Highlights from Ohio State's First Spring Practice

By Ross Fulton on March 5, 2013 at 8:14p
60 Comments
Jordan Hall was on fire in Ohio State's first spring practice

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to observe Ohio State's first practice of the 2013 season and here are the key takeaways:

Position Battles

  • Of note, Curtis Grant took the majority of first-team reps at Mike linebacker. Josh Perry repped at Mike with the second team and Cam Williams with third.
  • Taylor Decker started at right tackle. Chase Farris came in for some reps with the first team.
  • Jordan Hall worked exclusively as the first team 'H' (slot) receiver.
  • Michael Bennett was the starting '3' technique. The coaches look very comfortable with Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington at Leo and 5 technique, respectively. The staff has thus clearly resolved that Bennett inside and Washington outside is the better combination.
  • The primary position battle on the defensive line is nose guard. Joel Hale was the starting NG. Tommy Schutt also got nose guard reps. Both will play ample minutes so this really comes down to relative amount of playing time. 
  • Finally, Tyvis Powell took the first-team reps at star.
  • Ryan Shazier and Corey "Philly" Brown were held out with injuries. Neither looked to be a serious issue.
  • First Team Offense: Evan Spencer (Z); Devin Smith (X); Hall (H); Heuerman/Vannett (Y); Decker (RT); Marcus Hall (RG); Corey Linsley (C); Andrew Norwell (LG); Jack Mewhort (LT); Braxton Miller (QB); Carlos Hyde (TB).
  • First Team Defense: Noah Spence (LEO); Bennett (3 tech); Hale (1 Tech); Adolphus Washington (5 tech); David Perkins (Will); Grant (Mike); Powell (Star): Bradley Roby (boundary CB); Doran Grant (wide CB); C.J Barnett (SS); Christian Bryant (FS).

Player Observations

  • Braxton Miller's mechanics were noticeably improved. His footwork is crisper and he has raised his arm angle. The result is a tighter spiral. We will of course have to see how the mechanics are under pressure, but it is clear his offseason work is paying off.
  • Miller also looked to be conscious of his pocket presence and willing to scramble when necessary, a much-needed improvement. 
  • Jordan Hall looked like a natural in the slot. He is able to use his quickness well on the option routes and shallow crosses that Urban Meyer features. He also caught a nice 50-yard four verticals pass working across the field. He caught everything thrown his way. Hall worked exclusively with the wide receivers during position drills.
  • As I've noted, the H or slot receiver is the most important receiver role in this offense. If Hall is able to perform the role as a wide receiver, it opens up so much else with him coming into the backfield from the slot.
  • Devin Smith looked more versatile and was featured on flash screens and hitch routes, attempting to get him the ball quickly. Him becoming a more well-rounded receiver would be a big assist to the Buckeye offense.
  • Decker certainly looks the part. It is difficult to get much feel without pads, but he seems to have the inside edge to start at RT. Farris has been praised, but has more of a guard build. 
  • Bri'onte Dunn filled in at times for Carlos Hyde with the ones. By contrast, Rod Smith worked with the twos. Dunn looked really smooth, and if he has the playbook figured out he could certainly earn playing time. As for Hyde, he looks slimmed down and ready to go. 
  • Turning to defense, Grant looked more comfortable at the middle linebacker position. This was particularly true in pass drops. But he still gets lost at times. At one point, Vrabel told him he didn't want to see him on the field any longer and he was replaced by Josh Perry. He later came back in, though.
  • It was interesting seeing Perry at Mike linebacker. The fact that OSU was in nickel the entire practice underscores that the real battle is for the top two linebacker spots. Being the 'sam' linebacker is definitely the consolation prize. I would not be surprised to see Perry start at Mike.
  • Doran Grant looks ready to start now. By contrast, freshman Eli Apple repeatedly got earfuls from Coach Coombs. It's only his first practice, and the old adage goes the worst that can happen is that a coach ignores you, but the remaining defensive backs have a long way to go to pass Grant. Bradley Roby had two interceptions (one a pick-six breaking on an inside slant route throw by Miller) and looks like the All-American that he is. 
  • I overheard Coach Marotti say that Barnett was the heaviest safety at 205. The safeties are all fairly lean and long.
  • Tyvis Powell was the first-team star. This is an extremely important position battle. The star will play at least 70% of the plays. With Devan Bogard still out and Vonn Bell not yet on campus, Powell has a good shot to lock down the position. 
  • Jamal Marcus has moved to the LEO position. He was third team behind Spence and Steve Miller.

