COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes moved their Tuesday practice into Ohio Stadium so that they could partake in an abbreviated kick scrimmage and get their special units involved in some tangible pressure situations.
Ohio State Practice Insider - Defensive Line Taking Shape
By Tony Gerdeman
In fact, the final kick of the day came from 49-yards out and would determine whether the offense or the defense would walk back to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. If you happened to be driving across the Lane Avenue bridge early this afternoon, you would have noticed the offense walking back in full uniforms after Drew Basil's lone miss of the scrimmage bounced off of the left upright and fell into the endzone.
Aside from that miss, the kicking game actually looked pretty good. Punter Ben Buchanan has his job locked down, despite having a punt blocked in the endzone by freshman linebacker Curtis Grant. Buchanan really had no chance on the attempt because Grant was in the backfield almost immediately.
Photo by Dan Harker
Prior to the blocked punt, Buchanan had just boomed a 55-yarder with his heels inches from the back of the endzone. After the blocked punt, he hit a 42-yarder from the same spot.
Of the six punts that Buchanan got off, he averaged 46.3 yards per kick.
There were really no punt returns, as whistles would be blown soon after each catch. Both freshman receivers Devin Smith and Evan Spencer bobbled a return, putting the ball on the ground each time.
Linebackers coach Mike Vrabel and cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson appeared to be working with the punt coverage units.
The kickoff coverage units were a frequent topic of discussion last season, and they may not have done much to sway the feelings one way or the other on Tuesday. Devin Smith had a 48-yard return, but that was about it on the afternoon for the returners.
They used two kickoff coverage units on the day. The first was Orhian Johnson, Dominic Clarke, Carlos Hyde, Verlon Reed, Ryan Shazier, Drew Basil, Ron Tanner, Rod Smith, Jamie Wood, Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown and Doran Grant.
The second unit was Bradley Roby, Philly Brown, Curtis Grant, Evan Spencer, Taylor Rice, Drew Basil, Jordan Whiting, Chris Maxwell, Dionte Allen, DerJuan Gambrell and Devin Smith.
What's My Line?
Not that this is a surprise, but when the Ohio State defense gets its first snaps from scrimmage on September 3rd, expect the front four to look like this:
Leo - Nathan Williams
DT - Johnathan Hankins
NT - Garrett Goebel
DE - John Simon
However, Adam Bellamy and J.T. Moore have been as much a part of the first unit as anybody else, so right now there's more of a top six than a top four, and because of the versatility up front, Bellamy and Moore can come in for anybody.
Photo by John Porentas
On Tuesday, freshmen Michael Bennett and Joel Hale were also getting quite a few reps with the first team. Nathan Williams didn't do much on the day, which allowed the freshmen to get in there. Fellow true freshman Steve Miller even got some work with the first unit in seven on sevens, but you probably can't read too much into that, especially when he was also working with the third-team defense during scrimmaging.
Redshirt freshman Darryl Baldwin also got some time with the first team, though he worked mainly with the second unit. This has been a huge last week and a half for Baldwin, who has gotten more run than any time in the past.
He has made plays here and there, but this might be one of those times when the coaches throw some players into the fire to see whether or not they can be part of the plans during the season. So far it seems like Baldwin is responding.
This weekend Jim Heacock said that this was the best freshman defensive line class at Ohio State since the 2000 class with Will Smith and Darrion Scott. On Tuesday, Kenny Hayes became the latest freshman to make some plays. Working with the second unit, he showed speed and quickness getting into the backfield to disrupt a couple of plays in a row. He has lined up inside and outside so far in camp, so clearly they like his versatility. However, there just might not be anywhere for him to play this season.
Though, on that subject, John Simon spoke with the media after practice and said that if a defensive lineman can play, then he'll be in the rotation. They want to rotate as many guys on the defensive line as possible. That's nice and all, but at some point the redshirt year becomes much more valuable than cursory snaps.
He did say that while positions are still up for grabs - as they always are, those same positions are "definitely starting to solidify".
Along with the six "starters" mentioned above, it seems pretty clear that Michael Bennett and Joel Hale will be in the rotation as well. Then there's Evan Blankenship, who is generally working with the second unit. Then you throw in Darryl Baldwin, who seems to be making a move, and what about Solomon Thomas if he is healthy following his suspension?
That's eleven names without including Steve Miller or Kenny Hayes, both of whom have been working with the twos. If this really is going to be a rotation of eight, then there will be some fairly talented players watching from the sidelines this season.
Tyler Moeller was back practicing today, but he only practiced lightly. Christian Bryant was in for Moeller when the team went eleven on eleven.
Etienne Sabino was out because of his broken hand. He says he will be back for the season opener, however. Chad Hagan is still out with the concussion that he received a week or two ago in practice. Solomon Thomas continues to be out as he recovers from knee surgery according to J.T. Moore.
Odds and Ends
With Sabino out, freshman Ryan Shazier was on the field with the first team base defense. He was also out there at times in the nickel with Storm Klein as Andrew Sweat looked on from the sideline.
Given that Shazier is on at least one of the coverage units, and he's backing up a guy with a broken hand - and also because he makes plays all over the field - he seems to be a lock to see playing time this season.
Dominic Clarke got some time with the ones on Tuesday, which is the first time we've seen him splitting reps with Bradley Roby in over a week. It appeared that the job had already been won, but Clarke has apparently done enough to warrant a few series with the starters. There was a moment on Tuesday where Roby clearly did something wrong and Taver Johnson was all over him for it. Maybe this was an on-the-fly call by Johnson, as opposed to something that had been planned.
Expect freshman cornerback Doran Grant to see the field some this season as well. He's already moved up into the two deep at cornerback, and he's with the ones on at least one coverage unit. He was matched up with Devier Posey at time or two on Tuesday and held his own.
On the flip side, Travis Howard got beat on a bomb from Joe Bauserman to Philly Brown.
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