We've grown used to being disappointed with the beginning of practice because without pads it's not really football, right? Perhaps then it shouldn't be a surprise that this time around there was plenty to see even without pads on because the area the Buckeyes most need to improve falls into the finesse category.
That's throwing and catching the ball and then even more so preventing such things from happening.
With Braxton Miller sidelined, the throwing kind of falls by the wayside right now, but there was no lack of action between the receivers and the defensive backs.
There was a definite difference in the tenor of the way the defensive backs played. They challenged the receivers, and the receivers rose to the occasion frequently.
New secondary coach Chris Ash was not out there ranting and raving, but he had his new pupils fired up for sure.
They spent a good bit of time working one-on-one drills with the defensive backs pressing the wide receivers, and there was a lot of back and forth there. The receivers won more of the battles with Corey Smith and Michael Thomas both standing out for their size and strength. Jeff Greene also went deep and hauled in a fade against tight coverage by Gareon Conley, the sort of jump ball you see frequently in the NFL but not so much at Ohio State in recent years. (This might be nitpicking, but when you're talking about trying to improve from 12 wins to 14, every little thing matters.)
Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett got all of the reps in those drills as well as the team stuff at the end, and they were both kind of hit-or-miss. Nobody has ever doubted Cardale's arm strength, but he's not great at putting a ball in a window. Barrett has a nice release, but I need to see more before making a judgement.
Of the defensive backs, Ron Tanner tends to be overlooked because he's been around a little while now and maybe because he's a local kid, but he doesn't lack for length or athleticism compared to guys like Vonn Bell and Cam Burrows.
I really liked the way Conley moved – super smooth in his backpedal and his turns – but he looked pretty raw in terms of technique. He can run with anyone, and the ability is there, but he's still got learning to do. I didn't write them all down, but he appeared to give up more catches than he denied.
Ash had them working on a hook-and-swat technique in individual drills – hook with the back arm, swat with the front – and they were all over the receivers in seven-on-seven and full squad work.
The quarters defense was in full effect, but there appeared to be some communication breakdowns as multiple times there were receivers running open. Not just one spot on the field or one guy getting picked on, either. It was both units, sometimes deep, sometimes short. Out and over the middle. But of course this was day one, so there are going to be some growing pains.
They were definitely aggressive overall. The corners did not always jam receivers, but they were tight most of the time. They really worked hard to get after stuff in front of them. There were lots of deflected passes and at least a couple of those were intercepted on the ricochet.
- In seven-on-seven, Wilson was able to get wide open down the middle coming from the slot and caught a touchdown pass from Jones between Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell, the starting safeties. Wilson later worked himself open against Darron Lee – the Will linebacker – on a crossing pattern.
- Lee stepped into Ryan Shazier's spot and looked pretty good. He's added what looks like good weight and could turn out to be a big contributor. I did not see any nickel defense, so the linebackers were asked to cover a lot and he held up pretty well. Ash has said he's comfortable playing three linebackers or primarily playing five DBs depending on what he's got on the roster. I can't help but wonder if Lee could be a Denicos Allen-type for Ohio State. Or a Cie Grant for that matter.
- On the second play of the full-squad scrimmage at the end of practice, Jones executed a misdirection play and found Wilson wide open rolling to his right. Busted coverage.
- Marcus Baugh showed he does indeed have the speed to beat a defense deep as he caught a long touchdown pass on a deep post on which neither safety really picked him up.
- Thought in some defensive line drills Donovan Munger showed some athleticism and fluidity for a guy as big as he is.
- Watching Kyle Dodson and Darryl Baldwin in pass sets, I'd say Dodson looked more loose and athletic.
- Might be different when the pads go on, but Johnnie Dixon had a noticeable burst running patterns and running after the catch.
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