Football Spring Practice Insider: Defense Caught Off Guard, Loses First Competition Day of Spring
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In a Spring dominated by the Ohio State defense while the offense implemented a new system, people began to wonder if the offense would ever make their mark.
If Wednesday's practice was any indication, the offense left enough marks on the defense to warrant quite a bit more respect from those who had questioned it previously.
It was the first win on a competition day for the offense, and it apparently wasn't even all that close. Though a Chase Farris interception late in the scrimmaging portion of practice closed the gap some.
Urban Meyer called it one of the best Spring practices that he has ever seen. He labeled it "A-1-A", which is apparently the highest grade that a practice can receive, unless "A-1-A-1" is also a thing.
Insert your own double steak joke here.
Perhaps one of the reasons the offense had so much success today is because the defense was without starting safety C.J. Barnett for much of the scrimmaging on the afternoon.
During a one-on-one drill, Barnett came up gimpy, and had what appeared to be some type of groin issue. It did not look serious, assuming it's possible for a groin injury not to be labeled serious.
Urban Meyer did give Barnett some kudos after practice, saying that he loved his leadership and intensity.
Safeties Jamie Wood and Zach Domicone were in their customary yellow jerseys, as they have been all Spring. Defensive end Se'Von Pittman was be-yellowed as well. Meyer said after practice that Pittman sprained his MCL, and while they're hoping to get him back next week, he's not expecting it.
Linebacker Storm Klein and defensive lineman Kenny Hayes also did not participate.
Does Big Hungry Now Have an Appetite For Destruction?
Redshirt freshman offensive guard Chris "Big Hungry" Carter has been switched to the defensive line, and today was his first go-round as a Silver Bullet.
Meyer said that Mike Vrabel and Luke Fickell had been clamoring to get Carter on the defensive side of the ball "since day one".
Listed at 6-4 358 pounds, he certainly provides a presence in the middle, but presence has never been his problem. Meyer mentioned that they wanted to see how Carter performed this Spring on the offensive line, but that they were also going to give him a look on defense.
With Meyer saying on Wednesday that Carter "wasn't progressing" on offense, it's likely that this move is permanent...for now.
As for how Carter performed on the day, as you would expect, he had ups and downs. During one-on-ones he was having issues winning battles. But during the scrimmage, he brought freshman tailback Bri'onte Dunn down at the line of scrimmage on one particular play.
It was interesting to watch Vrabel coach him, because he was very patient with Carter, and patience isn't always one of Vrabel's strong suits.
Strength On the Front Line
Urban Meyer has talked constantly about the way that defensive linemen John Simon and John Hankins have performed, and for good reason.
But it's not just those two who have performed well this Spring, as fellow starters defensive tackle Garrett Goebel and defensive end Michael Bennett have been fantastic as well.
Goebel is often overlooked by fans, but he's exactly the type of tackle that a defense needs at the point of attack. He showed very quick hands in drills today, swatting blockers like they were hippies handing out fliers.
Bennett might be more disruptive on the inside, but it's pretty obvious that the staff just wants to get him on the field anyway that they can.
Second-team defensive lineman Chase Farris has worked both inside and outside this Spring, and showed even more versatility when he picked off Kenny Guiton during a scrimmage.
With our vantage point mostly blocked by the non-participating offensive players standing about ten yards behind the quarterback, it was still impossible not to notice a pair of hands rise above the helmets of those blocking our view and snatch a football out of the air.
If that's the kind of quickness that Ohio State will be rotating in on their defensive interior this year, along with a guy like Bennett, that's pretty impressive.
Speaking of the interior, I was very impressed with how vocal sophomore defensive tackle Joel Hale is. He's only a second-year player, but he was acting like the leader of the second unit defensive line. That line also has Adam Bellamy on it, who started ten games last year.
He wasn't just vocal, however, he also had a sack on Kenny Guiton. It was one of the few times the Buckeyes showed a straight drop back pass.
Sophomore defensive end Steve Miller was doing some moving around as well, standing up and roaming around the line of scrimmage, looking for the best route to get to the quarterback.
Also, sophomore defensive end J.T. Moore was back to full participation, after having spent the Spring wearing a limited contact green jersey.
Down on the Corner
It's always a treat to get to watch cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs work with his charges, and Wednesday's practice was no different.
A constant wave of energy, the Buckeyes' newest coach was relentless on his players when they did both good and bad.
After breaking up a pass, senior Travis Howard waved his arms to signify that there would be no completed passes his way today. Coombs looked over at Howard, who was standing by fellow starter Bradley Roby and said, "You guys are high maintenance! You're like a pretty woman."
On another play, sophomore cornerback Doran Grant broke up a pass intended for Devin Smith in the endzone, and Coombs had to chase Grant down to tell him what a great job he had done.
Shortly after that, after imploring freshman Tyvis Powell to employ a specific technique, Powell answered back, "I tried", to which Coombs knowingly or unknowingly quoted Yoda, telling him, "Do or do not, there is no try."
A minute or two after that exchange, Travis Howard broke up another pass play, which drew a penalty flag. Coombs didn't see the flag and was telling Howard what a great job he did. Then, when he saw the flag laying at his feet, Coombs picked it up and threw it back at the ref in semi-real disgust.
There was virtually no change to the defensive two deep on Wednesday, save for the fact that with Storm Klein out, redshirt freshman Conner Crowell was the sole second-string middle linebacker.
Also, safeties Corey Brown and Orhian Johnson both got some time with the first team, though Brown was in for the injured Barnett.
Ron Tanner got some time with the second unit at safety and laid enough of a hit on tailback Rod Smith to make him slow to get up.
Adam Griffin and Tyvis Powell both split reps with the second unit at cornerback, though Griffin went first.
Emptying the Notebook
- In "collision drills" between linebackers and running backs, Rod Smith had a couple of nice moments, standing up and then shrugging off Conner Crowell, and then doing it to Etienne Sabino the next time through.
- Jordan Hall planted Ryan Shazier in the same drill, but then Shazier answered back by stopping Smith the next time through.
- Sabino continues to come off the field in the nickel, and Orhian Johnson comes on.
- Curtis Grant continues to look the part. One one play he tracked down Braxton Miller on a quarterback sweep and made his way through all of the wash to bring Miller down by himself.
- It also says a lot that Grant remains in the game in the nickel, and that fifth-year senior Sabino comes off the field. Pass coverage is sometimes too much for young linebackers to handle.
- Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown had a pretty good day today. He was a very solid tackler during the scrimmage.
- In the third down scrimmage, Meyer said the offense converted 70-80% of their third downs. That should probably be a concern for a defense that is going to face athletic quarterbacks on a nearly-weekly basis.
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