Spring Has Sprung
Spring has sprung in the Great State of Ohio. Yes, it’s cold, miserable, and we keep getting snow, but Ryan Day said it’s time for spring. When the head coach football coach says it’s time for spring, it can only mean one thing: the Buckeyes are actually on the field DOING something. After just over two months of enjoying the success of the 2018 season (yes folks, it was successful), and speculating on what MIGHT happen in 2019, we get to see our favorite college football team actually do something. You can’t tell much from the first two days of spring practice. But, having the Buckeyes on the field is a whole lot better than not having them on the field. Here’s a look at some things that went on during those first two days.
There was a bit of news before Wednesday’s first practice. Day announced left tackle Thayer Munford, and safety Jordan Fuller would both miss spring practice due to injuries.
Alex Gleitman of 247 Sports reported safeties Brendan White (the Rose Bowl defensive MVP) and Jahsen Wint are moving to a new hybrid safety/linebacker role. Just how they are going to be used hasn’t come out yet.
When he met with the media after Wednesday’s practice, Day said he will continue to call the plays this upcoming season. That makes me very happy because I really like the way he calls an offense. Specifically I like how he will run the same play from multiple formations.
With Thayer Munford sidelined for the spring, Josh Alabi is working at left tackle with the first team. Alabi started the Rose Bowl in place of Munford. Branden Bowen is at right tackle. He looks fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered midway through the 2017 season when he was the starter at right guard. As expected, Josh Myers is at center, and Wyatt Davis at right guard. Redshirt junior Gavin Cupp is the left guard. This is a real opportunity for Cupp because graduate transfer Jonah Jackson is not due to join the program until late May. Cupp has spent his OSU career as a special teams player, so this is his chance to make an impression on the coaching staff.
The best news to come out of Wednesday’s first practice session is new secondary coach Jeff Hafley was teaching the cornerbacks to turn and look for the football. I can not tell you how sick and tired I am at watching high school and college defensive backs play with their back to the ball, and all to often watch the receiver make the catch. Right now guys in the secondary+ are being moved all over the place. Shaun Wade lined up at cornerback, in the slot, and at safety on Wednesday.
Haskell Garrett looks like he’s getting the first shot at taking over the defensive tackle position vacated by Dre’Mont Jones. No surprise here. Also, not surprised K.J. Hill is first in line at H-back. He’s followed right now by C.J. Saunders, and redshirt freshman Jaelen Gill. We already know what Hill can do, but Gill is the one I’m keeping an eye on because of his blazing speed.
Quarterbacks Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin both looked sharper today than Wednesday. Day said this is going to be a battle.
Urban Meyer attended today’s practice.
It’s Still Just Gym Class As Far as I’m Concerned
The NFL Scouting Combine took place late last week, and through the weekend in Indianapolis. I know everyone makes a big deal out of it, and the media loves to blather on about such-and-such quarterback improved his draft stock because he performed well in the vertical jump. But, it’s all just gym class to me. I don’t watch it, and unless someone puts up eye-popping numbers, I really don’t pay much attention. Well, a few of our favorite former Buckeyes put up some eye-popping numbers, so let’s talk about what they did.
Do you remember when the “experts” said running back Mike Weber was slow? Yeah, I’m sure they backpedaled on that one in a hurry after he turned in a 4.49 second 40-yard dash time. That was third best among the running backs. He also pounded out 22 reps with 225 pounds on the bench press. The bench press number isn’t surprising because we all know how strong he is, but when you combine it with that time in the 40, it shows he has speed to go with that power. I think he’s going to be a productive NFL running back who is going to make a team very happy to have him. He was one of five former Buckeyes to named to the All-Combine offensive team by NFL.com.
The receiving trio of Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and Johnnie Dixon opened some eyes as well. Campbell blazed to a 4.31 time in the 40. That time was the fastest among the receivers, and was matched by Andy Isabella of UMass, an Ohio native I’d love to see the Browns draft as a slot receiver. McLaurin continued his impressive showing that began at the Senior Bowl in January. He ran a 4.35 at the Combine, and is starting to get more and more attention. Dixon showed off his speed with a 4.41. I’d be very happy to see one of these guys in a Browns or Bengals uniform. Campbell and McLaurin were also named to the All-Combine offense.
One former Buckeye who concerns me a bit is offensive lineman Michael Jordan. He did well enough overall to be named to the All-Combine offensive team because he has such great feet, but one number jumped out at me when I saw his results. He did just 19 reps with 225 pounds on the bench press. Here’s some perspective: Terry McLaurin did 18. Seeing an offensive lineman do only one more rep than a wide receiver is a cause for concern for me that he’ll get shoved around by NFL defensive lineman. Keep in mind Jordan is young. He started as a true freshman, and is leaving after his junior year. I think he’s going to be very good, but whoever drafts him may have to be patient while waiting for him to mature a little more.
