Position Battles to Chew On Over the Summer
A spring game is a lot of things. It's a chance for the staff to see personnel at various spots in a game-like situation, it serves as a player reward for 14 grueling practice sessions and it's a chance for the fans to come out and get a sneak peak at the team for next to nothing, among other things. One thing a spring game is not, however, is a starting lineup blueprint for the opener. While we're able to infer most of what the two-deep will look like in September, there are still some battles to be waged for playing time. Here are a few to keep in mind before the Buckeyes pick things back up again in August.
Joe Bauserman, at 24, has the edge in maturity, field experience and the playbook. He's much further along at doing all of the little things -- not least of which includes reading defenses -- than redshirt freshman Kenny Guiton is, but Guiton appears to have an edge in intangibles based on Saturday's performance and Bauserman's performances in mop-up duty last season.
If you're looking for a starter, you have to go with the guy that gives you the best chance to win right now, but when you're choosing a backup, there are other thoughts to entertain. For instance, is it likely that you have Pryor back for another season? If so, then the redshirt junior Bauserman will never see the field as a starter and getting Guiton valuable game experience might be a good thing to start doing this fall.
Tressel respects guys that have been in the program so Guiton won't be given the position, but if he continues to improve, he could make this one a relatively easy one to make. And for those of you in the Braxton-Miller-as-heir-to-Pryor camp, let's at least wait until he verbals.
Third Running Back
Barring significant injuries, Boom, Zoom and Pryor are going to get about 80% of the carries (460/564 in '09) this season. Zach Boren will get a handful and the wide receivers will get their customary half dozen or so, but one of the young backs will emerge as the clear-cut #3.
Jordan Hall filled that role last season, rushing for 257 yards on 48 carries (5.3/per) in an impressive freshman campaign and you don't have to look hard to find Hall fans in Columbus. We got to see a little bit of big man Carlos Hyde on Saturday and he looked more than capable, but you have to wonder if he'll be ready with the playbook in time for early playing time. Jamaal Berry has been with the program long enough to have that part of the game locked down and he impresses in practice, but he's been plagued by injuries so far in his young career. Finally, what about Rod Smith? It'll be tough for him to come in and pickup the offense right away, but we're about due for a freshman sensation at running back again, aren't we?
White Lightning, Bo Delande, is regrettably a longshot.
I watched the Spring Game like I watch most games, as a fan. That is, I spent more time following the ball than I did observing the battle in the trenches. Those that did pay detailed attention to line play came away impressed with the play of Mike Adams:
3. Mike Adams is the best option at left tackle. At least at the moment anyways. He wasn’t dominant by any means in the spring game and I personally saw him get beat on several occasions by Nathan Williams, but Adams has gotten a lot better in the last year. He held his own for most of the afternoon, having one of his better performances when it mattered most. On the other hand, I thought Andrew Miller struggled mightily for the Gray team at left tackle. He got beat a number of times by Keith Wells and even on Gray’s game-winning drive he seemed to be holding on just about every play. The battle will likely continue well into the fall, but it appears Adams has the momentum after the spring game.
Big Mike's career hasn't taken off as quickly as most thought when he arrived as one of the best prep tackles in the nation, but it appears he's being given every chance to claim the vacant left tackle spot and better yet, he seems to finally be up to it.
On the other side, J.B. Shugarts earned similar praise, helping to hold Cam Heyward and Solomon Thomas in check. He, along with Adams, would appear to have a lock on the two tackle spots, but don't sleep on Marcus Hall. He may not have the height and reach of Shugarts and Adams, but at 6-5/320, he's massive in his own right and has impressed since he showed up at camp last season rocking a trash bag.
With Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence returning as cornerbacks, defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has two guys he can rely on. It seems like Chekwa has been logging playing time since Eddie George was toting the rock and Torrence came on strong at the end of last season with eight tackles and a sack against Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
With the amount of passing that takes place in college football these days, you need a solid third corner, however and the race is on for the open nickel spot. Donnie Evege was the talk of spring ball and by all accounts delivered in the spring game by playing tight coverage with flowing locks, but other names to consider are Corey Brown and Travis Howard. Christian Bryant might be another guy that will be in the mix once he arrives later this summer as the position is easier for freshman to contribute to right away.
Punter & Kicker
Of all the positions covered above, these two might just be the most wide-open, which is kind of funny because heading into spring ball, I thought redshirt sophomore Ben Buchanan and senior Devin Barclay had the punter and kicker positions locked down, respectively.
After watching true freshman Drew Basil line up for a 60-yarder and later nail a 47-yarder, and then seeing walk-on Derek Erwin upstage Buchanan at punter, I'm not so sure anymore.
Whatever happens here, it better happen quick or Tressel will get a lot less sleep this summer than he'd like to.