Ohio State Spring Football Insider — April 4

Bill Davis Ohio State Football Buckeyes


Members of the Ohio State football team met with reporters on Wednesday. Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson and a pair of corners were on hand, as were linebackers coach Bill Davis and a handful of linebackers. They each provided updates on how spring ball is going and how their respective position groups are looking. Here are some of the highlights.

Taver Johnson

Kendall Sheffield is focusing on eye discipline right now and it is really paying off in his play. As a player, Sheffield is showing a comfort level that gives a coach confidence.

The freshmen have been working hard since day one. They are willing learners and take instruction wherever it comes from.

Due to the talent of the defensive coaches, Johnson said he feels like a freshman. It’s unbelievable to be able to work with coaches like Greg Schiano, Larry Johnson, Alex Grinch, and Bill Davis. All of them have been coordinators, and it shows. He said he’s taking notes every day like he’s in class again.

There isn’t a rotation set in stone, but Sheffield and Damon Arnette have experience that can’t be replaced. He believes right now he has three cornerbacks who can rotate. They have been rotating all of the cornerbacks pretty evenly because they want to get as many reps as posssible. Plus, you’re not going to wait for corners to run back to the line of scrimmage after covering a pass 50 yards downfield. You just bring the next guy in.

Bill Davis

Like Urban Meyer, Davis expects Tuf Borland back sooner than normal.

There is a six or seven-man competition going on at the three linebacker spots right now.

Keandre Jones and Pete Werner are working at the Will. Justin Hilliard is with the ones at Mike, and he is rotating with Baron Browning. Malik Harrison is at the Sam and is backed up by freshman Dallas Gant. The outside linebackers are interchangeable and they are all learning the proper reads for each spot.

Justin Hilliard is all the way back and looks good. He has a good understanding of the position.

Davis has no worries about losing Tuf Borland this spring. Players are stepping up and grinding.

Malik Harrison

Everyone knows this is a wide-open competition and nobody is having fits about whether they think the job should be theirs or not. They are all working together to get better. They drive each other and encourage each other.

Tuf Borland is still around. He is still in meetings and he’s in a golf cart on the practice field helping Justin Hilliard and Baron Browning.

Harrison sees leadership developing every day at linebacker.

Keandre Jones

It has been easy to balance both the Will and the Sam. They are interchangeable, but the Sam has more coverage responsibilities because it’s on the wide side of the field.

Jones has improved in his confidence, which has allowed him to be more aggressive. The game has “most definitely” slowed down for him.

Hearing how confident Urban Meyer is in the linebackers gives the entire room encouragement that what they are doing is working.

Pete Werner

Playing special teams last year has helped Werner transition to the linebacker competition.

Werner began the spring as a Sam, but has now moved to Will. He is still working to be as confident at Will as he had become at Sam. He has only played the two outside spots this spring.

He spends a lot of time off the field just working on his assignments. The linebackers get together as a group and watch film and they’ll have a coach sit down with them as well. If you don’t watch extra film, you fall behind.

Justin Hilliard

The spring is going well for Hilliard, who is receiving more reps than he has in the past. This is really the first spring he’s been fully healthy. Watching Johnnie Dixon have a great spring and productive season last year was great to see because they spent so much time in the rehab room together over the years.

He doesn’t see Tuf Borland’s injury as a blessing in disguise because the linebackers are too close to think like that. When one of them is hurt, they all feel it. Plus, Hilliard has been through too many injuries not to feel bad about it. He tries to keep Borland’s head up, but Borland has been staying strong.

Maybe for a split second, Hilliard once thought that this was never going to work out for him, but his teammates kept his spirits up.

Marcus Williamson

The change from Kerry Coombs to Taver Johnson has been smooth. They are both big personalities.

There is a nice, solid rotation right now. Everybody splits reps. Urban Meyer has been impressed by what they’ve done. The rotation is good for everybody. It keeps everybody fresh and allows everyone to compete.

The freshmen are going through what all freshmen go through. The speed changes, so it takes some time to get used to it. Williamson enrolled early last year like Sevyn Banks and Tyreke Johnson have done now. He has had to explain to them that college receivers are a lot more physical. They have been doing well, though.

However he can get on the field, he’ll do it, be it corner or nickel.

Jeff Okudah

Things clicked for him last season around the Illinois game. Kerry Coombs’ mother passed away prior to that game, so Coombs told them that he wanted them to be stronger as a unit, which touched him because he also lost his mother earlier in the year. After that game, he played with a lot more confidence and settled into being an Ohio State cornerback.

Okudah had shoulder surgery in January, so he is only doing individual stuff. He should be back at the end of this month or the beginning of next month.

Everyone knows what kind of a freak athlete Kendall Sheffield is, but he got to show it some more in track. He has had about 10 forced fumbles in spring, so when he’s coming around, receivers brace for impact.