Spring Practice Quick Takes: 2018 Buckeyes Already Taking Shape
This week's This and That: things actually happened on the field, t-shirt all-americans, I really hate big boy gym class, please stop talking and go, and you can't makeup things like this.
Springing Into 2018
After an eternity of waiting and endless talk of "maybe" and "might", the Buckeyes finally took to the field for spring practice last week. Yeah, I know it's been just over two months since the good guys made a chalk outline of USC in the Cotton Bowl (hey, Surfer Boys, it's a little different playing the Buckeyes in a bowl that isn't in your backyard, isn't it?). Yeah, I know it will be another three and a half months from the Spring Game (April 14th) until fall practice begins. But, for some reason, that two months of waiting always seems far, far longer than the wait from mid-April to early August. Maybe it's because the weather is much nicer through those spring and summer months than what we get in January and February in Ohio. Or it could be I tire quickly of the endless talk about college basketball. I'm going with the endless college basketball talk. Listening to it can make two months seem like 3, 4 or 5 lifetimes. Here is some news from the first two days of Buckeye spring practice.
-Michael Jordan, K.J. Hill, Jeffrey Okudah and Dante Booker will miss spring practice after all had shoulder surgery; none had a serious issue. Branden Bowen will, also, miss the spring as his rehab for a broken leg is taking longer than expected. Okudah's situation is the one which disappoints me most because I felt he could make a real push to come out of spring drills as one of the top two cornerbacks on the roster.
-Bowen's slow recovery may have opened the door for sophomore Thayer Munford to seize the right tackle spot. As expected, Isaiah Prince has made the move to left tackle, after spending the last two seasons on the right side. According to Eleven Warriors, Munford had monster winter conditioning sessions. When the head of the team's strength and conditioning program, Mickey Marroti, handed out awards at the end of the winter workout period, Munford's name was called often. If Coach Mick is impressed, you know Munford has Urban Meyer's attention as well. As for Bowen, if Munford impresses enough to put a stranglehold on the right tackle spot, he'll return to right guard, where he was the starter until being injured, once fall camp begins.
-Meyer acknowledged he has spoken to quarterback Joe Burrow and his family about the possibilty of transferring. It is a situation he said he will "watch very closely." Meyer, also, said he will let Burrow know by the end of spring if he is the starter or not. I want to see Burrow remain a Buckeye. If he were to transfer, it would leave the program with just three scholarship quarterbacks, one of which is a true freshman coming off of a knee injury. The Buckeyes need Burrow because, as we've seen a few times in the last couple of seasons, depth at that position has been beneficial to say the least.
-While most fo the attention is focused on the battle to be the starting quarterback, Meyer is most concerned about center. If any position on the team is completely up for grabs, it's this one. As expected, Matthew Burrell has been moved from guard and is being given a look. They've, also, moved redshirt freshman Josh Myers from guard as well. Myers was a road grader-like blocker in Miamisburg High School's run-oriented offense and spent his redshirt season learning to pass block. He's a dark horse to win the position because I'm guessing Urban Meyer would rather not start a freshman center. The other name which has surfaced is Josh Alabi. A redshirt senior, he was moved from defensive tackle last season to provide depth on the offensive line. One thing is certain: Meyer is not sold on fifth-year senior Brady Taylor as the starter. Taylor is at the top of the depth chart right now, but make no mistake, the position is wide open.
-Jashon Cornell has been moved to defensive end and will get a very long look from defensive line coach Larry Johnson. Cornell spent his first two years in the program as a defensive tackle and filled in well in the Cotton Bowl when Dre'mont Jones left with an injury. We know the Buckeyes will line up Nick Bosa and Chase Young at the position. Junior Jonathan Cooper will move into a regular role as well, but a fourth guy is needed for the rotation. Cornell is being every opportunity to be that fourth guy.
One thing for certain is it's early. There are going to be more changes and developments in the coming weeks once the Buckeyes return to practice after a week off for spring break.
