[Note: This is one of two practice reports today. This one is focused on the Ohio State defense. Tom Orr’s report will cover the Buckeye offense.]
COLUMBUS — Today was “Winner-Loser Day” at practice for the Ohio State football team. The defense came away with the 79-74 win, with points coming via one-on-ones and scrimmaging.
The offense had a chance to win the practice at the end, but Chris Chugunov’s fourth-down pass into the end zone was just out of reach of his intended receiver.
During the team scrimmage portion at the end of practice, freshman defensive end Zach Harrison had three sacks, with two coming against the ones. One of those sacks came against redshirt freshman right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, who went undefeated in one-on-ones earlier in practice.
It’s important to note that it’s just two-hand touch at this point for the quarterbacks, but Harrison’s ability to get into the backfield was impossible to ignore.
Harrison also began this portion of practice at defensive tackle in the Rushmen package. This was likely due to the absence today of sophomore defensive end Tyler Friday, but if Harrison has more days like this, it may not matter who happens to be out.
Throughout the day, Harrison could also be seen getting coached up by teammates Jonathon Cooper and Chase Young, as well as by defensive line coach Larry Johnson. It’s clear the team is putting a lot of effort into Harrison, and the rewards are just as apparent.
Most of the veterans received an easy day during the scrimmaging, which made the first and second teams very fluid.
Another young defensive end making some moves was redshirt freshman Javontae Jean-Baptiste. Twice during the scrimmaging, Jean-Baptiste was able to track down a sweep towards his side. The first time was a sweep by redshirt freshman H-back Jaelen Gill that was stopped for no gain or a loss. The second was a wide run by redshirt freshman running back Master Teague, which JJB also stopped quickly.
Jean-Baptiste also had a sack of redshirt freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin in the scrimmage.
If you’re wondering how deep the Buckeyes are at defensive end, the two players talked about above are the fifth and sixth options at the position.
Oh, and redshirt freshman defensive end Alex Williams also had a good day and flashed a few times.
Some Depth Chart Notes
The linebackers and safeties are starting to shake out, at least in terms of who is playing where.
Today, the free safeties were (in order) junior Isaiah Pryor and sophomore Josh Proctor. The strong safeties were Shaun Wade and Amir Riep.
In some of the short-yardage portion, Wade wasn’t on the field and Brendon White was. White was then at strong safety with three other linebackers.
The Wills were (in order) Malik Harrison and Dallas Gant. The Sams were Pete Werner and K’Vaughan Pope. Baron Browning was with the ones at Mike as Tuf Borland continues to nurse his knee injury. Teradja Mitchell was with the twos.
The defensive line technically has ones, but there will be so much rotation there that it’s basically 8-10 starters.
As mentioned, Tuf Borland was still out, but he’s walking around and watching.
Junior cornerback Marcus Williamson is still out. Sophomore defensive end Tyler Friday was out. There is no update on him, but Ryan Day didn’t mention any significant injuries.
Senior safety Jordan Fuller is still out, of course. Freshman safety Ronnie Hickman was out as well as he continues to recover from an ACL injury that he brought with him from high school.
Redshirt freshman safety Marcus Hooker is still out as well.
Wade in the Deep End
Shaun Wade spent most of his day at strong safety, which meant that he was up on the line of scrimmage showing press to either a tight end or a slot receiver.
Just because he was showing press, however, doesn’t mean that’s what the Buckeyes would run.
Many times he would simply release the tight end or slot receiver in order to cover the flats in a zone look. Wade has talked about his role earlier this spring and the many disguises they can show wherever he is.
When he does get matched up against tight ends, he has the size to not get manhandled, and also obviously the cover skills to hold his own.
While he played strong safety, he also drilled with the cornerbacks.
He may not be playing cornerback like he thought when he signed with Ohio State, but right now it appears that his role in this defense is going to be significant, and a lot of what this defense does will hinge on Wade.
Emptying the Notebook
+ Second-year cornerbacks Tyreke Johnson, Sevyn Banks, and Cameron Brown were all repping with the twos. Shaun Wade and Damon Arnette spent time coaching up Johnson. In fact, there is so much coaching down by all of the veterans on this defense that they should get bonuses if this team wins a conference title.
+ Damon Arnette had a forced fumble in one-on-one tackling drills. Put his helmet right on the ball. Amir Riep had some missed tackles in this drill.
+ The linebackers were working against the tight ends in blocking drills. It looked like the goal for the linebacker was to force the runner back inside and maintain leverage and keep the running back from getting outside. Luke Farrell was able to handle K’Vaughan Pope, and Rashod Berry bested Brendon White. Baron Browning stayed outside of Jeremy Ruckert, forcing the ball back inside, as did Malik Harrison and Pete Werner against their respective walk-on opponents.