Ohio State Assistants Outline Next Steps For Their Position Groups as Buckeyes Eye Summer Workouts

By Eric Seger on April 22, 2017 at 7:15 am
Ohio State's assistants provide context to what they want to see from their units over the summer.
2017 Spring Preview

As much as college football coaches want to, they can only do so much on-field instruction with their players throughout the summer months that the NCAA allows. Spring practices are ending at programs all across the country, coaches are readying to hit the recruiting trail, classes are finishing up and summer is right around the corner.

With coaches largely out of the city or even state, it now falls on the players themselves to carry over what steps they took through winter workouts and spring drills to improve their games even further. Classes end on Monday and final examinations wrap up eight days later.

“I was so impressed with the character and the quality of our kids and how they worked. I thought our spring has been more of that kind of production,” Ohio State offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said. “I’d just like to see, can we maintain that kind of style through the summer and just be a hard working, blue collar team?”

That remains to be seen but the with the amount of talent the Buckeyes have set to return and the 11 members of their 2017 recruiting class ready to enroll in June, expectations remain as high as ever. Urban Meyer's program has participated in two of the first three editions of the College Football Playoff.

More opportunities await, however.

“Couple areas we've got to shore up, and I don't think we're nine strong, but I think we're seven strong right now,” Meyer said after the Spring Game last Saturday. “And that's pretty good in April to be that.”

Below is what a handful of his assistant coaches said where their respective unit stands and the focus is for each as the program transitions from spring to summer.

Note: Quotes are from interviews conducted on Wednesday to close spring. Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa, wide receivers coach Zach Smith and running backs coach Tony Alford were not made available to reporters.

Greg Schiano — Defensive Coordinator and Safeties Coach

“Right now, the guy who performed like a starter is Damon Webb. He had his best stretch of football that I've ever seen in him, and I haven't seen that much, but from what I've seen, it was his best stretch of football. He has a look about him, a focus that I think this is going to be a huge summer for him. He's going to come back and have a great senior year.

“After that, the competition's on. And I don't know where it's going to end up. Some of the young guys at safety have also showed some real promise. Guys like Jahsen Wint, you know who came in here and a year ago was kinda just figuring out what college football and college life was all about. He took a big step. Isaiah Pryor, a newcomer, should still be in high school, he's shown some promise. So again, it's so wide open at the other spot. The good thing is we know we have a guy, one proven guy who really got better and we need to find that second guy and like you said, if there's a third, then we play three.”

Schiano also added that Jordan Fuller and Erick Smith are fighting for the other starting safety job and wouldn't mind rotating them if they are both ready. In his role as defensive coordinator, Schiano added that a significant part of his focus is tightening the screws even further on an entire unit that improved immensely in 2016.

“We made some great strides in taking the ball away last year. We went from 50-something in the country to 10th,” Schiano said. “Well, how do we go from 10th to first? We did some things in other areas. Red-zone defense, we weren't very good coming off a year ago. We really improved. At Ohio State, you have the type of players that you should be at the top in all the categories. So we look at it and say, OK we've made improvements. As coach always says, now we've got to enhance it.'”

Kevin Wilson — Offensive Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach

“A couple weeks ago, I asked the tight ends, ‘What do you need from me in our practice?’ And they said, ‘We’re not working on the passing game enough in our individual work.’ I said, ‘That’s what the summer’s for,” Wilson said. “Right now with pads on, I can’t be here in the summer but I can be here now, we’re going to emphasize some of the blocking fundamentals that are critical to our position.

“At the end of the day, we want to be a very, very physical running attack and try to get the ball outside and down the field. We’ll see if we can accomplish that between now and then in the preseason.”

And as the mastermind behind Ohio State's offense, Wilson expects the same kind of effort individually from everyone involved in the passing game. That includes quarterbacks J.T. Barrett, Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell in addition to the receivers, running backs and tight ends.

“I think the summer is where, in one on one and in minor groups, these kids on their own can really clean up some of the routes,” he said. “How to get in and out of breaks, J.T. and Joe and Dwayne and Tate can get with the guys and how to feel like where to drop their ball. There’s a lot of work they can do on their own. It’s kind of like a golfer going to the driving range. The passing game in the summer, those guys can get on their own and really clean up some things I think.”

Billy Davis — Linebackers

“With us linebacker-wise, there is nothing we can't do,” Davis said. “There is so much good tape now from the spring game, from what we do and how we are going to do it. You can practice a lot without contact. There are things the guys can do with each other where they can get better without contact.

“You don't have to have the violent pounding in any way, shape or form. The guys are old enough and smart enough to on their own, go out there and get better.”

Larry Johnson — Defensive Line

“Really it is back to the basics, back to fundamental technique,” Johnson said. “Working on things that we can't get a chance to do like drops and sled work, in the boards, video study, those kinds of things. Those are the things we will do in the offseason.”

Johnson also said he hopes to see injured members of the defensive line like Tracy Sprinkle get back to full speed this summer. Jonathon Cooper got healthy and played well in the spring game too. But having Sprinkle all the way back in the fold by training camp would be a "bonus."

“I think he is pretty close. We are still monitoring him a little bit,” Johnson said. “He got some work right down at the end of spring ball but now we will go full speed and see what happens.”

Ryan Day — Quarterbacks

“I think you see two guys behind J.T. who are building and growing as quarterbacks. They’re both still young but they’re getting better with every practice,” Day said. “We talk about whether they are game-ready and that’s the goal. When we get to August, are they game-ready and can they go in there and play.

“J.T. is a great leader. But those guys are really stepping up, too.”

Kerry Coombs — Cornerbacks

“We have to get better in order to match the standard that we have here. That was obvious on Saturday in the Spring Game,” Coombs said. “It was a great experience for those young players to have that happen to them and not have it count.

“There were some wide-open plays where there were just some mental mistakes. Turning a back loose on a wheel route, those kind of things that were really rookie mistakes that were great lessons. There’s no question there were some things the offense did specifically to take advantage of the stuff we were doing, and they were successful.”

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