Thursday, August 11, 2011
Notes from Ohio State practice
By Brian Bennett
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Some quick notes and thoughts from Ohio State's practice on Thursday morning, the last hour of which was open for media viewing:
- My first order of business was to get a look at the quarterbacks. Not surprisingly, Joe Bauserman took the first reps with the first team. Though this is technically a four-man race, Bauserman appears to have the edge as the most veteran guy.
The fan favorite, freshman Braxton Miller, got the fewest snaps of the four on Thursday. Miller misfired on a few throws and looked to be thinking a little too much on his progressions. But he also showed off some special ability as he scrambled for about a 13-yard gain on one play (though he might have been sacked had the defense been allowed to tackle). As head coach Luke Fickell said later, it's hard to see Miller's strengths until the team gets in pads and goes full contact, because the ability to escape is what makes Miller intriguing.
Here's what Fickell had to say about the quarterback competition, which also includes Taylor Graham and Kenny Guiton, both of whom made some nice throws Thursday:
"We're trying to evaluate them as a whole," he said. "We have to see what our program needs and what the offense needs and figure out the best fit."
Asked if he would make the final call on the quarterback battle, Fickell said yes but added, "Sometimes it's not as close as people think."
- The offense lacked a lot of big plays in the team periods as the quarterbacks often checked down to halfback or a short route under heavy pressure. On the plus side, though, the receivers didn't suffer as many drops as they did in the spring. Corey "Philly" Brown has improved in that area, as receivers coach Stan Drayton explained:
"He recognized his weakness," Drayton said. "He understands he needs to catch the ball away from his body. He was a little bit more of a body catcher last year, which is the reason why he had some inconsistency in his catching. I can really count on one hand the number of times he's let the ball get to his body [this preseason]."
- There just as much battle for playing time at running back as there is at quarterback and receiver, and several players shuffled in and out at that position Thursday. Carlos Hyde stood out with some big plays, including a run that would have gone for a 60-yard touchdown (assuming the hits he bounced off weren't just defenders giving up with no ability to tackle him) and a nice catch in space where he plowed over a defensive back (leading to some jawing by Dan Herron). Hyde had another big run up the sideline but got stripped and fumbled, as defensive back Christian Bryant returned it for a score the other way.
"Protect the ball," running backs Dick Tressel yelled at Hyde and the other tailbacks. "The touchdowns will come."
(And, yes, it's weird that there's still a Tressel at Ohio State practice).
Jaamal Berry and Rod Smith showed off some good moves as well. Ohio State is not going to have any trouble running the ball this year, I think. Then there was Jordan Hall, who was lining up all over the place.
"He creates so many different matchups for us out there in the slot," Drayton said. "If he continues at the rate he's going, he can be one of the most versatile players in college football. He's really natural at understanding coverage and can avoid reroutes by linebackers. If you get him matched up in space against a linebacker, you've got to be feeling good that something good's going to happen."
- Speaking of the offense, Herron and DeVier Posey are still the best two players on that side of the ball. It may take a while, but I expect those two to be big contributors this season. Maybe by like Game 6 or so. Ahem.
- I haven't said a whole lot about the defense, but again, the team was in shells and there was no tackling. The defensive line did a good job putting on pressure. A couple of spots are still up for grabs in the secondary, which is worth continuing to monitor this month.
- New assistant Mike Vrabel isn't just easing into the college game. The former Patriots and Chiefs star was very vocal while working with the linebackers during practice, urging his guys to dictate the tempo and be aggressive.
- Former Buckeyes star Joey Galloway was spotted watching practice.