Ohio State Buckeyes: Se'Von Pittman

Ohio State might not be looking up at Michigan in the rankings for too much longer if it can keep landing prospects like the one the Buckeyes earned a pledge from Thursday.

Jalyn Holmes
Scott Fink for ESPN.comJalyn Holmes adds another ingredient to an already stacked Ohio State D-line cupboard.
ESPN 300 tight end Jalyn Holmes (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor) verbally committed to Ohio State after he visited the Buckeyes on Wednesday. Rumors swirled Wednesday he committed on his visit, but at the very least he left Columbus as a heavy Ohio State lean.

Holmes, a 6-foot-5, 219-pound two-way standout, will likely play defensive end for defensive line coach Mike Vrabel at Ohio State. So once again the Buckeyes have added another powerful piece to what is quickly becoming arguably the strongest position on the roster when considering both the 2012 and 2013 hauls. Since 2012, the Buckeyes have landed 12 four-star defensive linemen, including five-star Noah Spence, a 2012 signee that looks to be headed for stardom in Columbus.

The addition of Holmes fills a need at defensive end in the 2014 class, too, although numbers dictate the Buckeyes could take another with the loss of former ESPN 150 defensive lineman Se'Von Pittman.

Aside from adding a valuable piece to their 2014 class, the Buckeyes are hoping the addition of Holmes could help them gain a foothold in the talent-rich state of Virginia. Three prospects with a five-star ranking reside in Virginia, and the Buckeyes missed out on Quin Blanding and Da'Shawn Hand. Eight prospects from Virginia are in the ESPN 300, and the state is in the same class as Ohio when it comes to producing Division I talent.

Why Meyer takes patient approach 

June, 11, 2013
Some coaches come out in flurry. Some like to wait and close the door behind everyone else.

While Michigan and Ohio State go at the recruiting process differently -- or more to the point, Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer -- both strategies work.

Hoke has the No. 1 2014 recruiting class right now. Michigan held the same distinction at this point last year before falling to No. 6. And no one closes quite like Meyer.

As the 2014 recruiting class comes more and more into focus following what was yet another strong national signing day for Urban Meyer, BuckeyeNation will take a position-by-position look at the juniors.

Today, we examine the defensive line position. Though it’s a position of strength for Ohio State, Se’Von Pittman (Canton, Ohio/McKinley) did announce plans to transfer, thus opening up a spot for someone to take his place.

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Se'Von Pittman elects to transfer

March, 5, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Notably missing from the rotation on the rebuilt defensive line during the first practice of spring camp, Se'Von Pittman won't be returning for any more workouts with Ohio State.

The program confirmed late on Tuesday evening that the redshirt freshman has elected to transfer and was granted his release, ending his brief career with the Buckeyes.

Pittman was part of a heralded group of four defensive linemen signed in Meyer's first class with Ohio State, but the 2012 ESPN 150 pick and No. 14 defensive end in the country never played a down with the team after flipping his commitment from Michigan State late in the recruiting process.

He was an early enrollee a year ago and took part in spring practice, but a knee injury suffered midway through camp cut his work short and ultimately set him back while classmates Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt all contributed in some form right away as true freshmen.

Those three will still be key components for a unit that lost all four starters from the line that helped the Buckeyes go undefeated last fall. But Ohio State will now be moving on with Pittman now permanently out of the practice picture.

OSU Mailbag: The promise of 2014 

March, 1, 2013
It’s time to dip into the BuckeyeNation recruiting mailbag and answer some of your questions.

We’ll try to keep to five questions a week to give everyone a chance to get their answers.

We encourage you to send your questions by Twitter at @bbournival, e-mail at brad.bournival.espn@gmail.com or by posting a question in the Horseshoe Pit forum.

Here’s the latest installment.

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Spring forward: DEs breakdown

February, 20, 2013
With national signing day in the books, the next big date on the Ohio State calendar as it continues working toward an encore in 2013 of an undefeated season is spring practice. Before those workouts begin, BuckeyeNation will take a look at each position to see where the roster is at -- and where it's going.

    • Who's back: The Buckeyes don't exactly have a shortage of talented defenders returning to the fold up front, but it's what they're missing that will dominate the discussion heading into spring and the summer workouts. The storied career of John Simon is over after one more dynamic season on and off the field, and after battling back from injuries to contribute on the other end of the line, Nathan Williams is out of eligibility also. There's never been much doubt about how bright the futures are for Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, and in limited action as true freshmen last fall, they showed flashes what they can do. But the Buckeyes won't need potential when September rolls around -- they'll need production, and those two and rising junior Steve Miller are at the head of the line and waiting for redshirt freshman Se'Von Pittman to join them.

(Read full post)

Meyer building defensive line foundation 

February, 5, 2013
Urban Meyer builds in the trenches to win championships.

