Ohio State Spring Football Notebook: Practice No. 6

By Kyle Rowland on March 26, 2013 at 7:33p
65 Comments
The Chase is on.

Four new starters on the defensive line of a team coming off a 12-0 season would signal red flags to many. But Ohio State is still among the top contenders for a national championship entering the 2013 season. 


 

When the “new” names include the likes of Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett, Tommy Schutt and Joel Hale, a sigh of relief from the coaches comes as no surprise. They might not be seasoned vets, but few teams have linemen with so much skill and potential wrapped up in one, even if there are only nine career starts on the roster.

Spence, a sophomore, is the ringleader of the group. One of Urban Meyer’s prized recruits in his first class, the defensive end has developed into an invaluable force along the defensive line. Present-day college football is won in the trenches, and it’s a trend that Meyer is cognizant of every day.

“If we put together a good D-line and linebackers, I think we’ll have a good team,” Meyer said after the first spring practice. “If not, we won’t. It’s pretty simple.”

Benefiting the defensive line – and the rest of the defense – is competing against an offensive line that returns four starters and a unit that possesses high-quality skill players.

“They are one of the top offensive lines in the country," Bennett told reporters last week. “When you go against talent like that every day you are going to get better as a whole group. That’s experience a lot of D-lines are not going to get."

This is the first time in 28 years Ohio State has an entire new crop of defensive linemen. When you have guys like Spence that admit they only know what they are doing 50 percent of the time and still appear to be unblockable, it's easy to see why most think this group will be just fine.

The energy and awareness displayed by Spence and his cohorts harkens back to past decades when the Buckeyes’ defensive line was annually among the nation’s best. That’s the level the players and coaches are after. It’s where John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, arguably the two best defensive players in the conference a season ago, played – endurance and effort paired with speed, size and power.

Each of the newly minted members of the line rotation has exhibited that potential before. Spence and Washington played extensively as true freshmen on the undefeated team, Schutt also displayed a knack for making plays as a freshman, and Bennett and Hale, rising juniors, are the veterans of the group.

Steve Miller, Chris Carter, JT Moore, Tracy Sprinkle and Tyquan Lewis are also in the mix to receive playing time.

The three young classmates – Spence, Washington and Schutt – played with reckless abandon last season and must turn that into skilled technique a year later. They’ve been working on becoming all-around linemen, not just gifted but raw players.

“They’re learning,” said defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, who happens to own the school record for sacks. “They take to coaching and get after it.”

Bennett is the most experienced of the returnees, having started twice and accumulated 28 tackles, six for loss and four sacks. But a groin injury derailed his sophomore season, causing him to miss five full games and hampering his play in the remaining seven.

“We need Michael Bennett,” Vrabel said.

The setbacks look to be a thing of the past. The frustrating season didn’t allow Bennett to reach his potential in a year that featured otherwise outstanding play on the line.

Bennett and Hale are expected to provide leadership to the unit as its oldest, most veteran members.

“It’s time for us to step up as leaders,” Hale said.

Still, even with more seasoned and savvy players, the attention always seems pointed at the group that came to Columbus together in Meyer’s first class when the chips were down.

Of particular interest is Spence, who added 15 pounds of muscle and had one sack a year ago, getting a taste of what the good life is like.

“I’m glad he’s on our team, that’s all I can say,” offensive line coach Ed Warinner said. “His speed off the edge is amazing. He’ll make (the offense) better because he gives us something every day to work on.”

The best recruiter without goofy rules.Meyer wasn't in favor of the Wild West.

Rules of the Game

Meyer made headlines on signing day for two things – his recruiting class and his outspokenness against several new recruiting rules allowing unlimited contact between coaches and prospects. 

Several other coaches joined Meyer’s call to apply the brakes; even the Big Ten Conference chimed in. It apparently worked, because the NCAA decided not to go forward with the proposals.

Recruiting staffs will not be permitted to balloon to unlimited numbers and the amount of printed materials sent to prospective recruits will be capped. The proposal that would have allowed coaches to use unrestricted forms of communication during “live” periods is also likely to have a final destination in the NCAA graveyard.

It’s all good news to Meyer.

“One of the concerns our staff has, and I know the Big Ten coaches have, is the fall is for coaching players. If it’s unlimited phone calls and all that stuff, then you’re spending all your evenings calling recruits,” Meyer said. “We don’t need to speed up the process anymore. The recruiting calendar is perfect the way it is.”

Coaches around the country – Meyer included – were dismayed when the changes were announced in January. They are the ones most affected by any alteration in the rules, especially when it pertains to recruiting, yet they were not consulted.

