Practice Observations: April 14

Saturday's practice was open to roughly 1,000 students at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, but if you missed it, BuckeyeSports.com has you covered. Inside are some general thoughts from the Buckeyes' latest practice and there's a link to even more observations and thoughts at the bottom.

Urban Meyer stood near the 50 yard line on the indoor practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center surrounded by a passionate student body after his team practiced for three hours on April 14.

It wasn't what Meyer had originally envisioned when giving the students access – the practice was moved from Ohio Stadium to the WHAC because of inclement weather – but it was the first true glimpse the fans got of the new head coach's team.

What they saw was likely different from the previous regimes. One student yelled at the coach – "Thanks for not holding back on offensive creativity" – and others simply did their best to get into position to get a picture with the new Buckeyes coach.

BuckeyeSports.com was also in attendance to watch the practice, which took place one week before the annual spring game. Here are some observations we took away from the latest Ohio State practice session:

  • Zach Boren is going to be one of the playmakers – We all know what he's capable of as a lead blocker, but the senior fullback could be one of this team's biggest offensive playmakers. Meyer has used fullbacks in the past as offensive weapons and Boren got the ball in a variety of ways in practice. It is a little mind-boggling how little Boren was used with the ball in his hands in the past, especially because he's a tenacious ball carrier and very underrated receiver. Meyer hasn't been shy about calling him one of the best players on the team and that could extend into a more extensive role on the offensive side of the ball.

  • Jake Stoneburner could be the team's leading receiver – Had Stoneburner left college after last season, he probably would have been drafted. Now that it looks like he'll be the focal point of the offense, he could play himself into some NFL money this year. We saw plenty of tight end dump-offs and he's definitely going to be a top target. We've seen it in spring and falls past, but this is the moment Stoneburner has been waiting for since stepping foot on campus as a wide receiver.

  • Wide receivers looking like wide receivers – Last year Ohio State's biggest weakness was at wide receiver. While that will remain to be the case until proven otherwise, Devin Smith and Philly Brown looked primed to make plays. I still don't understand why Smith was rarely used last year, but he made a big play on what was nearly a 50-yard touchdown reception from Braxton Miller. In regards to Brown, the staff is doing everything they can to get the speedster with the ball in space, whether that is on screens or reverses. Both guys will be counted on this year to make plays and it looks like the staff is playing right into both players' strengths.

  • Bradley Roby is a stud – When taking notes at practice I like to keep track of how many positive plays players make and Roby is just simply one of the most written down players time and time again. Not one to shy away from contact, Roby is always around the ball and receivers really have a hard time getting separation from the talented cornerback. I don't like predicting this type of thing, but if he continues to progress at this rate it wouldn't surprise me if he was a candidate to be an early entry in the NFL Draft. He – alongside senior Travis Howard – makes the starting cornerbacks the most talented position group on the team behind the defensive line.

  • Offensive line's athleticism is key ¬– With the type of offense Meyer is going to run, the athleticism of the offensive line is key because they will be asked to pull quite a bit. Though this year's line has a lot of work to do before it can go toe-to-toe with lines in years past, it seems to be a good enough group to evolve into the quick, yet physical, bunch Meyer hopes. Specifically with Reid Fragel, the right tackle, his athletic and long body could bode well for the position change. In general, the starting group is a good collection of players, but depth along the offensive front could be an issue.

  • Connor Crowell gets some time with the first team at MLBCurtis Grant left practice with an apparent shoulder injury – though it didn't seem to be too serious – and Crowell filled in for him for a long period of time and held his own. He made a few big hits and did a good job of flowing to the football. It's always nice to see guys who underwent major injuries come back and feel good about their element. I thought Crowell did a good job of filling in for an extended period time with the first team.

  • With Rod Smith… – I think he still runs with the ball a little too high, which could be part of the reason he has run into the fumbling issue. He has the tools body-wise to be a tough runner, but I don't always see him using those tools to the best of his ability. I've seen flashes out of him, but I still think there's a lot of room for improvement. Right now he's more of a finesse runner, but I envisioned him being a tough back with the ability to really turn it on speed-wise. I still think he has a ways to go.

    Click here for more observations and notes from today's practice from the BSB team.

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