Five for Friday: Buckeyes Who Will Benefit Most From Bowl Practices

Ohio State football running back Demario McCall

The main reason college football coaches want to go to bowl games is because it gives them extra practice time and acts essentially as a pre-spring training camp for the following season.

Sure, they also like that it rewards the players, but the real benefit comes from the 15 or so practices over the month of December. It is in those practices where veterans get some rest and the younger players gain some experience.

As much as bowl games are capping the current season, they are also the beginning of the following season.

College football takes no breaks, and bowl practices are where young players can catch an eye finally after sitting for much of the regular season. It is also a time when players who have recently been thrust into a role can really begin to make it their own.

There are both types of Buckeyes who will be taking advantage this month, so let’s talk about five of them.

1. Wyatt Davis

Redshirt freshman Wyatt Davis was put into the starting lineup at right guard with the injury to senior Demetrius Knox. Davis wasn’t perfect against Northwestern, nor was he expected to be. He played well enough, however, and will now get all of the reps he needs in order to get comfortable. After getting a start last week and coming up in the bowl game, Davis will take the field next season with those starts under his belt, but more importantly, he will have received a starter’s reps over three straight camps — bowl prep, spring ball 2019, and fall camp 2019. By the time the Buckeyes take the field next season, Davis will essentially be a returning starter.

2. Matthew Baldwin

Freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin was healthy enough to play at the end of the year, but he hasn’t been able to receive many real snaps in practice. Due to his recovery from a knee injury, his spring camp was pretty low impact. And when the season is going on, there aren’t really any scrimmage snaps for the No. 3 or No. 4 quarterback. As such, this bowl prep is going to be Baldwin’s first real opportunity to lead the Buckeyes on the practice field. This is going to be his first opportunity to show all of his teammates what he can do. His receivers know what he can do because he’s thrown with them after practice and before camp, but the coaches and defense haven’t really gotten to see him at full speed yet. Getting some real snaps this month is going to be huge as he and Tate Martell head into possibly the biggest quarterback battle in the nation next season.

3. Jaylen Harris

A sophomore wide receiver, Jaylen Harris has just four catches in his first two seasons of play. As an ‘X’ receiver, he could have moved up the depth chart when Austin Mack went down. Instead, Terry McLaurin was moved over because he can be counted on to do everything the team needs him to do. This month, however, McLaurin is going to get a nice break because he doesn’t really need many repetitions during practice. This will be a great opportunity for Harris to split reps with Binjimen Victor. At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, Harris is an imposing figure, but there is still work to be done. Getting meaningful reps this month could allow him to polish up his game and also gain some necessary confidence. Receiving more work will also show him the need to remain consistent from snap to snap.

4. Demario McCall, Jaelen Gill

Prior to serious game prep, Ohio State’s two starting H-back Parris Campbell and KJ Hill will need about six reps combined over the next couple of weeks. You know who can use those reps, however? Redshirt sophomore Demario McCall and true freshman Jaelen Gill. McCall has found a larger role in this offense over the last month, and this bowl prep should continue his momentum. He has his eyes set on a very productive 2019, and that process is already underway. Gill, meanwhile, has seen action in a game or two this season, so he’ll have a redshirt available if needed. Being behind Campbell, Hill, McCall, and CJ Saunders makes reps almost impossible. With Hill and Campbell out of the picture (mostly) this month, Gill will finally get a chance to show what he has learned from watching them all season long. When teammates are talking about him as one to watch next year, do not be surprised.

5. Tommy Togiai, Haskell Garrett, Taron Vincent

As a true freshman defensive tackle, Tommy Togiai has seen some decent minutes this season, even later in the season. With nose tackles Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton being experienced four-year juniors, they won’t need as many reps this month. Togiai will happily accept any added work and get better from it. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see Togiai playing at both defensive tackle spots. The Buckeyes expect to lose Dre’Mont Jones to the NFL after this season, so maybe this will be where they begin the process of replacing him. That process will also involve sophomore Haskell Garrett, who was listed as Jones’ backup this season. More snaps for Garrett will be important because he is going to be a very important piece next season. And speaking of important pieces next season, don’t forget about true freshman Taron Vincent, who came away with a sack in the Big Ten Championship Game. Sophomore defensive end Chase Young had some very positive things to say about Vincent last week, so it sounds like you’ll want to keep an eye on the former 5-star signee moving forward.

4 Responses

  1. Tony, have you heard anything on the progress of Petit-Frere ?

    1. Nothing to be concerned about.

  2. Recent stardom or no recent stardom, I would think that Chris Olave at the least deserves to be an honorable mention on this list. His star can rise even more with effective and efficient reps during bowl prep. Just sayin’.

  3. I have Taron’s sack against NW as my desktop background. He looked like an absolute beast on that play.

    It’s also great seeing DMac start getting quality reps down the stretch. Even if KJ decides to return for another season, he’s going to need a quality play maker rotating in. DMac and Jaelin Gill can give them the electric factor, while KJ uses his sharp routes and absolute dependability and field awareness to carve up defenses.

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