One look at how Florida completely dismantled Ohio State from a defensive standpoint in the national championship game after the 2006 season shows the blueprint.

He piles up defensive linemen in recruiting and wears the competition into submission with a rotating front.

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Meyer showing proficiency as closer 

January, 9, 2013
Mariano Rivera, save the split-finger fastball. The same goes for you Rollie Fingers, with your almost unhittable slider. The best closer in the recruiting business might indeed be Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.

On the job 13 1/2 months with the Buckeyes, the two-time national champion’s early returns show just how strong he is at slamming the door shut on a class.

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Next up: Replacing Nathan Williams

January, 2, 2013
Heading into the new year and offseason workouts, BuckeyeNation will look at some holes left by the departing Ohio State veterans and potential candidates to fill them.

    [+] EnlargeNathan Williams
    Greg Bartram/US PresswireNathan Williams made the most of his senior season in his return from a serious knee injury.

  • Who: Despite hardly practicing in live situations at all during training camp and still needing to have his reps limited during the first half of the season, Nathan Williams gave the Buckeyes the kind of help up front they were hoping for as he worked back from microfracture knee surgery. Williams might not have had the kind of explosion or lateral mobility that he had before suffering the injury that wrecked his junior season, but he progressively chipped off the rust after a full year on the shelf and wound up making 40 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss. His work ethic and determination as he rehabbed might have been even more valuable for a team with a handful of talented defensive linemen behind the upperclassmen, setting an example that could stick with the program well after Williams has moved on.
  • By the numbers: The numbers weren't all that impressive individually, but what they might have lacked in each specific category, Williams made up for by putting in entry in pretty much every column in the stats sheet. Among the major statistics for defensive players, Williams chipped in at least one play for each of them -- missing only a safety, a blocked kick and an interception.
  • Job description: At times, Williams' role shifted between linebacker and defensive end, which requires a unique blend of athleticism and intelligence to handle the various responsibilities needed to give the Buckeyes the ability to change from 4-3 to 3-4 formations and confuse offenses. The next guy to fill the void will have to be able to play in space and win matchups in coverage against the pass, as well as be able to rush the passer when a hand on the ground when Ohio State is looking to get after the quarterback.
  • Top candidates: Noah Spence wasn't quite ready to take over a first-team job during his first year on campus, but his steady emergence as a freshman helped add valuable depth up front and occasionally allowed the Buckeyes to get more creative with their packages and rotations on the line. Spence was officially listed by Ohio State as the backup to John Simon at the end of the season, but his impressive speed and size (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) that is almost identical to Williams makes him a logical choice to fill a sort of hybrid role for defensive coordinator Luke Fickell -- and perhaps take it to another level.
  • One to watch: At this point it's safe to assume the Buckeyes went at least 3-for-4 with their recruiting haul up front on National Signing Day last year. Earlier in the season, Urban Meyer publicly declared Ohio State had connected on all four -- and it will be up to Se'Von Pittman to break through in the offseason to deliver the clean sweep after battling through injuries and redshirting during his first year on campus. Tommy Schutt, Adolphus Washington and Spence each had the benefit of early playing time and might have something of a head start, but Pittman has the physical tools to be a force and the Buckeyes will at least need him to supply depth.

Meyer keeps pumping out great classes 

November, 21, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- One of Urban Meyer’s keys to victory isn’t that difficult to figure out. While he is having almost unprecedented success as a first-year coach at Ohio State -- there have only been two other coaches to start with 11 consecutive wins at the school -- it all begins in the recruiting world.

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Gareon Conley next Urban Meyer flip?

November, 15, 2012
In the recruiting world, they call it flipping when one school has a recruit under its wing but by signing day that athlete commits to a different university.

As the days dwindle until national signing day, attention has turned to which players Urban Meyer and Co. might roll their way in an all-important 2013 recruiting class for Ohio State.

Some look at Tony Stevens (Orlando, Fla./Evans) or Trey Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett). However, if odds were set, the most likely candidate is one most fans already know about.

Gareon Conley (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) has made it no secret that he wants to take visits -- whether official or unofficial -- before giving Michigan his signature.

A longtime Wolverine pledge, the cornerback has said he chose Michigan because no other big-name schools were really after him.

The Wolverines were the only visit Conley took, but now that he has interest from schools including Oregon and Ohio State he wants to see what they’re all about, even if that means he is no longer committed to Michigan.

The Ducks have shown strong interest, while Ohio State has extended an offer.

(Read full post)

Checking in on some notable developments during training camp for Ohio State, which hit its 10th practice on Monday with a two-a-day session.

ON THE MOVE: No matter what position he is listed at when the season opens, Jake Stoneburner was going to see plenty of passes.

