COLUMBUS – Football season began before the sun came up at Ohio State on Thursday morning.
The Buckeyes took the fields outside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center at 6:30 a.m. for their first practice of the summer. Media were allowed in to watch the first three periods.
"There ain’t no shortcuts!" assistant coordinator and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs barked as the Buckeyes ran out onto the fields. "Here we go, here we go, here we go!"
After a Samuel L. Jackson-esque, profanity-laced speech by defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle to kick things off, the Buckeyes went through stretching and conditioning before breaking off into a variety of stations, which included punt team work, individual positional drills and passing work.
While we didn’t get to stick around long enough to see any new offensive or defensive schemes, it was enough to get a first glimpse of the 2017 Buckeyes practicing – and a few Buckeyes who weren’t practicing.
OFFENSIVE STARTERS SIDELINED
Ohio State running back Mike Weber was not running through drills with the Buckeyes on Thursday morning, instead working out with an athletic trainer on the sideline due to an undisclosed injury. Tight end Marcus Baugh, who is currently battling inflammation in his toe, also spent the open portion of practice working with a trainer on the sideline, as expected.
Left tackle Jamarco Jones was on the field with his teammates but stood on the sideline while his fellow offensive linemen went through drills.
Jones and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson are expected to speak with the media at the conclusion of practice, so we will check with them then for updates on Jones’ and Weber’s injuries.
Branden Bowen lined up as the first-team left tackle in his place, while left guard Michael Jordan, center Billy Price, right guard Malcolm Pridgeon and right tackle Isaiah Prince made up the rest of the first-team unit.
Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Malik Barrow also spent the open portion of practice working with a trainer on the sideline. Freshman linebacker Baron Browning, sophomore linebacker Malik Harrison and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Gavin Cupp were on the field but in orange jerseys, indicating limited participation.
WHO WILL PUNT, AND WHO WILL CATCH PUNTS?
Redshirt freshman Drue Chrisman and sophomore Jake Metzer split punting duties during special teams work. Chrisman was evidently the better punter of the pair on Thursday, hitting his punts with longer distance and better accuracy.
While Chrisman appears to be in line to replace Cameron Johnston at punter, the Buckeyes have a more wide open competition at punt returner. Six total Buckeyes spent time catching punts on Thursday: redshirt sophomore wide receiver K.J. Hill, sophomore running back Demario McCall, redshirt sophomore cornerback Kendall Sheffield, junior wide receiver Eric Glover-Williams, redshirt junior wide receiver Parris Campbell and freshman running back J.K. Dobbins.
Even though Thursday was the Buckeyes’ first practice of the summer, coach Urban Meyer told his team that Thursday was not the official start of camp. He's saving that designation for next week, when the Buckeyes will practice five times between Monday and Saturday before moving into their off-campus hotel next Sunday.
While quarterbacks J.T. Barrett, Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins were all in the customary black non-contact jerseys, true freshman quarterback Tate Martell was in a scarlet jersey with the rest of his teammates. Standing alongside the other quarterback, Martell was a clear head shorter than his fellow signal-callers.