“Some of those things are just not very smart, to be able to allow schools all the mailouts and text messaging,” co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers said. “Kids lives are already being intruded on so much. They wouldn’t have a life at all if some of that stuff were going on. Some teams would send thousands of letters. It’s good for coaching, it’s good for recruiting and it’s good for college football. I don’t think that stuff was good for the game.

“It sounds like the NCAA just threw its hands out and said, 'you guys police yourselves,' and this was the result.”

Notes
 

  • Chris Rock, a DeSales graduate and former Michigan player, is now walking on at Ohio State. He is wearing No. 91 and will be eligible to play this season. He has three years of eligibility left.
  • Today was by far the most physical spring practice for the Buckeyes. Lots of hard hitting and some skirmishes. The biggest involved Corey Linsley and Joel Hale.
  • Pittsburgh Brown and Armani Reeves were two players that caught Urban's eye. Each made several big plays in the secondary.
  • Meyer said the offensive line has started right where they left off. The four returning starters are fine, but he's still looking for a fifth guy.
  • Meyer said it's now or never for Pittsburgh Brown. He added that he thinks Brown could be a Reid Fragel type of guy who comes out of nowhere for a strong final campaign.
  • Jordan Hall was absent from practice again today. Meyer noted his hamstring was still an issue, but there were academics to tend to as well.
  • Urban said Braxton has been good, not great. Said he's behind as a quarterback but not as a football player.
  • The D-line remains a concern for Meyer. He said the lack of veterans is an issue, but Michael Bennett is stepping into that role.
  • Bennett showed leadership today when he yelled at his teammates for allowing the offense to score on a goal line play.
  • Meyer said Bennett has graded out positively in five of six practices. Also lauded the play of Noah Spence.
  • Urban also mentioned Christian Bryant as a guy who needs to provide leadership on defense. Withers added the name CJ Barnett to the conversation.
  • Urban said Rod Smith has gone from nothing to something in one year. Smith looked great today. Had a couple big-time runs.
  • Withers said Bryant needs to work on tackling. Said good players work on weaknesses, not what they already succeed at.
  • Withers said Pittsburgh played bad in a scrimmage last week. Withers texted him and said pick it up because he recruited really good DBs.
  • Brown said he realizes this is his last go-round. He said he's embracing the challenge and not settling.
  • Brown is up to 205, from 191. Said working out with Marotti is all he needed to add 14 pounds of muscle.
  • In drills inside the 5, Rod Smith had multiple bull-rushing touchdowns, as did Bri'onte Dunn.
  • The best pass play from Braxton was a 92-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Heuerman. Miller tossed the ball 30-40 yards. Heuerman did the rest.
  • Luke Roberts had a great form tackle on Dunn at the goal line. It was quite a collision, no touchdown.
  • Braxton fumbled a snap that was recovered by the defense and was run down by Steve Miller in the backfield near the goal line.
  • Blake Thomas lined up at fullback a lot today and caught a big fourth-down pass that extended the chains.
  • Michael Thomas is still someone who's looking great. Don't forget he was Braxton's WR in San Diego with Whitfield. They have chemistry.
  • The running backs were very impressive. Carlos Hyde didn't practice much because the coaches know what they have. Smith, Dunn and Ball all turned heads. 
  • Cardale Jones got a lot of snaps with the second-team offense. Kenny Guiton may have been limited with a minor injury.
  • Eli Apple had a pick-six off Jones. Apple made several big play. After one, an elated Kerry Coombs rushed over and slapped Apple on the helmet.
  • Tommy Schutt has a sprained ankle, but still took part in drills. His ankle was wrapped heavily, but Meyer said he’ll be fine.
  • Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington continue to be men on the D-line. Each abused the O-line at times.
  • It was a noticeably poor day for the linebackers. Curtis Grant and Josh Perry were yelled at by Luke Fickell more than once.
  • Marcus Hall’s weight is down 15 pounds, to 315. It’s given him noticeably better footwork, something Meyer and Warinner are pleased with.
  • Taylor Decker and Chase Farris continue to compete for the right tackle spot vacated by Reid Fragel.
65 Comments

Comments

cplunk's picture

In every vid of practice I've seen, Pittsburgh Brown was killing it. Just crushing each individual drill. I think he is in for a huge year.

