Observations from Ohio State's First Fall Camp Practice of 2019

By Colin Hass-Hill and Dan Hope on August 2, 2019 at 11:20 am
Justin Fields

For the first time in nearly four months, the Ohio State football team practiced on Friday morning.

Members of the media were invited to watch the first 30 minutes of the practice, giving us our first glimpse of the Buckeyes in action since the spring game in April.

As expected, Justin Fields was first in the quarterback line to start Friday’s practice, followed by Chris Chugunov, who is now the longest-tenured scholarship quarterback on the roster. Gunnar Hoak, participating in his first-ever practice as a Buckeye, was third in the quarterback line to begin his first practice.

Fields took the first reps in each drill throughout the open viewing portion of practice.

The quarterbacks were on the opposite side of the field from where the media was allowed to watch for the entire open portion of practice, so there wasn’t much opportunity to actually evaluate how they were throwing the ball, but the brief viewing window – which consisted of a warm-up period, punt team drills and work divided by individual position groups – did give some clues into how the depth chart could look as spring practice opens.

A peek at the first-team defense

While we didn’t get a chance to see the Buckeyes scrimmage against each other during Friday’s practice, we were able to get a brief glimpse at who was running with the first-team defense to begin camp.

All three linebackers who started last season – Malik Harrison (weakside), Tuf Borland (middle) and Pete Werner (strongside) – lined up with the first-team defense. 

At Big Ten media days, Day said sophomore Teradja Mitchell was “pushing” Borland, but the 20-game starter and returning team captain got the nod to open camp. It’s not a surprise that Borland opened with the starting defense given his experience, but he’ll have to perform well in August to maintain his starting position. Middle linebacker is arguably the most important position battle to watch on either side of the ball as preseason camp progresses. 

As returning starters, Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper lined up at defensive end, as expected. They were joined on the line by defensive tackle Jashon Cornell and nose tackle Davon Hamilton. 

Robert Landers started at nose tackle last season, but Hamilton impressed the coaches the past few months. At Big Ten media days, Day said Hamilton had a “tremendous offseason” and “has a chance to change the line of scrimmage for us up front.” At 3-technique, Cornell will have to hold off Taron Vincent and Haskell Garrett after moving back inside from defensive tackle.

Damon Arnette, Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade and Jordan Fuller lined up in the first-team defensive backfield to open the team portion of practice on Friday morning.

Arnette and Okudah are likely to start on the outside as cornerbacks, and Fuller will start at deep safety. It’s unclear whether Wade was playing nickelback or safety, but his presence on the starting defense shows Ohio State’s confidence in him. Since Day hired him, Jeff Hafley has talked about his desire to be able to play different schemes and personnel packages to match whatever offenses throw at the Buckeyes, and Wade’s versatility will aid in that effort.

Brendon White was not with the first-team defense, but he’s expected to play a large role after claiming a starting spot down the stretch of the 2018 season. He has the edge at the newly created bullet position over Jahsen Wint and also could line up at safety.

Alabi, Jackson, Petit-Frere line up with first team

Thayer Munford was back on the field Friday after missing the entire spring while recovering from a back injury – but he wasn’t with the first-team offensive line. Joshua Alabi lined up as the first-team left tackle during the early portion of practice, while Munford ran with the second team.

That’s not something you should read too much into – when Munford is back to 100 percent, he’s fully expected to be the starting left tackle – but it is an indicator that Ohio State is still easing Munford back into the lineup, and that Greg Studrawa and Kevin Wilson want to make sure Alabi is ready to fill in for Munford if need be.

Rutgers graduate transfer Jonah Jackson, participating in his first practice as a Buckeye, was not eased into the lineup; Jackson, wearing a black stripe on his helmet because he is a newcomer, was with the first-team offensive line at left guard right off the bat.

Nicholas Petit-Frere, meanwhile, opened camp as the first-team right tackle alongside Josh Myers at center and Wyatt Davis at right guard. Branden Bowen, who is expected to compete with Petit-Frere for the starting right tackle job, started camp with the second-team offensive line.

In between Munford and Bowen, the second-team offensive line consisted of Gavin Cupp at left guard and a pair of true freshmen, Harry Miller and Ryan Jacoby, at center and right guard.

The third-team offensive line was made up of Kevin Woidke at left tackle, Enokk Vimahi at left guard, Matthew Jones at center, Brandon Pahl at right guard and Dawand Jones at right tackle.

Additional observations

  • In a change from past years, injured players were not signified by different color jerseys on Friday, but several players recovering from injuries worked out on a side field instead of with the rest of their teammates. Those players included wide receiver Kamryn Babb, who suffered a knee injury this spring; linebacker Justin Hilliard, who ruptured his Achilles this spring; safety Ronnie Hickman, who is recovering from a torn ACL; and walk-ons Noah Donald and Austin Kutscher.
  • Cornerback Tyreke Johnson also did not practice, spending the morning on the side working with a trainer. 
  • Demario McCall, C.J. Saunders, Jaelen Gill and K.J. Hill all took reps as punt returners during the punt team portion of practice.
  • Scouts from the NFL’s Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings were on hand to watch Friday’s practice.
  • J.K. Dobbins, Justin Fields, Austin Mack, K.J. Hill, Robert Landers, Davon Hamilton, Chase Young, Liam McCullough, Malik Harrison, Tuf Borland, Pete Werner, Jonathon Cooper, Jordan Fuller, Brendon White, Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade, Damon Arnette, Josh Myers, Branden Bowen, Luke Farrell, Rashod Berry, Joshua Alabi and Kevin Woidke were the leaders in their respective stretching lines.
  • Day gave the speech to the team gathered around him to kick off fall camp.
  • Much of the verbiage used under Urban Meyer remains the same under Day. “Four to six, A to B, not going to change,” director of football operations Quinn Tempel said to the team through the public-address system during one of the opening periods of practice.
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