The senior also figured to be lining up all over the field as Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer tries to generate mismatches in personnel.

But Meyer's move to officially designate Stoneburner a receiver could be meaningful for a handful of reasons as Ohio State tinkers with the spread offense and the weapons on hand.

First, it shows continued confidence in Stoneburner that he's got the physical tools to play all over the field and handle all the different responsibilities that come with playing on the perimeter. In the open workouts last week, Stoneburner hooked up with Braxton Miller twice for big gains deep down the field along with a knack for finding open space when his quarterback scrambled.

The receiving corps has earned praise for its progress since camp opened, with Devin Smith, Corey "Philly" Brown and Evan Spencer drawing regular mention from Meyer so far. But that has been a position of emphasis dating back to spring for Meyer, and if the depth perhaps still wasn't where the Buckeyes wanted it, Stoneburner gave them an easy fix for that.

But perhaps most important, the swap suggests Meyer has enough confidence in Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett to carry the load at tight end this fall. Vannett, in particular, hadn't done much to impress the coaching staff during spring and was rarely mentioned as a contributor, but that certainly appears to have changed over the summer and during the early part of camp for the redshirt freshman.

FRESH FACES: Not all the black stripes have been removed on the defensive line yet, but no matter what's on the headgear, the freshmen look like they belong.

Even on a unit that could be among the most elite in the nation.

During the two open workouts, Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Se'Von Pittman all flashed their athleticism and appeared physically ready for life in the Big Ten -- even before putting on pads.

The problem for the coaching staff could be finding playing time for so many guys up front, because there are talented veterans at every spot that could stand in the way of the newcomers this fall. That's certainly an issue the Buckeyes don't mind having, of course, but it will be interesting to see how the rotation pans out as camp progresses.

Spence's quickness makes him a handful on the edge, though he's got guys like John Simon, Michael Bennett and Steve Miller to contend with now and Nathan Williams at some point soon.

Washington has bulked up to 288 pounds and moved inside, but even there the Buckeyes aren't short of older options in Johnathan Hankins, Garrett Goebel and Joel Hale.

The new kids are going to get some live action, there doesn't appear to be much doubt about that. But the Buckeyes probably won't have to rush it.

STRONG HYDE: The challenge couldn't have been more clear from Meyer.

With or without Jordan Hall at running back, a turning point for Carlos Hyde was coming in the Ohio State backfield.

Early in camp, it appears the junior is heading down the right path.

The true test is coming when the calendar turns and the games start counting, but Hyde's name was the first out of Meyer's mouth as a standout performer in camp. And with the Buckeyes in need of somebody to handle the north-south workload in the rushing game, Hyde could be carving out a role in the offense that wouldn't be affected by the return of Hall in the middle of September.
A few more notes and quotes from Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s press conference on Sunday afternoon during the program’s annual media day:

THE BLACK STRIPES: A tradition that started during Meyer’s coaching days at Bowling Green has become big at Ohio State.

Meyer started placing black stripes on newcomers’ helmets until they proved they belonged.

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The key is finding a spot in the first four.

Michael Bennett doesn't care which one.

The sophomore defensive lineman is comfortable playing inside at tackle or sliding out to end, along with the ability to pull off a transition like that. And while it might be easier to focus on just one of those positions, specialization doesn't have nearly as much value to Ohio State as it puts together a starting rotation.

"I’m willing to play where the coaches put me," Bennett said after practice on Tuesday. "I know the three-technique and I know the end. Right now they have me at end, but it’s the beginning of camp.

"You never know."

That uncertainty isn't an issue for Bennett, whose versatility only strengthens and deepens a unit that's already on the short list for most talented in the nation.

The Buckeyes can use him on the interior along with Johnathan Hankins and Garrett Goebel without losing much beef with Bennett checking in at 6-foot-3, 277 pounds.

Or he can come off the edge since he's got quickness that doesn't often come in packages that size, allowing him to complement John Simon, Steve Miller or perhaps Nathan Williams once he returns from knee surgery.

Even without factoring in talented newcomers like Se'Von Pittman, Noah Spence or Adolphus Washington, earning a starting gig isn't going to be easy in the Ohio State training camp. Which is exactly why flexibility like Bennett provides will be invaluable.

"Michael was probably running with the first team through most of spring," defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. "He really showed a lot, he performed well for us as a true freshman (last year), one of those intelligent guys that picks things up pretty quick. He’s going to have the ability, probably, to play more than one position for us.

"When you have versatility, we have a chance to use you a lot more."

It’s a big name and maybe an even bigger long shot, but Ohio State will take the chance anyway when Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) makes an official visit this fall.

While the exact date hasn’t been set and McMillian says he’s still committed to Florida, he hasn’t shied away from coming to watch the coach that won two national championships in his home state.

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