Ohio State held its second practice of the spring on Friday morning, and once again, the first hour of practice was open to the media for observation.
As Ryan Day led the Buckeyes through his second practice as a head coach, former head coach and current assistant athletic director Urban Meyer (who was not in attendance during the portion of the first practice that was open to the media) watched from the sidelines. Warren Ball, a former Ohio State running back who is now the academic coordinator for Akron’s football program, watched practice alongside Meyer, who also spent time standing with director of sports performance Mickey Marotti and general manager of football operations Brian Voltolini.
Meyer was not involved in the practice beyond watching from the sidelines.
As for the players and coaches who were actually involved in the practice, here are some of our observations from what we saw on Friday morning.
Quarterbacks continue to split reps
On Wednesday, Ryan Day declared Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin will take part in a “battle” to start at quarterback in spring practice.
Both potential starters split reps on Wednesday, though Fields took the first reps at each drill. In their second practice, Fields and Baldwin each looked more comfortable throwing, as expected, each completing impressive throws. Each of them clearly have powerful arms, and as K.J. Hill said on Wednesday, the priority right now is to build a rhythm with the receivers.
Watched Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin today. Both made high-quality throws. Fields put some 20-yarders on a rope, and Baldwin dropped in some tough deep passes. Both arms appear to be more than effective. Still a lot more to learn moving forward, obviously.— Taylor Lehman (@TaylorRLehman) March 8, 2019
Mike Yurcich and senior quality control coach Corey Dennis spent the entire practice with the quarterbacks, and Day was also with them for a while, especially when they were throwing to receivers who were partaking in one-on-one drills.
Robert Landers sidelined
Injuries hindered Robert Landers during the 2018 season, and he’s still dealing with them.
After appearing to be full-go in the first spring practice on Wednesday, the returning starter at nose guard didn’t practice on Friday. As the team stretched, Landers spent his time on the exercise bike on the side of the field, but he could only pedal with his left leg. When the team huddled around Day to begin the practice, he hobbled onto the field using crutches. Landers spent most of his time on the bike and used only one crutch later in practice.
With Landers on the sideline, Davon Hamilton and Tommy Togiai received most of the reps at nose tackle. Haskell Garrett and Jashon Cornell took the most first-team snaps at three-technique defensive tackle, with Taron Vincent also sidelined.
Alex Williams and Ronnie Hickman also did not practice. On Wednesday, Day said he expected Vincent and Williams to return to action after next week’s spring break. Hickman is rehabbing from a torn ACL. Thayer Munford, who will miss the entirety of spring practice, spent the entire time walking around the field with his helmet on and a ball in his hand.
Kamryn Babb, Master Teague and Jerron Cage took part in a portion of the practice, but also spent time with the training staff. Marcus Williamson was still wearing an orange partial participant jersey, while Marcus Hooker shed the orange jersey he wore on Wednesday.
Demario McCall returned to action after missing Wednesday’s practice. He is working with the running backs.
Receiver and DB highlights
Standout performers from Friday’s practice included sophomore safety Josh Proctor, who showed his ability to make plays on the ball for a second practice in a row to start spring. Proctor intercepted a pass during 7-on-7s and came from behind to break up a pass on another throw, demonstrating his potential to be a playmaker in the secondary and climb the safety depth chart.
Binjimen Victor made perhaps the most impressive play of the open practice window when he made a spectacular catch along the sideline, pinning the ball against his helmet, on a deep ball by Baldwin against solid coverage from Jeffrey Okudah.
Jaelen Gill demonstrated his impressive speed and burst for the second practice in a row, making a nice adjustment to stop his momentum and come back to the ball for a deep catch against Isaiah Pryor on one occasion.
Jeremy Ruckert showed his sideline-catch ability with a toe-tapping catch during one-on-ones, while Garrett Wilson laid out to make a diving catch coming back to the ball on a low throw from Baldwin. Cameron Brown intercepted a pass that Fields intended for Austin Mack, but Mack beat Brown later to catch a deep ball from Baldwin.
Jaylen Harris showed his size with a catch over Okudah, though he was called for offensive pass interference and later came up gimpy on a route and limped to the sideline.
One of Okudah’s best plays of the morning came when he tipped a pass on a deep route that led to an interception from Marcus Hooker.
- Damon Arnette spent time with the punt returners during punting drills, but did not actually field any punts. K.J. Hill, C.J. Saunders and Gill handled those duties.
- Brendon White continued to rotate between safety and linebacker, lining up at deep safety in some drills but working with the linebackers in individual drills. Jahsen Wint, who has also made the move from safety to playing a hybrid position, also spent time at both positions. With Jordan Fuller sidelined, Pryor and Proctor were among those who saw the most playing time at safety, with Shaun Wade and Amir Riep running mostly at cornerback.
- When cornerbacks and safeties were split up during individual drills, secondary coaches Jeff Hafley and Matt Barnes each spent time working with each group, switching with each other between practice periods. The linebackers were also split up between Al Washington and Greg Mattison during individual drills.
- To begin linebacker drills, Washington and Mattison split the linebackers into two groups, essentially outside and inside linebackers. In order, the outside linebackers included Justin Hilliard, Brendon White, K'Vaughan Pope and Dallas Gant. The inside linebackers included Pete Werner, Tuf Borland, Malik Harrison, Teradja Mitchell and Baron Browning.
- Players at the front of their respective stretching lines: J.K. Dobbins, Baldwin, Hill, Rashod Berry, Josh Myers, Branden Bowen, Kevin Woidke, Joshua Alabi, Wade, Arnette, White, Okudah, Victor, Hamilton, Jonathon Cooper, Hilliard, Borland and Liam McCullough.
- The same five offensive linemen that took first-team reps on Wednesday were on the first team again on Friday. The group included left tackle Joshua Alabi, left guard Gavin Cupp, center Josh Myers, right guard Wyatt Davis and right tackle Branden Bowen.
- Both Noah Potter and Zach Harrison took some reps with the second-team defensive line. They clearly have impressive frames, but both look skinny compared to their fellow defensive ends and need to put on weight.
- Punt gunners include Garrett Wilson, Binjimen Victor, Ellijah Gardiner, Jeffrey Okudah and Sevyn Banks.
- Former Ohio State running back Mike Weber and wide receiver Parris Campbell, fresh off their trips to the NFL Scouting Combine, were both at Friday's practice. Other visitors at practice included former Ohio State players Joey Galloway and Joshua Perry and Ohio University cornerbacks coach De’Angelo Smith, a Columbus native who played at Cincinnati.
- Director of football operations Quinn Tempel, who calls out commands over the loudspeakers throughout the practice, reminded players on several occasions over the open hour of practice to make sure they hydrate between drills.