a small bind. Marcus Baugh is dealing with toe inflammation, which has put redshirt freshmen Jake Hausmann and Luke Farrell front and center. Farrell had a great spring and finished camp just a tick ahead of Hausmann. Together, the two redshirt freshmen are getting some great snaps in practice right now. Redshirt sophomore Rashod Berry has moved from defensive end to tight end, and redshirt freshman Kierre Hawkins was also mentioned by Kevin Wilson last week.
“Tight end is wide open,” Meyer said on Monday. “It was not a position of strength a year ago. And Marcus Baugh, I know someone said he was in a walking boot. He has inflammation of the toe. But he’s going to be fine. He played with a shoulder injury a year ago. He had surgery right after the season. And A.J. Alexander being out for the fall. You have Luke Farrell and Jake Hausmann competing for that spot as well.”
This may be the most critical position battle on the team. Replacing Malik Hooker is a sizable task, but right now Greg Schiano is simply searching for consistency. Sophomore Jordan Fuller and senior Erick Smith both have their pluses and minuses. The player with fewer minuses will ultimately win the job.
“The boundary safety, Malik Hooker spot, is also wide open,” Meyer said. “You have Jordan Fuller and Erick Smith. That’s going to be a battle for that spot.”
The longer junior college transfer Kendall Sheffield is at Ohio State, the higher his Q-rating gets. The more people see him, the more they like him. Ohio State is on their way to having another three-man rotation at cornerback one season after losing a pair of first rounders, which is pretty incredible.
“And you have Kendall Sheffield that’s going to push Damon Arnette, along with a couple of young freshmen corners who are going to push for playing time,” Meyer said.
Zach Smith likes to have six receivers rotating in and out, but last week Kevin Wilson said this offense would prefer to have eight ready to go. The tempo makes eight much more preferable. The Buckeyes lose Curtis Samuel, Dontre Wilson, and Noah Brown, so there is a lot to replace. There are a number of experienced receivers returning, including Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill, Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon, Austin Mack, and Binjimen Victor. Dixon is earning more raves than perhaps anybody else. They do also like their freshman receivers more and more.
“And to me, the wide receiver position is wide open,” Meyer said. “We were not where we needed to be a year ago. And we have some talent. More than that, we have as high character a group as we’ve ever had in that room, as far as work ethic, doing things right.”