The Buckeyes have one practice in the books. That’s way too soon to know a whole lot about next year’s team, but there were some interesting tidbits shared at today’s Zoom press conference.
Quarterbacks promising – Justin Fields is gone so all eyes are rivited on the competition at the quarterback position involving C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller and Kyle McCord. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said it is way too early to make any kind of call on that battle, but said he likes what he has seen of all three so far. All are hard workers, which is a great start, and all of them want to compete. Offensive tackle Thayer Munford says that extra work doesn’t go unnoticed by the rest of the team.
“They all do extra throwing with the wide receivers and do whatever they can to get better,” said Munford. “That makes everybody else on the team more confident that they will be able to do the job when called on,” Munford said.
How important is that? “What are we w ithout a quarterback,” Munford said rhetorically.
Day added that each quarterback has strngths, and the OSU offense will always try to play to the strengthts of the quarterback, so who wins that job will in large part will determine what the OSU offense will look like next season.
Looking for depth at Tight End – Tight ends Luke Farrell and Jake Hausman both exhausted their eligibility at the end of last season, but Jeremy Ruckert opted to return to OSU for another season rather that enter the NFL draft. Ruckert is stronger and leaner that last year, which means he’s faster in the passing game and stronger in the running game. There is no doubt he will be a standout, but the Buckeyes must find depth behind him. Wilson said that converted linebacker Cade Stover is showing signts that he can be that guy. According to Wilson Stover was recognized by the strength staff as one of the outstanding performers over winter conditioning. At 235 pounds, Stover can be that second tight end or even a blocking fullback.
Finding the Best Five – No, not the basketball starting five, the starting five on the offensive line. OSU lost guard Wyatt Davis and center Josh Myers to graduation and must replace them. The Buckeyes got a boost when Thayer Munford elected to stay in school another year in order to graduate, but still must find two new starters and at least three reliable backups, one backup at guard, tackle and center. In an interesting move, five-star tackle Paris Johnson has moved from tackle to guard and probably has to be considered a leading contender for the open guard spot. Others in contention are Dawand Jones and Matt Jones. Matt Jones had several starts last season and played well, but is currently dealing with what Munford called a “personal problem”. Enokk Vimohi and Luke Wepler are two highly recruited young players who can also figure in at the guard and center spots. According to Wilson, there are a bunch of talented offensive linemen who are ready to bloom. “Offensive line and tight end, it takes a lot of guys two years to figure it out,” said Wilson. There are a lot of young offensive linemen who are ready to do just that.
Finding the Best 11 – This time of year there is always speculation about what kind of offense OSU will field in the fall. One running back or two? One tight end, two tight ends? How many wide receivers? Wilson said those questions will be answered not so much by the coache’s whims, but rather by determining who are the best 11 football players on offense, then putting them on the field and tailoring the offense around their skill sets. That will be a very interesting process this year with a wealth of talent at both receiver and running back.
The Key Skill and Running Back – The running back room is full of talented players, and sorting out who plays and who doesn’t will be challenge. One thing for sure though is that to make it onto the field a running back has to have the trust of the coaches that he will not fumble the ball. That trust is mandatory said Wilson, and without it a player won’t see the field.
A Painful Experience – OSU had a great season last year but got bulldozed by the Alabama offense in the national championship game. Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs called that an incredibley painful experience and memory.
“It was awful,” Coombs said.
He is also confident the Buckeyes can avoid a repeat of that kind of experience. Coombs took personal responsibility for not having the OSU defense ready to play their best in that game “because that’s my job.” When asked what OSU needs to do better he answer was swift and without hesitation.
“Our corners have to be able to play press man to man coverage,” said Coombs. Coombs said the odd practice and game schedule last year didn’t give OSU a lot of time to work on that, but this year it was front and center on the first day of practice. Coombs added that the Buckeyes have the players to play that defense, they just need more practice reps.
There’s safety in safeties – Safety was a problem at times last season, but Kerry Coombs likes what he sees in his returning players. Josh Proctor is the leading contender at free safety with Bryson Shaw backing him up. Freshman Lathan Ransom flashed last fall and is getting reps as the slot safety this pring.