Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Four Downs: First-practice observations
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Urban Meyer was only ready to truly evaluate one thing.
The Ohio State coach couldn't lead a full-contact practice on the first day of spring camp, so there was only so much he could really find out physically about his second Buckeyes team.
But mentally Meyer was able to get a read on where the Buckeyes were when they reported to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Tuesday, and those reviews were positive as the work toward providing an encore to a perfect season started on the practice field.
"It was fine, I wasn't really concerned about attitudes, I knew we would have good attitudes," Meyer said. "What I’m concerned with is just the development of some players and after Day One I can’t give you a whole lot, other than we went out in shorts and did have a good attitude. Guys like Tyvis Powell and Pittsburgh Brown and some other guys had good days, thought we threw and caught pretty well.
"It’s the first day in shorts. We’ve got to expect them to [have a good attitude]."
The camp opener did provide a few notable developments aside from the way the Buckeyes approached the workout mentally, starting with these four players/positions.
Jordan Hall drew praise from Urban Meyer after Ohio State's first spring practice Tuesday.
The move to the H-back position already appears to be a winner for the redshirt senior, and Meyer might be talking about the catch Hall made against blanket coverage deep down the middle of the field for the rest of spring.
The question about the former tailback was how reliable he'd be as a target in the passing game with Carlos Hyde solidly the lead option at running back, and the early answers were overwhelmingly positive for Hall. He showed no lingering signs of injury, was sharp and decisive with his cuts while showing his old quickness and consistently made catches no matter the difficulty.
"Boy, was he great today," Meyer said. "I thought he was great today. I’ve got to be careful because sometimes I start to like players too much and it gets me in trouble, but I love that guy. Didn’t bat an eye."
Second down: Tyvis Powell
The Buckeyes worked almost exclusively out of the nickel package on defense, which wasn't all that surprising because of the veteran experience returning in the secondary and also because Meyer indicated that personnel group would be featured plenty against early-season opponents this fall.
But one member of that group was something of a head-turner, with Powell emerging as a first-day contributor to the starting unit at the Star position after redshirting his freshman season.
The cornerback is an intriguing option given his length at 6-foot-3, and he moved well and didn't look overwhelmed in coverage despite not playing last fall. There is more competition coming in the defensive backfield from the incoming class, but last year's apparently has more to offer as well.
Third down: Defensive front
The Buckeyes only have one position group that must be completely rebuilt, but it doesn't seem to be short on potential options to fill the starting spots on the defensive line.
Highly touted rising sophomores Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence are in line for the first-team work at defensive end, with Spence looking much more developed in his upper body while still flying around at a high speed during individual drills. Michael Bennett and Joel Hale did the majority of the work with the starters on the inside, but Tommy Schutt isn't far off the pace and will be needed to help carry the load as Ohio State sorts through its candidates in the spring.
Fourth down: Target practice
Meyer flashed back to his assessment of the wide receivers at this time a year ago after practice on Tuesday, but he clearly didn't need to bring "clown shoes" back into his conversation with the media when the workout was over.
Hall was productive, and Devin Smith and Evan Spencer both shined at times in various drills, making catches in traffic, showing off their speed and looking more polished as route-runners.
Rising sophomore Michael Thomas also turned heads with some difficult grabs and certainly looked capable of giving the Buckeyes a big, physical threat on the perimeter if he continues to develop the way he appears to have since his freshman campaign ended.