Keep This In Mind
One of my yearly assignments, when I worked in tv news, was to travel to each of the local high schools in August to shoot a preview on their football team. One of my favorite and most hated places to visit was John Marshall High School in Glen Dale, WV (for those keeping score, this is country music star Brad Paisley's alma mater). I loved going there because their late coach, Mike Linsky, was a character and always wanted us to visit on the first day of two-a-days. On the other hand, I hated going there because each player was dressed EXACTLY the same: gray t-shirt and shorts, gold helmet with no decal or number. It was a nightmare trying to figure out which guys I needed to shoot (I spent a lot of time making notes about their shoes). But, those gray t-shirts and shorts allowed Coach Linsky to tell me a line he'd repeat each year and one that has stuck with me over the years. He used to say, "Everyone is a t-shirt all-american this time of year." It's really easy to look like a superstar when you're not in pads and there isn't anyone trying to take your head off. This is why I've not bothered wasting your time talking about who looks "unstoppable" during the first two Buckeye practices. Everyone one of Urban Meyer's players should look unstoppable this time of year. Once they put pads on, we'll find out soon enough who is nothing more than a "t-shirt all-american."
It’s Just Pointless
I’ve made it well known I do not like like the NFL Scouting Combine, or as I like to call it “NFL Gym Class.” It’s been confirmed former Buckeye center Billy Price has an “incomplete tear” of a pectoral muscle and will miss four months. Price suffered the injury on his first rep of the 225-pound bench press. He’ll be back in time for training camp and some think this has not hurt his draft stock.
What makes his injury worse is it happened while doing something pointless. How many reps you can bench press with a certain weight is, as I've said, pointless. Just like everything else at that dog and pony show the league insists they can’t do without. Why does it matter how many reps a player can do? How many or few does not make you a good football player. Do any of you remember the 1988 season when WVU, who was led my Major Harris, met Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl for the National Championship? All season we heard how many of WVU’s players bench pressed over 300-pounds. But, it didn’t take long to see Notre Dame was by far the more physical and talented team. My complaint about the Combine is it does nothing to show who is actually a football player. Wasn’t I saying something about t-shirt all-americans?
Former OSU cornerback Denzel Ward recently addressed the media about his decision to not play in the Cotton Bowl. He said if the Buckeyes had made the playoff, he would have played. I have to be perfectly honest and say, I really don’t care what he has to say. He walked out on his teammates and thought only of himself. For those who believe he made the right decision, I point to defensive end Sam Hubbard, who, like Ward, decided to leave early for the NFL Draft. While Ward stood on the nice, safe sidelines and watched, Hubbard played like a madman and helped his team to a win. Defensive end is a far more physical position than cornerback, but there he was every snap laying it all out there to help his team. I like Sam Hubbard; because of his decision to play in the bowl game, he’s already one of my favorite NFL players. As for Ward, please just be quiet and go.
Desperate Times For Jimmy Wolverine
Buckeye fans everywhere take delight in how Michigan’s head coach, Jim Harbaugh, has not exactly elevated the program into championship contention like he and the rest of Wolverine nation believed he would. A lot of people have stopped drinking the Kool-Aid and, when that happens, things can get a bit desperate. Recently Harbaugh’s program released a recruiting poster featuring new offensive line coach Ed Warrinner, a former Buckeye assistant. The Ohio native is best known for developing “The Slobs”, the OSU offensive line, who opened gaping holes for Zeke Elliot to run through on the way to the National Championship in 2015. In the poster, the Wolverines are obviously trying to catch the eye of potential recruits by impressing them with the NFL linemen Warriner has developed. But, take a good look at the names on that MICHIGAN recruiting poster. Those are ALL Buckeyes. Every last one of them was developed by Warrinner at Michigan’s biggest rival. Just a few short years after bringing in the number one recruit in the country (defensive tackle Rashaun Gary), Harbaugh did not have a single recruit in the top 100 in his latest class. The only thing I’ve seen more desperate looking than this poster are the contestants on The Bachelor.
I give all credit for the editing of the poster to Eleven Warriors. Those guys do a great job covering the Buckeyes.