Seth4Bucks's picture

I love the pressure Withers is putting on Pittsburg by reminding him that there are good backups waiting for a chance to start. Either it'll push Pittsburg to rise up and embrace it or he'll be seeing a lot more of the bench. I know it's early, but it's troubling to hear that Bryant still needs to work on tackling and that the LBs were lacking. Granted, Meyer called OSU's offense a clown show at this time last year. So it's a nagging concern, but I won't go into meltdown mode until after the season starts and those issues come up again.

dubjayfootball90's picture

Message to PIttsburgh is key, I bet he turns a corner after that. Good tactic by WIthers, for sure, IMO

MAJbucksfan's picture

Kyle, love the update, lots of good info... but find a proofreader please.

awwwwwwop's picture

Your use of an elllipsis is incorrect.  A comma would have satisfied your goal better than your use of the ellipsis.  An ellipsis is better used to indicate an intentional omission from a quote or to trail off at the end of a sentence.

"Who cares? Go Bucks." - Aaron Untch

Denny's picture

/nods along

Taquitos.

Buckabroad's picture

And your spelling of "ellipsis" is incorrect (only double l).

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

awwwwwwop's picture

Haha! Good Catch! And thank you for making my point: that we all make mistakes in editing. The overuse of the ellipsis on the internet today drives me nuts, so that is probably the only reason I felt compelled to bite back at the comment above me.

"Who cares? Go Bucks." - Aaron Untch

dubjayfootball90's picture

I am probably the biggest culprit on the misuse of the ellipsis.... I take full responsibility for my actions.
 
Edit: I actually did not mean to add that ellipsis in there. It is a habit I cannot shake now..... Dear Lord.

buck-I.8's picture

AHEM: The plural of ellipse is ellipsis. It doesn't function that way all the time, like 'deer'. 
That said, the ellipse is only three dots, so most of these cases don't regard uses of ellipsis, but rather an explanation for the placement of nonsensical periods all over your composition.

awwwwwwop's picture

Actually, an ellipse is a geometrical term resulting from the intersection of a plane and a curve. An ellipsis refers to the 3 dots in writing.  The plural of both is ellipses, but their singulars are very different things.

"Who cares? Go Bucks." - Aaron Untch

Unky Buck's picture

I'm a culprit of it too, Dub. I know it's not correct. I simply do it to imply a pause. Obviously a comma should work in that manner, but sometimes I just want that long...drawn...out...pause.

...

dubjayfootball90's picture

yep, and I'm gonna continue using it in the wrong fashion..... just because I like 5 dots more than 3, and I love that pause. I might even just start calling it an elliptical, or an eclipse.....

Earle's picture

I think that made-up punctuation needs a made-up name.....something like ellipsis.....only longer......my vote is for.......ellipsicle, or in its plural form.....ellipsicleses.

captain obvious's picture

we aint here to play school

I'm a friend of thunder is it any wonder lightning strikes me

Maffro's picture

Just know that if I could upvote this, I would.

Unky Buck's picture

We certainly do not...

...

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Great news, glad to see so much good signs coming out of Spring Practice.  Although the linebacker spots worry me.  I was hoping to see Curtis Grant and Josh Perry make better progress in the spring.  It's still early and they have time, but with the freshmen coming in at some point you might just say if they are talented enough then you let Mitchell or Lewis step in and get the experience for the future.  I'm still pulling for Grant though.  I'd love to see the switch flip and see him become the player that leads the D.  Will be an interesting spring and first few weeks of practice. 

dubjayfootball90's picture

That message to Pittsburgh Brown that Withers gave is just the right thing he needs to step it up and succeed. All this talk about SPence and Washington is just getting me excited. Great to see Apple making plays, same with Armani, and I wish I could have seen that collision between roberts and dunn. Hopefully more linebackers step up. I know we are not watching the practices, so MLB still <sounds> like a concern from what is being written, but I hope that is just how it is being portrayed, and that Grant and Perry and whoever elseis in the mix step up and really solidify that spot.
 
Great write up, I cant freaking wait man, but first thing is first.... SWEET SIXTEEN!!!!!

2002osubuck's picture

To be honest I think this year Meyer knows he has some studs on the dline and young LBs so he isn't being as forthcoming with exact details to the media like last year. He's made general comments about needing good LB and dine play or they won't be good but not individual and as much. If some veteran guys step up and become leaders this team will be great. I think the offense with the freshman coming in will be one of the best we've seen since the 90s but possibly better. Can't wait to see a glimpse during the spring game, urbans cooked up some new nfl derived additions( ie.49s) to the playbook I'm looking forward to seeing. I have a good feeling they'll be more smith and Hyde in the backfield with miller on some deadly power run plays.

okiebuck's picture

Great update Kyle;  a nice appetizer to keeps us stoked until Thursday night; Go Bucks!!!!!

