Tasked with a young and inexperienced roster, the Ohio State coaching staff has a lot to sort out before the 2016 season begins on Sept. 3 and few opportunities to do so. That’s what makes today so important.
The Buckeyes are holding their first scrimmage of fall camp today, giving the coaches their first opportunity to see many players who will play big roles this fall in game situations.
“We are an inexperienced group and that’s the closet thing – we don’t get any preseason games in college so that’s the closest thing you get to a preseason game,” safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “You want to see who responds when the quote-unquote lights come on, you may see a guy who does things in practice and looks really good, but then other the game situation when they’re out there by themselves and have to deal with a ton of different variables, that’s what I’m looking for. And then as always who plays incredibly hard. If you start to think and you slow down, that’s not good, we need to play as hard as we can.”
Head coach Urban Meyer has said he hopes to have a sense of his depth chart 12 games into the season and today’s scrimmage, which comes after the first day of two-a-days, is just over halfway to that mark. Meyer said that he expects to begin announcing some starters this upcoming week and clearly the scrimmage will play a factor in those decisions.
The players know how important today is as well, even those who have starting spots locked up.
“You see in the young guys who really wants to hit somebody,” middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan said. “This is a level of football to where you really can’t be shy. You can’t be turning your head when it’s time to make contact, any time you encounter contact you’ve got to be ready, so it just sees who is ready to play this year and who we need to still develop and grind throughout the year.”
That’s not just true of the young guys, but also for players returning from injury.
Receivers Noah Brown and Corey Smith haven’t been in game situations since each broke their leg last year. Safety Erick Smith hasn’t been full-go since tearing his ACL while fellow safety Cam Burrows is also returning from injury.
For those players, today is an opportunity to prove there is no lingering trepidation about their injuries.
More than that, it’s an opportunity for the Buckeyes to play football. The grind of fall camp is far from over, but today presents a chance to have some fun playing a game.
“We get up for the scrimmage. Finally see what guys can do, guys get to prove themselves,” safety Damon Webb said. “It’s the first time we all get together as a whole defense and just scrimmage it out.”