Schemes

  • Ohio State was pretty advanced scheme-wise, particularly offensively. This is the benefit of having your coaching staff returning intact as well as nine offensive starters back.
  • In the run game, OSU worked on their two base run plays, namely inside/tight zone read and inverted veer/power read. The QBs worked on their reads during positional drills, and they repped the plays in group and team. The offense also extensively repped throwing the flash screen off the inside zone action.  
  • Interestingly, OSU also ran inside zone read from the pistol. Urban Meyer is thus fulfilling his promise to install nuggets he picked up from analyzing the San Francisco 49er run game. This also allows OSU to stay in their pre-snap look without any last-minute tailback motion. 
  • In the passing game, the Buckeyes practiced much of their base passing game. This included follow, drive, mesh, levels, H-T option, H-T drag, smash, and china. OSU was particularly focused upon their inside option and crossing routes. As noted, this featured Hall, who showed a knack for making a quick first cut to separate from the underneath curl to flat defender.
  • OSU also worked extensively on quick game double slants. This is a change from last season when OSU ran little quick game. 
  • Defensively, OSU ran their base 4-2-5 over defense. As noted, OSU worked exclusively from nickel. This may be a reaction to last offseason. Then, the Buckeyes practiced very little nickel defense, but then played it at least 70% of the snaps in-season. 
  • The Buckeyes worked all their coverages. But they ran quite a bit of Q-Q-H, with Roby as the cover 2 flat defender. This was a continuation from the second half of the season, as it allows Roby to use his physicalness as a force player and jump routes.
  • The defense worked extensively on pursuit angles. In particular, a large emphasis was placed upon the star as playside force defender with the will linebacker providing 'leverage.'

In sum, the first practice underscored where the Buckeyes stand. The Ohio State offense is experienced and primed for an explosive season. The defensive front seven is where the Buckeyes must quickly grow. While the defensive line has plenty of talent, OSU's focus must continue to be upon filling the Mike linebacker and star nickel position. 

60 Comments

Comments

oregonianbuckeye's picture

Amazing coverage. Thanks 11w for once again feeding the addiction. 

Smanpoint10's picture

What a story it would be if Powell becomes a starter!

Squirrel Master's picture

well, starter at STAR. Although I suspect that they were in base nickel all day because of Shazier being out. If Shazier was in, they probably would have switched it up to get more looks at the LB. With Shazier sitting out, there was plenty of play to be had at Will and Mike that they could stay in nickel the whole time.
I have always liked Powell. Big, lanky 6'3'' safety is a great thing to have. The kid has the speed and skills of a safety but he really is a lean, long linebacker with his size. Gotta love that. I think his arms are so long he could be a Sam Thompson clone.

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

Ross Fulton's picture

I actually don't see it that way because Shazier is a Will 'backer. Perkins filled in. If they wanted to be in the under then Perry could easily play Sam.

 

The fact that they have Perry playing Mike is telling. It is a recognition that in modern college football nickel is far more important.

CC's picture

I was with you until the last 2 sentences.  Could you explain?

Ross Fulton's picture

Sure. OSU will be in a 4-2-5 nickel at least 70% of the time this season. This is a function of the fact that most teams run some type of 'spread' offense with at least 3 WR. Whenever a team goes to 3 WR OSU goes nickel. So even when they are playing a Wisconsin, they will get in nickel in passing situations.

 

When OSU goes nickel, they pull the 'Sam' linebacker position for the 'star' or nickel. So the two linebackers on the field are at the inside 'Mike' and 'Will' position. That means being the starting 'Sam' linebacker means you are not going to play a lot--unless they move you to Mike in the nickel...

Buckeyejason's picture

What a story it would be if Powell becomes a starter!

 
I don't think it would be such a huge suprise..I mean the guy did get offered a scholarship..it's not like his father is president of OSU or anything. Don't fall into all that "3 star" stuff. 
The guys is tall, rangy, athletic, hardworking and smart. Sounds like a winner to me.
 

BUCKEYES BABY!

brandonbauer87's picture

This is some high quality info. Thanks as usual to you Ross. 

