Fall Practice Insider: Offense is On Pace Per Herman
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There is the belief that the Ohio State offense will go as far as quarterback Braxton Miller can take it. With Urban Meyer declaring Miller the most dynamic athlete he has ever had at quarterback, one could consider Miller a human HOV lane.
However, being just a sophomore, Miller has quite a ways to go yet. Still, he has been very impressive in practice throwing the ball, and hasn't really exhibited the issues that were commonplace for him last year.
Offensive coordinator Tom Herman said that the majority of Miller's throwing problems last year came from footwork issues, and as long as those issues remain resolved, then Miller is more than capable of being a very productive player.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Physically, his acceleration and explosiveness are off the charts," he said.
"The kid can throw the football. He's got a quick, smooth release. If he's very consistent with his footwork, he can do some dynamic things in the throwing game because he can avoid a lot of problems back there with his feet and extend plays, which is an incredible asset for him.”
Herman planned to have the entire offense installed by the sixth practice, and right now, those plans are still on target. He said that the base offense goes in during the first three practices. Then the periphery things go in on four, five and six. After that, they just refine what they already know and hone in on the different physical skills and what the defense is doing. Then you adjust everything accordingly.
Until the current crop of Ohio State receivers produces on the field, questions will remain. Herman has liked what he has seen to this point, but is careful not to get too excited.
“Potential," is how he described his receivers. "That's probably the biggest word. And we all know in this game, potential just means you haven't done it yet.”
There is a glimmer of hope, however, according to Herman. Now it's up to the coaches to “pull out that potential and turn it into performance on the field.”
Corey "Philly" Brown
Photo by Brandon Castel
One player in particular is junior receiver Philly Brown, who Herman said he has to "do a better job of moving him around”. When asked if Brown could be used in the ballyhooed hybrid role, Herman didn't seem too enthused about the idea.
“I'm not sure how many carries he can withstand inside the tackles. That probably wouldn't be something that would be considered at that position where he would get carries on inside zone or power, but he could certainly motion back into the backfield and become a pitch guy on an option, or a fly sweep guy, because he does have some acceleration and some speed.”
Herman said that if they didn't have a receiver that could also carry the ball, they wouldn't try to fit square pegs in round holes. The point is to put your playmakers in the best position to make plays.
One receiver who continues to make plays in practice is freshman Mike Thomas. He has pretty much caught everything that is catchable, and the passes that aren't catchable still have Thomas leaping over defenders trying to come down with the ball. Herman has been impressed, but he says Thomas still has some things to work on.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Mike's got really good ball skills. He comes in and out of his cuts really well. He understands some of the nuances that are inherent in good route running. Mike's gotta do a better job mentally of picking up the offense and understanding the minutiae of the offense as a whole, not just his position. But he's a freshman. He's got a chance to be good if he will really pour himself into that.”
Herman also said that tight end Jake Stoneburner was their mold for the type of tight end that they like. Flexible enough to move in space, and strong enough to play close to the line of scrimmage. He worked with the receivers for the most part during practice.
The Walking and the Wounded
Receiver Verlon Reed was back at practice after being absent yesterday. Still in recovery mode from his injury last year, he did take part in drills, but sat out during the scrimmage portion of practice. While he was in there, he looked fine and didn't show any signs of injury.
Freshman offensive lineman Pat Elflein was again absent. Fellow freshman lineman Joey O'Connor left the practice field with a left leg situation, but it didn't appear serious. He returned later, but did not participate.
Freshman center Jacoby Boren was still repping with the threes, which means he's not yet ready to move into his spot with the second team.
Running back Jordan Hall was walking around in a boot on his right foot, but did so without a considerable limp.
Walk-on offensive lineman Ben St. John was also injured when his right ankle made an audible "pop" during a drill. He walked off under his own power and tried to loosen it up to no avail.
Lining It Up
Throughout spring and now into summer, right tackle candidates Reid Fragel and Taylor Decker have both struggled in pass protection at times. However, those struggles are coming against the likes of John Simon and Michael Bennett, which doesn't really tell us how well either would do against the rest of the teams on their schedule.
Fragel has only repped with the first team from what we have seen, though Decker did get some snaps with the ones during the scrimmage portion of Tuesday's practice. While Fragel appears in control of this battle, it may not be settled until Big Ten play—or possibly following the Michigan State game.
