Practice Insider: Spring Has Sprung
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS — Spring practice was not even five minutes old and already Jim Tressel was fielding questions about which young players were standing out to him.
“So far after one practice,” Tressel asked rhetorically with a smile.
“In shorts,” he added.
That’s the nature of spring ball. If it wasn’t for stories like that there wouldn’t be much news to report.
And yet no news is good news in Columbus, where Buckeye football is a 24-7 obsession in a city where spring football is the second biggest season of the year.
The Buckeyes were in shorts and shells (shoulder pads and helmets) Thursday for their first practice of the 2010 calendar year and already a few youngsters were standing out to the boss.
“I saw Corey Brown do a couple things that I’m not sure I noticed in the fall. Kind of a newcomer there at corner, a do-everything guy as a wideout and DB and so forth in high school. He looked a little bit more like a fluid guy that was playing that position,” Tressel said of the redshirt freshman from Gateway Pennsylvania.
“I saw Chris Fields do some things. I think he’s been steadily coming along, but its different reading it off a card than understanding the concepts of ours. Zach Boren caught the ball pretty well on the perimeter drill. Lineman wise it’s impossible to tell with just helmets on, but John Simons got a lot of quickness.”
Coach Tressel wasn’t the only one taking mental (or actual) notes during the first spring practice. Here are my thoughts from what I saw at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Thursday:
1.Terrelle Pryor did not seem bothered by the knee. It has been less than a month since Pryor underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, but already the Buckeye quarterback appears to be back at full strength. He had some very good throws Thursday and some less than desirable ones, but that’s the TP we’ve come to know. The important thing was that he was not wearing a brace and did not look hobbled, either moving around or throwing the ball in practice.
“No, he’s not limited,” Tressel said.
“We will limit the quarterbacks, but he’ll do everything everyone else does.”
2. Tyler Moeller was back playing football. He won’t take part in full-contact this spring, but it was good to see Moeller back on the practice field Thursday after missing all of last season with a head injury suffered in a freak accident over the summer. He was wearing a no-contact blue jersey over his scarlet No. 26, but that didn’t stop him from participating in team drills, where he often lined up at safety with the second and third team defenses.
“What we’ve decided as a plan is to get him moving around and the natural bumps that happen, but don’t put him into full-out, go-after it contact,” Tressel said.
“He’s naturally going to have elbows smack his head, and balls and hands and shoulders maybe occasionally. But as long as he goes without any incident there I have high expectations.”
3. The Buckeyes are healthy to start camp. Outside of Moeller, the only other players who were limited on the first day were linebacker Andrew Sweat, cornerback Travis Howard and running back Jermil Martin. Sweat is still recovering from season-ending knee surgery, but he and Howard both participated in some of the non-team drills.
4. Mike Adams has the inside track at left tackle. It was only day one, but already it looks like Adams might have a leg up in the competition for the open left tackle spot. Andrew Miller spent a little bit of time working with the ones Thursday, but for the most part it was all Adams at the left tackle spot on the first group. Without full pads, it’s impossible to give any kind of update on Adams’ performance, but he looked to be the best conditioned offensive lineman on the team. Now maybe they will rotate by the day, and Miller will take most of the snaps with the ones Friday, but if not, it’s a good indication that Adams is ahead of the pack.
5. Offensive line taking shape. With Adams on the first group, the offensive line went LT Adams, LG Justin Boren, C Michael Brewster, RG Bryant Browning and RT J.B. Shugarts across the front. Shugarts in particular seems to have made a drastic physical transformation in the offseason. He looks huge. Not fat, but built. After that group, the second team went LT Andrew Miller, LG Connor Smith, C Jack Mewhort, RG Corey Linsley and RT Marcus Hall. Miller seems to have gained back the weight he lost from the flu last year as he looked to be about 295-300 pounds. The third group was LT Sam Longo, LG Chris Malone, C Scott Sika, RG Evan Blankenship and RT Josh Kerr.
6. Youngsters filling holes on the d-line. Up front defensively, it was Nathan Williams taking the spot of Thad Gibson at the LEO spot and John Simon taking over for Doug Worthington on the first group. They were joined by Cam Heyward and Dexter Larimore, the two returning starters from last season. Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said Williams and Solomon Thomas were battling for the starting LEO spot, but they would think about moving Heyward over to tackle if Williams and Thomas both proved to be among the best four. Thomas was on the second group with Keith Wells, Garrett Goebel and Adam Bellamy. Heacock said that Bellamy is up to 295 pounds and he is hoping to see both he and Goebel step up to become a part of the eight-man rotation on the defensive line. Redshirt freshman Melvin Fellows was working with the third group, but Heacock said he has seen good things out of the young defensive end.
7. Fierce competition at linebacker. Etienne Sabino spent much of the day playing the Sam linebacker spot with the first group, but Heacock said the best three linebackers will play. There was some talk before the spring about Rolle maybe not being one of those three, but Heacock did not show any such sentiment Thursday.
“You’ve got your two naturals, Ross (Homan) and Brian Rolle. Those are your two linebackers now who’s the third,” Heacock said.
Right now that third guy is Sabino, who looked much more comfortable out there today, but there’s a long way to go before camp. Andrew Sweat is still coming back from injury and Storm Klein just might turn out to be the wildcard. He played some inside and some outside, as did both Rolle and Homan. Klein worked with the first and second groups, and it’s possible that if he can work his way into the starting lineup, Rolle might get moved to the outside.
8. No ringing the Bell. Expected to be part of that competition at linebacker, Dorian Bell was nowhere to be found Thursday. After practice, coach Tressel confirmed that Bell was indeed out there, but the fact the question had to be raised says a lot about Bell’s impact on the first day. He split time with walk-on Tony Jackson on the second and third team defenses.
9. Coleman watching his replacement. Former safety Kurt Coleman was on-hand for Thursday’s practice (as were former Buckeyes Aaron Pettrey and Marcus Freeman). It’s safe to say Coleman was paying close attention to his old spot, now being occupied by Orhian Johnson. Jermale Hines slid into the first-team strong safety spot, a position he shared with Anderson Russell last year, and after that there was a large rotation of guys on the second and third team defenses. That included Nate Oliver, Aaron Gant, C.J. Barnett, Zach Domicone, Tyler Moeller and Jaime Wood. Don't be surprised if Barnett emerges as a guy in the two-deep from that group. He looked excellent out there today and seemed to get more reps with the twos than any of the other safeties.
10. This looks familiar, sort of. Barnett was one of four returning players wearing a new number Thursday. He switched from 14 last season to take Coleman’s old number (4) this year. Both players are from Clayton Northmont and have a good friendship on and off the field. Sophomore tailback Jordan Hall also switched his number from 29 to 7, while safety Nate Oliver went from 15 to 20 and Jamie Wood went from 23 to 21.
Related Article: Buckeyes Open Spring Practice Minus Two
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