FUqUespin's picture

First Team Defense: Noah Spence (LEO); Bennett (3 tech); Hale (1 Tech); Adolphus Washington (5 tech); David Perkins (Will); Grant (Mike); Powell (Star): Bradley Roby (boundary CB); Doran Grant (wide CB); C.J Barnett (SS); Christian Bryant (FS).
David Perkins (Will);?? Shouldn't this be Ryan Shazier, or is this because #10 was out with a minor injury?

FUqU, e!spin!!

Ross Fulton's picture

Shazier was held out with a minor injury

dubjayfootball90's picture

Too excited to give my opinion. Give me until halftime of the bball game. Ahhhhhhh football news!!!!

Jhesse17's picture

I'm gonna admit it. I have a huge man crush on Tyvis Powell.

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

 

I'm gonna admit it. I have a huge man crush on Tyvis Powell.

Yeah. Me too.

MediBuck's picture

Man crush complete por mi tambien :)

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

cplunk's picture

Me too. Totally want that kid to crush his enemies before him

CC's picture

Why?  Wasn't he the guy that said "The business school didn't go on probation".
If so, I'm a fan.  I don't do man crushes.

bhardy22132's picture

Im sure there will be some hiccups from time to time with a young defense but I have no doubt these boys will be ready once the season starts. August yet?

dubjayfootball90's picture

Ok I lied. Great to hear that decker looks good. That dline rotation has me excited. I love tyvis and have been rooting for him since he stepped foot on campus. True Buckeye. The grant issue worries me but nice to see the younger lbs stepping up. Roby news is amazing. Dude is gonna be killer. I am very optimistic about our secondary. Miller Hyde and hall are going to be a disgusting combo. D smith getting better all around has The making of an all conference season. Great write up. Got me so pumped. Crap my chicken is burning. FOOTBALL NEWS!!!!!

Statutoryglory's picture

Really like the move of Perry to MLB and Marcus to LEO.  Perry is big enough to cover TEs while in the nickel package and imagine Marcus spelling Spence at LEO.  That OT will get zero rest that game.

Buckeyejason's picture

Marcus to LEO

I love this move too..I figured it would happen, only makes sense. Perry to Mike though just doesn't seem "organic". 6'4", long rangy MLB? Eh just seems weird to me.
 

BUCKEYES BABY!

Poison nuts's picture

Thanks for the coverage & info!

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

gumtape's picture

Does this mean that Tyvis Powell has overtaken the projected Star from last year Corey Pittsburgh Brown?

just another psycho, irrational, delusional Ohio St fan

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

If Perry wins the Mike position could we see Grant get moved to DE?

Ross Fulton's picture

The position is pretty jammed with Spence, Miller, Marcus, and Lewis.

 

Grant is going to get every opportunity this spring to win the Mike position. It's probably now or never.

13THandSummit's picture

Was Corey Smith there? Thanks for the info.

Squirrel Master's picture

Corey Smith didn't commit till after Spring Semester started, so no!

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

13THandSummit's picture

Thought that might have been the case, but wasn't sure.

Maestro's picture

I will be the first to admit that I never thought Tyvis Powell would start at OSU.  Keep on truckin' Tyvis.

vacuuming sucks

Buckeyejason's picture

Why is that?

BUCKEYES BABY!

GoBucks713's picture

FOOOOOOOOTBAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!
 

-The Aristocrats!

Hovenaut's picture

It's coverage like this that dulls the pain of waiting. Thanks for the write up.

"Success - it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

otrain2416's picture

Love to see Tyvis Powell getting reps with first team. That kid had S &G in his blood. I see Bell pushing for some time at star when he comes in as well

kevinfrenchfry's picture

hope jamal marcus can battle his way up the rotation at LEO, hope it works out

buckeyestu's picture

Outstanding coverage. I think this years team is going to be very exciting. I can not wait for opening kickoff.

MediBuck's picture

Devin Smith looked more versatile and was featured on flash screens and hitch routes, attempting to get him the ball quickly.

Hopefully we'll get to see more of that fabled Tom Herman screen game...

Interestingly, OSU also ran inside zone read from the pistol. 

Swoon.
The only thing I appreciated about Bollmanball was the occasional true pistol look. My moonlighting as a Nevada fan also doesn't hurt.
 
Ross, thanks so much for the writeup. I've been compulsively checking the interwebs for coverage of Day 1 of spring practice, and your analysis has by far been the most satisfying. Hope to see more in the coming days!!