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

740buckeye's picture

Only 158 more days until the first game of the season, but who's counting? 
So excited for this season!

toad1204's picture

Eli Apple had a pick-six off Jones. Apple made several big play. After one, an elated Kerry Coombs rushed over and slapped Apple on the helmet.

Kid has stud written all over him.

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

BeijingBucks's picture

Eli Apple baum... I gotta put you on

 

 

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Squirrel Master's picture

he's got it going on!

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

stevebelliseeya's picture

WOW, very homo-erotic for non-Tribe Called Quest fans but I see what you did there...

"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

KBonay's picture

I think Michael Thomas has a break-out year. 

Hovenaut's picture

Plenty of new faces and/or next up guys ready to make their mark. Great write up to sate football withdrawals.

Love the reports on Pittsburgh, Rod Smith and the D Line kids.

More than ready to hear some good things from that LB crew...c'mon Curtis!

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

MediBuck's picture

Given the struggles at LB, it looks like we're gonna be in 4-2-5 a LOT next year. That said, with the insane depth we have at DB, and the emergence of Eli Apple and Tyvis Powell, it wouldn't make sense to keep them off the field. Kill two birds with one stone :)

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

headina's picture

Holy typos in the bulleted section

GO BUCKS

pjtobin's picture

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've been itching to hear a practice update. Is there a chance UFM isn't saying much about the d cause it isn't his baby? I would think if our offense is as good as it seems our d should be getting very good practice. Trying to keep up with our offense has got to be a chore for this young d. I hope mike t shows up also. I liked him in last years spring game. Then didn't hear much from him throughout the year.  Thanks again. My blood pressure is back to normal. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

sharks's picture

I would literally hide in the rafters for hours if it meant I could watch a practice.  That's how much I miss football right now.
Can somebody else do that, tape the practice, and post it here?

The postgame show is brought to you by... Christ, I can't find it. The hell with it...

Buckeyeneer's picture

I think you just volunteered, Sharks.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes
THE Ohio State University

Kevbo714's picture

Full aerial view and all would be nice, lol

Tom Crean listens to Nickelback...

Squirrel Master's picture

Make sure you don't miss a good play while you are at it. And don't get carried away with the zoom please. Make a guy sick with that crap!

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

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Don't forget he was Braxton's WR in San Diego with Whitfield. They have chemistry.

Don't forget? How could I forget something I didn't even know.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Buckeyeneer's picture

I heard about Chris Rock (DE) joining the good guys on another site. Anyone know anything about him? With a lot of young talent on the D-line, perhaps he makes the transition to offense. He has 3 years of eligibility remaining.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes
THE Ohio State University

Squirrel Master's picture

I heard he has a great  HBO comedy show, in fact a few of them!

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

Rapping Bum's picture

Any update on Chris Carter?

Help is on the way.

buck-I.8's picture

Twitter buzz is that he was useful plugging up the middle in short yardage situations.

Buckeyeneer's picture

Scout message board said that he did alright but got mono which knocked him out for the season. Some posters indicated that he was "soft" and/or "passive". Whatever, I'm not going to pre-judge a kid I know nothing about. If he proves his worth, he may earn a scholly. I wish him the best.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes
THE Ohio State University

buck-I.8's picture

Chris Carter has a scholarship...?

Buckeyeneer's picture

Ah, crap. My post was talking about Chris Rock. I was curious about Rock and was looking things up. Came back here and saw Chris and ran with it. Funny how your mind sees what you want to see.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes
THE Ohio State University

Bucks43201's picture

Rod Smith is gonna have a big year.

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

JPBucks3's picture

I love hearing about rod smith. I feel he has so much potential that if he can cut his fumbles down he could be a stud! its great hearing good things about him!

Buckeye_TilIdie's picture

Great news I love it! I'm loving all of the news from practice the oline the dline the rb's and db's.
Rod Smith oh my!

Punks jump up to get beat down.

ticodillo's picture

Kinda worried about Braxton, really want him to get the whole QB thing down so he can have an awesome year.

BammBammRiley's picture

Yeah from what I'm trying to read into Meyers comment about Miller, it sounds like maybe his leadreship and command the qb position requires isn't up to par still, maybe, or he's still having problems with his reads which is huge in this offense. Most likely it"s both, there is definately no question concerning talent, skill, or physical ability. Lets hope it all comes together by fall, lots of time untill then, unfortunately for us impatient football nuts.

