Thursday, March 31, 2011
Opening spring ball: Ohio State
After a tumultuous few weeks, Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes return to the practice field Thursday for the first of 15 spring practices.
Here's a snapshot of the Scarlet and Gray this spring:
The big story: Ohio State begins preparations for life without Tressel and the Tat-5. Although a return to football should be therapeutic for Ohio State, the upcoming suspensions of Tressel and five players, including starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, hovers over the program. The Buckeyes need to figure out who starts the season at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and left tackle. Co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell will handle Tressel's game-day responsibilities. The most pressing concerns could come at quarterback, where Pryor has been a mainstay since September 2008, and at wide receiver, where DeVier Posey is the only player with legitimate game experience. Although the suspended players will be involved in spring drills, the spotlight certainly shifts to their teammates.
Position in the spotlight: Quarterback. The Buckeyes need a starter for the first five games, and the competition kicks off this spring. Joe Bauserman has backed up Pryor for the past two seasons but needs to show improvement in practice. Sophomore Kenny Guiton and redshirt freshman Taylor Graham also in the mix, but the most intriguing candidate is true freshman Braxton Miller, who enrolled early and will go through spring ball. Buckeyes coaches say Miller will get a real shot at winning the top job, and it will be interesting to see how quickly the heralded recruit catches on.
Coaching changes: Ohio State loses receivers coach/assistant head coach Darrell Hazell, who left to become head coach at Kent State. Tressel looked to Florida's staff and plucked Stan Drayton as Hazell's replacement. Drayton is a strong recruiter who boasts extensive experience coaching running backs, but he'll work with receivers for the first time this spring. The new assistant will be challenged as Ohio State doesn't return much experience at receiver and will be without Posey for the first five games.
Keep an eye on: Running back Rod Smith. The redshirt freshman generated a lot of buzz during bowl practices with his play. If he follows it up with a strong spring, he could emerge as Ohio State's top option at running back during Dan Herron's suspension (and possibly beyond). Running back should feature a fascinating combination this spring with all sorts of backs, but keep an eye on the 6-3, 220-pound Smith.
Spring game: April 23