Ohio State Practice Insider: Buckeyes Break Camp under Fickell
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With a light breeze blowing in and a comforting cloud cover shielding what can often be a scorching August sun, the Buckeyes broke camp Monday in Southern California weather.
Though he could hardly sleep the night before, Luke Fickell made it to his first practice as the new head coach at Ohio State, and said he was pleased with what he saw on day one.
“It went good. I think the weather helped us out a lot,” Fickell said after practice.
“I think we got cooled off. I think the enthusiasm is up. I think everybody’s excited. I think it’s been a long time waiting.”
And a long time coming, much like the quarterback battle, which had yet to take shape on day one of fall camp.
“I hate to make judgments on anybody on the first day, especially before watching the film,” Fickell said.
“I think they hustled around. They probably were doing what they were
asked to do. We’ll continue to evaluate them as they go.”
Much like the spring, senior Joe Bauserman took the first snaps with the first-team offense, but all four scholarship quarterbacks got a chance to run with the first group.
Sophomore Kenny Guiton was the second quarterback in the rotation, with freshmen Taylor Graham and Braxton Miller slotting in to the third and fourth spots respectively.
The Braxton Watch
Those who are fretting over Miller’s spot in the rotation should step away from the edge of the cliff. It was only day one and there is sure to be movement at the quarterback spot as fall progresses.
Already Braxton is showing a unique ability to move the offense. His release is much quicker than the other three and his passes are not lacking in velocity. The biggest thing for Miller will be his ability to understand the entire offense, especially where his receivers are going to be and, more importantly, when they are going to be there.
Best Player on the Field
It would be hard to argue against senior DeVier Posey as the best player on the offense, despite the fact he spent most of day one working with the second-team offense. Posey won’t be on the field until week six, but he is far and away the team’s best receiver.
Defensively, the most impressive player on day one was safety C.J. Barnett, who did not seem to lose any of his aggressiveness with the knee injury that knocked him out for most of last season.
After a scary knee infection last month, tight end Reid Fragel was on the practice field Monday and ready to go. The junior out of Michigan looked perfectly fine running around and spent most of his day working with the first-team offense, especially when Jake Stoneburner was lined up in the slot.
Handling Suspended Four
The coaches didn’t have to worry about Solomon Thomas Monday because he was sidelined by a minor injury, but the other three suspended Buckeyes were on the practice field for the start of fall camp.
Exactly how Fickell and the staff decide to use them will be something to keep an eye on for the next two months, but if Monday is any indication then they will not be working with the first-team.
Tailback Boom Herron did get some reps with the first group Monday—probably because it’s a lot easier to switch out a running back than a left tackle—but Posey and Mike Adams both worked with the second-team.
With Adams down on the second-team, the first unit on the offensive line during practice No. 1 looked like this:
LT – Andrew Norwell
LG – Jack Mewhort
C – Michael Brewster
RG – Marcus Hall
RT – J.B. Shugarts
That was a bit of a change from the spring, when Adams was still working as the first-team left tackle and Corey Linsley was taking most of the snaps at right guard. Linsley was working with the second team offensive line, which looked liked this:
LT – Mike Adams
LG – Eric Kramer
C – Brian Bobek
RG – Corey Linsley
RT –Tommy Brown
Linsley could be back with the first group on day two, but it is clear that the staff likes Marcus Hall a little bit better at the start of camp.
On the other side of the ball, the first unit defensive line was such:
DE - John Simon
NT - Garrett Goebel
DT - John Hankins
DE - Nathan Williams
Adam Bellamy acted as the fifth guy in the defensive line rotation and with Solomon Thomas out, J.T. Moore got in there as the backup to Nate Williams at the Leo position. Both saw time with the first unit Monday, but it’s clear they consider Bellamy to be a part of the first group.
As such, the second group looked like:
DE – J.T. Moore
DT – Joel Hale
NT – Evan Blankenship
DE – Melvin Fellows or Darryl Baldwin
Sam I Am
One of the biggest changes from the spring was Storm Klein taking over as the first-team middle linebacker, while Etienne Sabino slid outside to play the Sam linebacker spot. A big reason for that was the losses of Jonathan Newsome and Dorian Bell, but with a healthy Tyler Moeller back, the Sam backer isn’t expected to be on the field a whole lot this fall.
Sabino was the one who came off the field when Moeller came in on nickel situations, but he did play some middle linebacker with the second group. So did Jordan Whiting, while 5-star freshman Curtis Grant played inside with the third group.
Grant looks like a player out there, but he looked pretty lost on his first day of practice—something that’s not wholly unexpected for a freshman.
Reinforcing the Defense
With Barnett and Moeller back on the field, we finally got a glimpse of how good Ohio State’s defense could be in 2011. They weren’t wearing pads, but both players were impressive in their fall debuts. Moeller seems to be a tremendous difference-maker for the defense and could very well be the fastest player on the field, certainly in the front-seven.
The back seven looked like:
CB –Travis Howard
WLB – Andrew Sweat
MLB – Storm Klein
SLB – Etienne Sabino
Star – Tyler Moeller
CB – Dominic Clarke or Bradley Roby
FS – C.J. Barnett
SS – Orhian Johnson
It was also nice to see Storm Klein back from the hamstring injury that sidelined him in the spring. Klein seemed to be all over the field Monday, making plays in the passing game especially.
Also good to see Corey Brown back in action after a vicious knee injury in 2010.
Freshmen Wasting No Time
Braxton Miller wasn’t the only freshman who made an impact Monday. Tight end Jeff Heuerman enrolled in the spring, but he is already coming on strong in the fall. He spent some time working with the first-team offense and made a few nice catches over the middle.
Wide receivers Devin Smith and Evan Spencer also had a nice debut, with Smith making the catch of the day on a ball thrown a foot over his head.
Defensively, Michael Bennett and Steve Miller were both impressive playing with the third group. Miller beat left tackle Chris Carter a few times and Bennett made a couple guys look silly, even with a splint on his left arm.
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