It is nearly impossible to believe Nick Bosa could improve his draft stock, but he did. He showed almost freakish athleticism, and left no doubt he’s the top player in the draft. There are rumors the Cardinals are considering taking Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall pick. That would be a typical Cardinals move, and remind you why that franchise has been to one championship game in 70 years. Bosa is the best player in the draft; it’s not even debatable.
Dwayne Haskins had an excellent workout, and was another Buckeye named to the All-Combine offense. He was clearly the best quarterback at the workout. NFL quarterbacks get paid to throw the football, not run. Haskins showed he can make all the throws. Kendall Sheffield tore a pectoral muscle during the bench press; Billy Price suffered the same injury at the Combine last year. Sheffield will not need surgery to repair the injury. Defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones, and offensive tackle Isaiah Prince also participated in the workouts. Remember when Jones was considered almost a lock to be a first round pick? If I’m seeing his name listed anywhere in a mock draft it is near the end of the first round; many don’t have him being chosen in the opening round. It will be a mistake if he slides out of the first round. Much like defensive end Sam Hubbard, who was taken in the third round last year, Jones is a player, and will be far more productive than a lot of guys taken ahead of him.
Haskins’ chief competition for the first quarterback selected in the draft, Heisman winner Kyler Murray, did not have a good Combine according to former NFL exec Charley Casserly, now of NFL Network; actually it was pretty awful. Casserly said Murray’s interview was a disaster, and these were the worst comments he’s ever heard about a highly-rated quarterback. He said Murray’s leadership, study habits, and performance diagramming things on the dry erase board were not good. Casserly went to say don’t even try to compare Murray to Patrick Mahomes, and Beker Mayfield; they’re completely different players. Those in the media who love Murray will say this is nothing more than a smoke screen put out by teams who want to scare others away. Former Cowboys’ exec Gil Brandt, also of NFL Network, said all of this is untrue. What I learned from working in TV news for many years is when there are completely opposite takes on the same story, the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. My guess is Murray was rather mediocre at the combine.
Most of you probably don’t know I love to read. I’m always in the middle of a horror story, and a sports book. So, I thought I’d give a few off-season reading recommendations for you nice people to occupy yourself while we wait for the Buckeyes’ opener on August 31st.
Here are a few about Buckeye football:
1968: The Year That Saved Ohio State Football: The best Buckeye football book I’ve ever read. It takes you inside the 1968 national championship season, and looks at how that team was built. It gives great insight into the mad genius that was Woody Hayes. I HIGHLY recommend this to any OSU fan.
You Win With People!: This was written by Woody himself, and published in 1973. Still a great read. I got a copy at Long’s Bookstore not long after it came out. It wasn’t until I arrived back home did I discover it was signed by Woody.
Buckeye Rebirth: Urban Meyer, an Inspired Team, and a New Era at Ohio State chronicles the 2012 undefeated season, along with The Chase: How Ohio State Captured the First College Football Playoff are both by longtime Columbus Dispatch Buckeye beat writer Bill Rabinowitz.
There are a TON of books on Ohio State football out there. If none of these look interesting, I’m sure a Google search will turn up something that catches your eye.
Here are a few other football books:
The Game of the Century: Nebraska vs. Oklahoma in College Football’s Ultimate Battle looks at this rivalry game’s matchup on Thanksgiving Day in 1971. Nebraska was ranked number one, and the defending national champion. Oklahoma was undefeated, and ranked second. This was easily one of the greatest regular season games ever.
Striking Gridiron: This is the story of Braddock High School’s pursuit of the nation’s all-time win streak in the late 50’s as the town went through a steel strike. If you love high school football, you’ll enjoy this book.
Twelve Mighty Orphans is Jim Dent’s look at the football team of the Masonic Home in Fort Worth, Texas in the late 20’s through the early 40’s. This isn’t just one of the best sports books I’ve ever read, it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. The adventures the kids of the home have off the field are every bit as entertaining as what happens on the field, and maybe more so. The story of the kid with the glass eye boxing in the local Golden Gloves will leave you doubled over with laughter. You’ll love this book.
Some non-football books:
One Shot at Forever: In 1971 high schools in Illinois were not separated into different divisions. A hippie English teacher with no coaching experience managed to take tiny Macon High School to the brink of a state baseball championship. Practices were optional, the uniforms were mismatched, and he allowed the players to put whatever they wanted on their hats (most chose peace signs). This is simply a great story.
The Fight of the Century: On March 8th, 1971 Muhammed Ali fought Joe Frazier in one of the great sporting events of the 20th century. This is the inside story. I’ve been fascinated by this fight since I was a kid, and this book taught me a lot of things I didn’t know.
The Rebel League: A look at the short, and wild life of the World Hockey Association. You don’t have to be a hockey fan to enjoy this book. Filled with anecdotes of the teams, and characters that made up this league.
Actor Luke Perry died on Monday after suffering a stroke. The Ohio native was a graduate of Fredricktown High School. Former WWE superstar King Kong Bundy passed away the same day. Jeopardy host Alex Trebek announced he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. They say bad news comes in threes. It sure has this week.