The Ohio State football team was back out in practice on Wednesday afternoon in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The media was permitted to watch and the BSB crew was in attendance. Get some observations from the team's latest workout inside.
Often critical of the progress of his newly acquired offense, Ohio State
head coach Urban Meyer
instead walked into his meeting with the media Wednesday evening with a smile on his face. It was probably because his offense had just outplayed the defense for the first time this spring.
Though Meyer acknowledged the execution on both sides of the ball wasn't nearly as good as it needed to be – something he said he wasn't worried about because it was correctable – the coach went far enough to say it was the most impressive spring practice Ohio State's had thus far.
Following are some observations from Ohio State's practice on April 11, which took place on the indoor field in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center:
Braxton Miller's growth is noticeable – All the eyes are on the quarterback and to those who were watching, the growth of the true sophomore is evident. The same rush-evading skills from last year were present, as they always are, but Miller seemed to have a command passing the ball unlike anything we've seen so far in his career.
The most important thing that stuck out to me was the consistency in which he hits the short and intermediate routes. The deep ball will come, but if Miller can continue to move around the pocket – or scramble – and find the guys who are open on those shorter timing routes, the progression of his passing game will be that much easier. It was something I remember Terrelle Pryor struggling with, but Miller seems to really have a command of his accuracy early.
But what he does best is improvising and Meyer called the proficiency in which Miller does it as "a defensive coach's worst nightmare." It was most evident on a play during team drills the defense had stopped, but Miller evaded the rush, rolled to his right, and found running back Carlos Hyde wide open for a 75-yard touchdown score. Those are the types of plays that are going to make Miller special in the future. He seems to be on track toward making that a reality.
T.Y. Williams emerging as a threat? – Meyer hasn't hid his distaste for the lack of playmakers in the wide receiving room, especially as he sits back and looks at the numbers from last year. As a whole, I felt like the wide receivers had their best day of the spring and Meyer confirmed it when bringing up that point unprovoked during his brief meeting with the media. But there was on player who stood out to me and it was Tyrone Williams.
Last year Williams had a bad case of the dropsies and a few symptoms of that leaked over into the end of today's practice. However, from what I've seen as a whole, it looks like Williams has done an exponentially better job catching passes and he was pulling down some tough grabs away from his body, which is the best sign of them all.
It was one play in particular that stood out to me, though. It play where he caught a jump ball in the back of the endzone over Tyvis Powell. It was basically the play that everyone envisioned him making since day one. Though it is hard to envision him being the leading receiver next season – my guess is Devin Smith – I could see a scenario where he could catch five touchdown passes in certain situations. If that were to happen, I think that would be a big jump for the big guy.
The running game gets things going – While Meyer continues to install his new offense, there's no question that side of the ball is going to have its struggles. But as it continues to come along, as it did on Wednesday, it is going to be the running game leading the way. Meyer said the passing game didn't look like a "clown show" like it did in the past, but he mentioned that moving the ball through the air is the hardest thing to do in football because of all the things that need to go right for it to work. That said, the offensive improvement I think can be gauged by how well the running game is going, and from what I saw that seemed to go a little smoother. It's still early yet, but this is Ohio State. If the ball is moving well on the ground, the passing game will be that much smoother.
John Simon is a cut above the rest – I don't think there's any question why Meyer hasn't hid his affinity for Simon. Simply put, I think he's the best player on this team and will likely be one of the best defensive linemen in college football this year. Whenever I watch him, the person he's going against rarely – if ever – has a chance to slow him down. It doesn't matter if it is in drills or the team is scrimmaging, it is always the same result. The only player that may be as valuable to this team is Zach Boren, who has also been mentioned numerous times by the coach publicly.
Michael Bennett making plays with first team – As Bennett continued to take reps with the first team defense, I saw him make numerous plays out there this afternoon. He's getting a lot of push consistently and it looks like he's really making his case for starting reps this season. Remember how deep this position group is – so that's saying something.
Intensity pleases Meyer – Meyer said he was pleased the media got a chance to watch today's practice because it was about as good as any he's been a part of in the spring. He's said multiple times this spring that he's fine with people making mistakes as long as they're made going full speed, and the coach was more than pleased with the effort and intensity he saw out there. If anything, it seems like the team is latching on to the things their head coach likes and that has to be a good sign two weeks into this.
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