Spring Camp Bringing Out Competition in Buckeyes

By Kyle Rowland on March 24, 2014 at 9:15a

At Ohio State, the term spring cleaning brings on a different meaning. Ohio Stadium and the Woody Hayes Athletic Center aren’t swept and given a fresh coat of paint. The sweeping changes for the Buckeyes are done on the field.

Head coach Urban Meyer’s never hidden his philosophy when it comes to spring practice. Not only are the 15 practices used to fine-tune both sides of the ball; they also serve as competition for starting jobs.

After losing four offensive linemen, a 1,000-yard running back, one of the most productive linebackers in school history and a bulk of the secondary, Meyer and Co. have been preoccupied since the season-ending loss in the Orange Bowl. And it only ramped up with the dawn of spring practice.

New to the program, Chris Ash is not unfamiliar with position battles and setting a tone for the upcoming season. The co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach has come away impressed with the level of play exhibited during the first two weeks of Ohio State’s practice.

“They’re all competing. Whether you are on the first line or second line, it doesn’t matter right now,” Ash said. “We just want to see guys compete and see who is going to be consistently doing things the right way.”

Darron Lee might headline that list on defense. The redshirt freshman linebacker has been a constant presence on the first-team defense and frequently earns praise from Meyer. Lee is penciled in at the position previously occupied by Ryan Shazier.

Many believed Trey Johnson, who recorded 11 tackles last year as a true freshman, would succeed Shazier. But Lee’s surprised observers with range and speed.

“The guy who has stepped up, who is playing four to six [seconds of relentless effort] is a kid named Darron Lee,” Meyer said last week. “I have no idea what he’s doing, and he probably has no idea, but I don’t care. That’s the thing, I want to make sure that culture is out there.”

“Everybody wants to play for Ohio State University.”– Bri'onte Dunn

A similar development is taking place on offense. Ezekiel Elliott ia the odds-on-favorite to replace Carlos Hyde’s gaudy numbers, but Rod Smith, Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball are applying pressure and adding depth. Dunn, in particular, is the name causing the most eyebrows to rise. 

He was all but forgotten last season, as Hyde ran for 1,500 yards and Elliott emerged as a viable threat for opposing defenses. Dunn redshirted and took a place at the end of the tailback assembly line. Instead of sulking, though, he pushed forward and looks like someone vying to be part of the running back rotation come fall.

“Everybody is in the mix right now,” Dunn said. “There’s really no depth chart. It’s really competitive. Everybody wants to play for Ohio State University.”

Elliott said the competition drives the entire backfield to get better and bring their A-game to each practice. The man in charge of setting the pecking order is running backs coach Stan Drayton. He’s seen glimpses from Dunn in the past, specifically a freshman campaign that saw Dunn named the Big Ten Freshmen of the Week after tallying 73 yards and a touchdown against Illinois.

A year and half later, the explosiveness and game-breaking ability hasn’t departed from Dunn. He scored a touchdown on Saturday in an offense-defense scrimmage and broke a long run Thursday. 

“We are starting to see the things that Bri’onte already had within himself,” Drayton said. “It’s just a matter of him becoming a student of the game. He’s learning the game and now he is playing it fast.”

Ohio State’s “next man up” mantra can translate multiple ways. If the team loses a starter, it’s next man up. If a first-stringer is injured, it’s next man up. If a starter is subbed out, it’s next man up.

So when sophomore safety Vonn Bell went down with a knee injury on the first day of practice, the Buckeyes’ succession plan was executed. In came Cam Burrows while Bell stayed involved, soaking in Ash’s new defensive philosophy and immersing himself in the mental reps.

“He’s still in all of our meetings,” Ash said.

And Bell doesn’t come with a dirt devil. 


Comments Show All Comments

buckskin's picture

Iron truly sharpens iron.  Great to hear that Dunn is starting to make some noise.  I was afraid he was going to get lost in our RB depth chart.  Great news on Lee.  It's a long ways to fall, but we could have another "no-namer" outplaying the 4-5 star guys in our LB rotation.  Ohio boys answering the call.

+4 HS
seafus26's picture

How are the QB's looking. I know Braxton is sitting while recovering from surgery. Can these getting reps throw with consistency and hit guys in stride?

