Observations From Ohio State's Fourth Practice Of Fall Camp

By Dan Hope on August 7, 2018 at 11:24 am
Jaelen Gill
Jaelen Gill

Ohio State’s football team took the field for its fourth practice of fall camp on Tuesday, and for the first time this preseason, members of the media were allowed in to watch the beginning of the Buckeyes’ workout.

Only the Buckeyes’ pre-practice warmup and first three periods of practice were open to the media, so Tuesday’s brief viewing window didn’t provide any concrete answers about the team’s unanswered depth chart questions. It was, however, an opportunity to see several players in action for the first time in 2018 and get an idea of how Ohio State is proceeding forward with Urban Meyer on paid administrative leave.

Business as usual

Aside from the absence of Meyer, Ohio State’s practice on Tuesday morning essentially looked like a normal fall camp practice. The Buckeyes went through similar drills to that which they have in years past, and everyone appeared to be focused simply on putting their best foot forward as football players – not on the controversy that is currently surrounding the program.

Although he is in the interim head coach, Ryan Day spent the open viewing window of practice working directly with quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins, Tate Martell, Matthew Baldwin, Kory Curtis and Danny Vanatsky, focusing on his regular role as the Buckeyes’ quarterbacks coach.

Ohio State director of sports performance Mickey Marotti addressed the team before practice, giving the pre-practice speech that Meyer typically gives.

Borland, Bowen and Baldwin back in action

Several players who missed this spring due to injuries were back on the field and practicing with the team on Tuesday.

Perhaps most significantly, middle linebacker Tuf Borland was out on the field and spent time working with the first-team defense. He didn’t appear to be a full participant, as Pete Werner also spent time working at middle linebacker alongside Keandre Jones at weakside linebacker and Malik Harrison at strongside linebacker, but nonetheless appears to have made substantial progress in his recovery since injuring his Achilles in March.

Offensive lineman Branden Bowen, who could potentially still be a candidate to compete for a starting spot at guard or tackle, appeared to be healthy and a full participant in practice after missing the spring while continuing to recover from the broken leg that ended his 2017 season prematurely.

Baldwin, who is in line to be Ohio State’s third-string quarterback this season as a true freshman, also looked healthy as he threw the ball alongside the rest of the quarterbacks on Tuesday, after undergoing knee surgery in January that sidelined him this spring.

Jordan snaps the ball

One of the biggest questions entering fall camp was whether Michael Jordan, Ohio State’s starting left guard for the past two seasons, could be a candidate to move from guard to center like Billy Price in 2017 and Pat Elflein in 2016.

That appeared to be the case on Tuesday, when Jordan spent time snapping the ball along with Ohio State’s other centers – Brady Taylor, Josh Myers and Matthew Jones.

Meyer suggested at Big Ten Media Days that the Buckeyes would experiment with Jordan at center, but that Taylor would still enter fall camp as the first-team center. That appeared to still be the case on Tuesday. But with a deep group of potential starting guards that includes Demetrius Knox, Branden Bowen, Malcolm Pridgeon and possibly even Wyatt Davis, Jordan looks like the real candidate to move to the middle of the offensive line if Taylor does not emerge as one of the Buckeyes’ best five offensive linemen.

McCall, Saunders and Gill field punts

As is often the case, at least at practices that are open to the media, Ohio State began Tuesday’s practice with a live punt period.

As was the case this spring, Demario McCall and C.J. Saunders were both back deep fielding punts, but true freshman Jaelen Gill also joined them on Tuesday. Gill – who is listed on the roster as an H-back – was also seen working out with McCall, Saunders and the rest of the wide receivers during positional drills, instead of with the running backs.

K.J. Hill, Ohio State’s starting punt returner last year, was not spotted at practice on Tuesday. Hill missed this spring while recovering from rotator cuff surgery.

Petit-Frere’s athleticism stands out

Of all the new freshmen on Ohio State’s roster this summer, no one was more eye-catching at Tuesday’s practice than Nicholas Petit-Frere, whose athleticism that made him a five-star offensive tackle recruit was easy to see even in just a brief viewing window.

Petit-Frere is listed at only 288 pounds, so he still likely needs to add about 10 to 15 more pounds before he will be ready for substantial playing time at the collegiate level. The 6-foot-5 offensive tackle’s quick feet, though, already appear to be in a class of their own compared even to Ohio State’s already athletic crop of offensive linemen.

NFL scouts take a look

Scouts from 14 NFL teams were in Columbus on Tuesday to take a look at the Buckeyes’ next crop of potential draft prospects.

Representatives from the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins were all at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Tuesday, according to Ohio State's official football Twitter account.

James Grega contributed to this article.

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