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

Squirrel Master's picture

my only complaint on the write up would be that he mentioned the pistol in regards to San Fran using it. I would be more interested in urban studying the film of Nevada using it. They are the creators of it and I would suspect they would have it down a bit more than SF does. Although I wouldn't put it past Urban talking to NFL coaches moreso than other college coaches. He does talk to Belichick as well. I wouldn't mind seeing Urban meld the play style of SF with the tempo of New England. If Braxton is becoming the skilled passer that we are hearing, he could emulate Brady in the hurry up more. 

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

LDNYC31's picture

While I get what your saying, but rarely does the person/team that invents something take it as far as it can go.  In football or outside, so my guess is that Urban saw something either different, or further developed by the San Fran implementation of the Pistol.

ColumbusBornAndRaised's picture

I wouldn't mind Perry and Grant switching positions. I think Perry would be an ideal MIKE linebacker in Urban's scheme. Grant could still get playing time at the SAM

Aesculus.'s picture

about Curtis Grant:
At one point, Vrabel told him he didn't want to see him on the field any longer and he was replaced by Josh Perry.

 
 ahhh man.  I just threw up a little in my mouth.  This is not good.

11/8/2014 @Michigan State aka Payback

FitzBuck's picture

It's spring ball.  If he's still doing it in the fall then we panic.

Fitzbuck

Toledo - Ohio's right armpit 

"A troll by any other name is still a troll". 

 

IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY's picture

I would imagine Grant is getting his last chance and has zero room for error with him being a junior now so Vrabel's comment is both motivational and a warning that he'd better step up. He will be the player I'll follow most during the spring game that's for sure.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

buckeye4life050233's picture

it would be nice to get multiple players ready per position and allow them to go all out for stretches and rotate in to keep legs fresh.....

cinserious's picture

I'm really surprised with how comfortable the coaches seem to be with the D-line positions. For a unit that has lost EVERY starter, it seems to be clicking just fine. If all we need to settle on defense is the 'mike' and 'star' we should be looking pretty damn good. If Curtis Grant doesn't get it together, I'm cool with Perry taking charge or Cam Williams if that doesn't work out. We should have some quality guys to choose from at 'star' too!

"Get him a body bag, Yeah!"

Squirrel Master's picture

well and don't forget, if mike isn't settled at the end of spring, there will be some solid options coming in this summer with Mitchell and Johnson. If Grant, Perry or Cam don't prove they are ready, I think it will be very possible that Mitchell could start. I won't say start in game 1 but he could take over early if we are still hearing of these issues.
Well, we know 2 of the Dline positions are locked down. I still think Bennett will start but he could get a push from others still, not to mention if Steve Miller does show up he could take over on the outside moving Washington back inside. I think there is a real battle with Hale and Schutt. There may not be much concern but still don't know who it will be. 

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

RunEddieRun1983's picture

Awesome coverage, Powell is starting now until Bell comes to town.

I don't always downvote, but I do always downvote a Michigan fan trolling the Buckeye boards.

Buckeyejason's picture

Yeah because all the big time recruits come in and start immediately./ LOL 

BUCKEYES BABY!

buckeye76BHop's picture

LOL all you want...he'll be on KO and Punt by game one.  Then he'll wait until someone gets hurt in the defensive backfield...then he'll be in a great position to start as a frosh (I'm not wishing this on Bryant or anyone for that matter btw).  There's a reason why Bell chose OSU...and it wasn't just Withers and Meyer (It's what they promised him).  He'll be in the 2 deep once he steps on campus...bank that Jason.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."
"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."
Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Buckeyejason's picture

Whoa whoa slow down there speed racer! 
Being in the two deep is one thing..starting once he steps on campus is another. Did they "promise" him a starting spot like they did with Grant apparently?

BUCKEYES BABY!

lcrumley89's picture

Now I cant wait for the opening game. But I have to wonder how long it will be till the staff starts to lose hope in Grant, I think this offseason is probably his last shot to get his head in the game.

“There are some people addicted to alcohol, some people are addicted to gambling,” Luginbill said. “Urban Meyer is addicted to football, and he’s addicted to winning.”

whobdis's picture

Actually..I think Bogard eventually wins the Star spot assuming he heals well. He was the first of the freshmant to lose his 'stripe' last year and Urban stated he was one of his 5 'favorites' on the team.