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

Kyle Rowland's picture

Cardale Jones is doing his best to hold onto the backup QB job. He's been very impressive. Probably better than most expected. 

seafus26's picture

How is he between the ears?  I don't know much about him, but I have some concerns?  Why'd he go to prep school after HS and the tweets....did a 9 year old thug right those?

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

-7 HS
acBuckeye's picture

I don't know much about him, but I have some concerns?

Does this require an answer?

did a 9 year old thug right those?


+17 HS
BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Thank You AC... You saved the rest of us a lot of trouble!

+1 HS
seafus26's picture

Whoops. Ha. I deserve that

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+9 HS
osu07asu10's picture

How is he between the ears?  I don't know much about him, but I have some concerns?  Why'd he go to prep school after HS and the tweets....did a 9 year old thug right those?


CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

+3 HS
Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

By impressive... Do you mean you would be comfortable with him coming into a close game?  Or do you mean he has just been more impressive than JT Barrett?

KingsRite's picture

Love hearing about the stiff competion in camp and hopefully that translates to the field. April 12th can't get here soon enough!

“I have yet to be in a game where luck was involved. Well-prepared players make plays. I have yet to be in a game where the most prepared team didn't win.” -Urban Meyer-

chirobuck's picture

can the season start now please


^ best post ever ^

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

That would mean no Braxton. No thank you.

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

+1 HS
m5987usus's picture

Hey Kyle any updates on Curtis Samuel, I have heard that johnnie and raekwon have been impressive but was just wondering how Curtis Samuel was doing?  I know that he had hurt i think his hamstring but when he was playing how was he doing?


Jeremypreemo81's picture

I really enjoy reading about these young guys with positive attitudes.  Good to know they put the team first.  UFM's philosophies must be sinking in.  Something really special is happening over at the WHAC.  Can't wait (Bart Scott's voice) till the fall to see the finished product

+1 HS
seafus26's picture

Is Billy Price working as second center?

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

BassDropper's picture

Our RBs are going to be legit this year. I know we lost one of the all time greats to ever rush the ball here at tOSU, but I think we will be more than fine at the position. I've said all along I could see a dominant 2 headed monster at the RB position next season. I think EZE will start because he is more of an every down back, but Dunn will come off the bench and get 10-15 carries a game, and the coaches will ride the "hot" back.

With Braxton showing some frustration with running the ball as much as he has the past couple of years, I don't see him getting 1000 next season. I think we could see something along these lines when it comes to yards next season:

Eziekiel Elliot - 1,250 5 TDs

Brionte Dunn - 1,100 11 TDs

Braxton Miller - 850 6 TDs

Dontre/Curtis Samuel - 500 yards between the two (although most of it will be Dontre's as I don't see Samuel playing much this year)


rufio's picture

I am betting that some of Braxton's rushing attempts turn into screens this year. They met with Chad Morris to discuss the screen game, and you can package screens with runs. That packaged screen could take the place of Braxton's "keep" when they're running option. It would (hopefully) allow us to keep the same numbers advantage in the box, but also help keep the hits on Braxton to a minimum.

TraptnMI's picture

Nice. By god, I don't think i've ever seen a screen pass under Hermans offense, unless you count those flare passes. That would keep braxton healthy. ttun sure was able to do a number on us with screens. Thats an exciting thought. Utilize the speed. Hmmm

" It's real good whatcha done Anthony, real good ! "

+1 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

Would like to know if any black strips have been removed or is that just a summer camp thing?

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

CGroverL's picture

Regardless...the talent is there and the coaching is there to make it happen. No reason for Ohio State to finish outside of the top 8 any time soon. The "next man up" can hold his own at every position. Only one team can be the champion and the Buckeyes should be in the running for quite a while. Even though the Buckeyes are currently on a 2 game losing streak, a true dynasty has been born. Buckeye Nation is strong and should be among the best teams in the country year after year. Sure, we have worries, but other TOP TIER teams have many more problems and our Buckeyes are just getting started. Next member of Buckeye Nation up!!!

"I hope they're last in everything". One of Meyer's comments when speaking of TTUN after being hired at Ohio State.



+1 HS