- Austin Ward, College Football
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- At some point there's nothing left to prove in spring practice, and Ohio State isn't going to force anybody to go through the motions when it's well aware of what a veteran is capable of and his spot is secure.
And while Urban Meyer is more than qualified to make that evaluation on his own, the Buckeyes' coach also has a numerical threshold that can simplify the process for him and provide some evidence that a break has been earned.
Removing a handful of starters from camp might make for uglier practices than Meyer might enjoy watching, though, and Tuesday's workout was certainly not one he'll remember fondly. But considering the physical toll on the bodies of some upperclassmen and the need to develop a bit of depth behind them as the Buckeyes gear up to defend their national title, when the ticker hits a certain number of reps, there's not much point in watching proven commodities work.
"Just being smart with the guys, the 2,000-rep club," Meyer said. "The guys who have had a lot of competitive snaps, you've got to be really smart.
"I love it, I think we're on the cutting edge of being smart about the wear and tear that the student-athlete goes through. And we're being smart."
There's a chance the Buckeyes might not always be looking that sharp on the practice field without some of their most valued leaders and contributors in action, but that's a small price to pay in the long run -- particularly when there isn't a game to be played for months.
Removing offensive linemen Taylor Decker and Pat Elflein from the rotation can disrupt the chemistry and create some confusion in the trenches, and not having linebacker Joshua Perry, safety Tyvis Powell or end Joey Bosa lining up on defense doesn't make that unit look as fearsome. But whether it's for injury in the fall or down the road when their careers are over, at some point the Buckeyes are going to need to replace those guys -- and building the rep count on the backups is one way to speed up the process.
"Here's the thing, you really have to think this through," Meyer said. "The issue is you're losing a little bit of chemistry in the unit. In the offensive line, you hear stories about a cohesive offensive line. When you hear that story it's absolutely correct, and I think we were a great example the last three years with an extremely close group that has a little chemistry going. You lose that completely because you are sticking some guys in there who are not quite ready yet.
"Same thing with the defensive line, those are the two areas where you just lose it and sometimes it looks really bad."
The Buckeyes would obviously rather deal with those growing pains in the spring, though, and Meyer made it clear there have already been some after just three workouts.
Aside from limiting the snaps of the 2,000-rep club members, Ohio State also has a few starters on the sideline dealing with injuries, which gives the first-string a vastly different appearance than the one that knocked off Oregon and Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott has a cast on his wrist, center Jacoby Boren is nursing a couple injuries, H-back Dontre Wilson is recovering from a broken foot and quarterbacks Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett are both still rehabbing their respective injuries before jumping back into competition.
That leaves plenty of work for young players who haven't had much of it yet thanks to all those talented veterans in their way, and based on the early feedback, they can use it. For now, they're a long way from 2,000 reps, and there's still plenty for them to prove.
"Today was not a pleasant one," Meyer said. "I'm not going to blame players or coaches yet, but that's coming if we don't get better.
"I think we are being smart even though you look out and see how awful it is sometimes watching practice. It's still the right thing to do."
Removing a handful of starters from camp might make for uglier practices, but coach Urban Meyer says the Buckeyes are playing it smart.