Chase Farris had another fair day at second-team right guard. The key for him may be how much he actually wants to play offense, but if he's unhappy about being moved from defense, it's impossible to tell because he is still playing as hard as he ever did. At one point he was even earning praise from Urban Meyer, who shouted, "Nice job, Chase. Nice job, Chase."
During one-on-one drills, freshman defensive tackle Adolphus Washington bested Farris on a pass rush, but Farris responded the very next snap and stuffed Washington at the point of attack.
Speaking of Washington, who is a relentless brute, he and Decker got into a bit of a shoving match that was quickly ended by offensive line coach Ed Warinner. Decker, by the way, got the best of defensive end Steve Miller in consecutive one-on-one battles.
The same could not be said for fellow freshman lineman Kyle Dodson, who simply had no shot at stopping freshman defensive end Noah Spence, who is ridiculously quick. Dodson did win his battle against Washington in the circle drill to start practice, however.
During the scrimmaging portions of practice, the guards did a very good job of getting to the second level and tying up the linebackers, which freed numerous tailbacks to score during redzone drills without receivers and defensive backs.
The Buckeyes did quite a bit of running game scrimmaging in the redzone, and the first-team offense looked pretty spectacular. Of course, they only ever went up against the second-team defense, so the deck was a little bit stacked.
It was during these drills that fullback Zach Boren scored twice, taking the ball right up the middle and looking completely comfortable doing it. Carlos Hyde scored a few times kicking the ball outside and racing defenders into the endzone.
Rod Smith scored three touchdowns in four attempts, each time running right up the middle and getting tremendous second-level blocks from his guards. The most impressive part about it? He was working with the second team against the first-team defense.
For his part, freshman Bri'onte Dunn went 0-4 working with the second team against the first team, but he did score a touchdown with the third unit going against the third-team defense.
Freshman Warren Ball was also with the third-team offense going against the third-team defense and he scored twice, exhibiting some very nice shakes in traffic. However, sometimes he did too much shaking, because he bobbled the football twice.
Interestingly, freshman quarterback Cardale Jones did not take any snaps during this drill, though he did take snaps during the rest of practice.
Depth Charting Tuesday's Offense
5 Braxton Miller (6-2, 210, So.)
13 Kenny Guiton (6-3, 206, Jr.)
12 Cardale Jones (6-5, 226, Fr.)
34 Carlos Hyde (6-0, 235, Jr.)
2 Rod Smith (6-3, 230, So.)
25 Bri'onte Dunn (6-1, 214, Fr.)
28 Warren Ball (6-2, 215, Fr.)
44 Zach Boren (6-1, 246, Sr.)
49 Adam Homan (6-3, 245, Sr.)
SPLIT END (X)
15 Devin Smith (6-1, 196, So.)
83 Mike Thomas (6-2, 193, Fr.)
16 Evan Spencer (6-1, 190, So.)
29 Taylor Rice (5-10, 185, Sr.)
10 Corey Brown (5-11, 182, Jr.)
80 Chris Fields (6-0, 180, rJr.)
11 Jake Stoneburner (6-5, 245, rSr.)
81 Nick Vannett (6-6, 248, rFr.)
86 Jeff Heuerman (6-6, 247, So.)
74 Jack Mewhort (6-6, 310, rJr.)
76 Darryl Baldwin (6-6, 292, rSo.)
66 Kyle Dodson (6-6, 315, Fr.)
78 Andrew Norwell (6-6, 304, Jr.)
55 Tommy Brown (6-4, 310, rFr.)
69 Eric Kramer (6-4, 285, rSo.)
71 Corey Linsley (6-3, 292, rJr.)
73 Antonio Underwood (6-2, 301, So.)
50 Jacoby Boren (6-2, 283, Fr.)
60 Joey O’Connor (6-4, 295, Fr.)
79 Marcus Hall (6-5, 315, rJr.)
57 Chase Farris (6-4, 285, rFr.)
64 Ivon Blackman (6-3, 310, Jr.)
77 Reid Fragel (6-8, 298, Sr.)
68 Taylor Decker (6-8, 313, Fr.)
67 Ben St. John (6-3, 277, So.)
Practice Report: Defense
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