BammBamm is my dog, Riley is my 4 yr old daughter, and THE Ohio state Buckeyes complete the three most sacred loves I cherish

bigbadbuck's picture

One thing to remember is this.we are less than halfway thru the offseason (I know lots of you who are jonesing don't want to hear that) and Braxton still has quite a bit of time to get up to speed

Battles are sometimes won by generals; wars are nearly always won by sergeants and privates. Football is no different, the guys down in the trenches win the games, not the coach.            

Squirrel Master's picture

Well not to mention he had a 92 yard bomb to a TE in this practice. Gotta keep in mind that what Urban says now is just his expectations, not the reality. For all we know, Braxton looks like Aaron Rodgers out there and Urban wants Peyton Manning!
Urban has a way of quelling the masses expectations by having unattainable expectations of his own. Anything less won't do for him despite what progress Braxton could have made. Just a few weeks ago he was talking about how Braxton looked more comfortable in the pocket with his feet, now he says he isn't there yet!
Besides, with all the new weapons on this team, Braxton only has to be a quarter of what he was last year for this offense to be good! (quarter of what he did last year is still awesome in my book)

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

ATXbucknut's picture

Here's the video of Urban's comments after practice.

buckeyestu's picture

Normally i look at each season with cautious optimism, but not this year. Got a feeling this year is going to be awesome. Kind of feel sorry for the rest of the conference, well not really.

bhardy22132's picture

Great to hear! Seems like things are coming together. Glad to read coach withers told Bryant to work on his weakness. Should turn positive. 

Buckeytrips's picture

gotta love the grammar police.

Maestro's picture

Uggghh, LB's had ANOTHER bad day.

vacuuming sucks

Squirrel Master's picture

yeah but don't forget Shazier is still out for now and they are trying really hard to get Grant to pick this up. Supposedly Roberts did fine though.
To me, it is only 1 position that really needs to be filled by all these LB. Shazier has the 1 spot and I see a lot more STAR in the future now, especially if Brown and Powell keep playing well.
 

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

buckeye92's picture

I would really like to see Braxton develop into  a more consistent passing threat.  Seems like Urban keeps talking about all his potential rather than what he has done and is doing.
No blaming Braxton as I know a lot goes into the passing game from recievers to offensive line to run threat but here's to hoping that defensives fear his passing game this year as well as his feet.

Squirrel Master's picture

well, if anything at least we know the trenches will be handled with superior talent! I'm sure they are not trying to choose a RT just yet but the fact that Decker hasn't locked in the position is what is troubling me. I could have sworn he would have been penciled in by now. We knew about the Mike struggles and the receiver growth chart, I thought the whole OLine would have been set by now. Come on Decker, I want this to be the best OL by far in the B1G if not the country!
with guys like Shazier out and Hyde not practicing too much so that backups get more opportunities, I can see how some practices could be lackluster to what Urban is looking for. You are going to see struggles when the veteran starters sit out a bit.
Is that 2 practices in the last 2 weeks that Cardale has thrown a pick six?

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

buckguyfan1's picture

Its hard to believe, but apparently Hoke didn't like what the Rock was cooking.

buckguyfan1's picture

Its extremely hard for an incoming freshman to pick up the LB position, but Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell are soon to arrive and will add some help to this core of linebackers.  We will be fine.

buckeye76BHop's picture

This^^^one of these two will make an impact while the other will make an impact on Special Teams.  They may both end up playing if the situation at LB ends up like last year...I just really hope that doesn't happen (i.e. injuries, difficulty picking up concepts/schemes etc, etc).

"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 

House804's picture

Have we ever been more ridiculously stacked at RB?
Hyde, Smith, Dunn, Ball, Zeke, Dontre....behind 4 returning starters on OL?
We are going to RUN. THE. DAMN. BALL.

We talkin' bout practice?!  Not the game I love...the game I die for.  Practice?!

IBleedSandG's picture

Yep, we're pretty loaded. I like our WR's and TE's too, though.

We don't give a damn for the whole state of Michigan, we're from O-HI-O!

buckeye76BHop's picture

It was a noticeably poor day for the linebackers. Curtis Grant and Josh Perry were yelled at by Luke Fickell more than once.

       ^^This was a bit concerning...

Luke Roberts had a great form tackle on Dunn at the goal line. It was quite a collision, no touchdown.

And this made me feel better...not to mention it's only spring practice.  I can't wait to see what happens when Trey J and Mike M show up in the Fall.  That should shake things up a bit.  Good to hear Luke made an impact today.  I used to watch him when he played for Lancaster.  Good tackling LB then and it seems he still is;-)

"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 

ColumbusBornAndRaised's picture

I found it interesting that Blake Thomas was taking some reps at fullback. Think he would be a great fit in that role even though we will only use one once in a blue moon.