Ross Fulton's picture

He would probably be my favorite to win the position also.

 

I also appreciated the fact that when they were in team seven on seven Bogard was making sure he knew pre-snap what coverage the defense was in.  A lot of guys wont take those mental snaps.

buckeye76BHop's picture

Me too...brings the wood when he tackles.  I saw that in his senior season as well as the Penn vs Ohio game where he was making tackles for a loss on at least 4 plays I saw.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."
"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."
Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Squirrel Master's picture

I am less concerned about the players with what this post talks about, great write up too!
I am really interested in the schemes. I recall last year it was very vanilla at this time with Braxton learning the playbook as fast as he can. This year, its more about developing more of the playbook and how Brax and the receivers are clicking. It wasn't just the extra work Brax put in during the offseason with the QB guru, I believe it is more about Brax becoming the leader and getting the whole offensive playmakers together to practice. The write up a few days ago about how they have been working together before now is HUGE! Braxton becoming the leader and working with the receivers and backs has to be the biggest difference from last year. Being able to do more like crossing patterns and quick strikes are much needed. 
Mike is and will be the 1 spot that I just don't know about. I am excited about Mitchell coming in and that Perry seems to be growing into the role a lot. I just don't like that Grant is still getting the benefit of the doubt and STILL hasn't shown he has it. Very scary proposition if you ask me.
You can suspect who will be the STAR this year but  I will say this, Bogard and Bell will be studs, but Powell has something that neither of those guys can get, size. He has to be the longest safety I can recall seeing and he can do so many things with that frame. I think it will be very important that the STAR is more of a hybrid than a true safety. I have no doubt Bell will be the future replacement of Bryant/Barnett, as well as Bogard. But Powell, if he is getting it, is the perfect fit for STAR. Lee, Brown, Bell and Bogard are more safeties that are bulky, Powell is a lean linebacker framewise and if you asked me, I would prefer the STAR to be a linebacker that can play the STAR than a safety that plays it because they couldn't beat out the other 2 safeties. STAR is not the 3rd best safety, it is the culmination of a linebacker that can cover. Ohrian Johnson did well last year at that spot but I think that was more of experience and savvy than it was fit. 
I need to stop now, too early to write my football diary! lol

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

Buckeyejason's picture

I'm glad they figured out the Bennett/Washigton thing..even us fans can see that was an obvious move from the get go. Very happy for Powell..love seeig kids like that succeed.

I've never seen a player get handed a position year after year purely on being a former "5 star" recruit like I have with Curtis Grant. I mean its year 3 already and he's still getti lost? COME ON FICKELL!! Give Luke Roberts a chance there ALREADY!

Dunn is doing just what I thougt he would do..move ahead of Rod Smith. It was only a matter of time for Rod...

BUCKEYES BABY!

buck-I.8's picture

Ross, you say that SAM is the consolation prize for the  LBs, but surely its Mike or nothing for Grant, right? He doesn't seem to have the quickness to play anywhere but the middle.

Buckeyejason's picture

So, was Grant a 5 star based on his size?  He doesn't have quickness or the mental part of the game.. I can't think of anything else. His film looked pretty average as well.

BUCKEYES BABY!

buckeye76BHop's picture

Great stuff Ross...agree with many that Diesel W should be the other DE with Bennett inside.  This sounds pretty good to me as a starting front 4 (Spence, Schutt, Bennett and Diesel W).  That will work for me;-)  
I'm really hoping Grant will work out at Mike...he looked the part on the 11W pic with the Harley...now let's hope he puts it together on the field.  I have faith....Sabino had the same problem...highly touted but took more time than many thought to put it together.  I'd say the defense wasn't quite the same without him last year.  Guess we'll see if it will take as long with Grant as it did Sabino...???
Don't forget....Rod Smith had the longest reception from a year ago...I personally don't think he'll be a starter at OSU...but he's not an unusable resource.  Not sure why a 6'3 238 lbs battering ram is a bad thing even in a spread type of offense.  He didn't fumble last year...that's a plus right...???  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."
"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."
Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Buckeyejason's picture

^ Sabino ended up OK..but no where near the level expected. Smith is def usable but he's been here since the Reagan administration it feels and is getting passed by a true soph with a legal problem on his record. 

BUCKEYES BABY!