Spring Football Outlook: Who to Watch For (Offense)
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With such an abrupt conclusion to the Ohio State basketball season, it seems hard to believe that spring football could be just days away.
It is going to be a strange year around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, but between the lines, football is still football.
Even with Terrelle Pryor and four teammates set to miss the first five games of the 2011 season, there will still be 11 Buckeyes on the field when Akron comes to Columbus on Sept. 3 for the season-opener.
Who those 11 players on each side of the ball will be is going to be as interesting as anything that happens off the field. With that in mind, we take a look at a number of players to watch for this spring, starting with the offense.
Photo by Jim Davidson
5 QB Braxton Miller (6-2, 185, Fr.) – If you haven’t heard the name Braxton Miller before, then let us also tell you that Terrelle Pryor is suspended for the first five games of the season. Shocking, right? In fact, Pryor likely won’t even participate in spring football because of the foot injury he suffered in the Sugar Bowl. That leaves the other four quarterbacks to compete for the job, and make no mistake about it, this really is a competition. Five games is a lot of football, and they can’t simply hand the ball to Joe Bauserman and tell him to hold down the fort until Pryor, and Jim Tressel, return. No offense to the others, but Miller clearly has the most talent, but how quickly can he pick up the system? Being at Ohio State for spring practice will be a huge help.
24 RB Rod Smith (6-3, 200, rFr.) – If Miller isn’t the most talked about name heading into the spring, then it has to be Rod Smith. Like Miller, Smith has never played a down at Ohio State, but he has future star written all over him. Not only does he look like Eddie George with his shirt off, but Smith was one of the most productive running backs in Indiana high school history. He brings a different level combination of speed and power than any other back on the roster, and he has been raved about by his teammates since the end of the regular season. Expect Smith to be right there in the competition to replace Boom Herron for the first five games.
Photo by Jim Davidson
4 RB Jaamal Berry (5-10, 200, rSo.) – Everyone is talking about Smith, but Jaamal Berry is a name that should not be forgotten. Unlike Smith, Berry has actually seen time on the field, and he averaged 8.3 yards per carry last season as Ohio State’s fourth-leading rusher. Berry seems to have put injury concerns from his freshman season behind him, and with Herron suspended for five games; this is the perfect opportunity for Berry to step to the forefront. He might look like Jordan Hall from physical standpoint, but they are two different players. Berry has less wiggle, but more burst, and he isn’t afraid to stick his nose in there between the tackles.
80 WR Chris Fields (6-0, 185, rSo.) – Like Berry, Chris Fields was on our list of players to watch last spring, and he didn’t disappoint. If you think back to last year, Fields actually had a tremendous spring. He was one of the best receivers on the team during drills, and even worked his way into the lineup with the first team offense a little bit. But then Taurian Washington had that big spring game, and Corey Brown came on strong in the fall and Fields fell behind both of them. Washington is gone, along with Dane Sanzenbacher, and DeVier Posey is suspended for five games. That leaves the door wide open for fields, who has great quickness and athleticism.
18 WR T.Y. Williams (6-5, 218, rFr.) – It also leaves the door open for a guy like T.Y. Williams, who brings a totally different feel to the wide receiver position. Listed at 6-foot-5, Williams is tall and skinny, but seems to have added a little bulk this off-season. He took a redshirt last year because he wasn’t mentally prepared to play the game at this level, but former receivers coach Darrell Hazell had nothing but good things to say about him. If he has picked up the mental part of playing the position, Williams could be a star on the verge of breaking out.
14 WR Verlon Reed (6-0, 195, rFr.) – There is no indication that Verlon Reed will be in the mix for a starting spot this spring, but he is worth keeping an eye on. A former high school quarterback, Reed had some tough moments adjusting to the wide receiver position last year. He wasn’t much of a route-runner, but once he gets the ball in his hands, Reed has electricity in his feet. He probably wouldn’t beat Corey Brown or some of the other guys in a track meet, but with the ball in his hands, there might not be a faster guy on the roster, except maybe Jaamal Berry.
78 OT Andrew Norwell (6-5, 308, So.) – We got to see a little bit of Norwell last year, as he stepped in for J.B. Shugarts at right tackle whenever his foot problem became too much to bare. Physically, Norwell looks like an upperclassman on the offensive line. He’s big, strong and has a wide base. He played very well as a true freshman last season, and has to be considered the front-runner to play left tackle while Mike Adams is serving his suspension.
79 OL Marcus Hall (6-5, 321, rSo.) – Like Norwell, Marcus Hall saw some good playing time as a freshman behind Shugarts at right tackle. He even started the game against Iowa, and it looked like Hall was on his way to something great. He even competed with Adams and Andrew Miller for the left tackle job last off-season, before academics forced him to take a redshirt. That doesn’t mean Hall’s career is over, far from it. He continued practicing with the team and is back on the field this spring. Expect him to compete for one of the starting spots vacated by Justin Boren and Bryant Browning. Yes, that means he would be playing guard, but Hall is one of the best five linemen on the team and needs to be on the field.
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