Ohio State wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell has now been on the job for
more than three months. He knows the Buckeye receivers have a long way to go to
get to where he wants them to be, but he also knows he has a lot of talent to
Hazell recently gave Bucknuts.com a quick rundown of how the receivers looked coming out of spring drills.
"I haven't been around them very much yet this summer - we've all been out on the road," Hazell said. "But just coming out of the spring, I felt real good about how Santonio (Holmes) played, I thought Johnny Hollins was coming along - he had a real good spring - and I thought Bam (Childress) had a real good spring. If we can keep (Tony) Gonzalez on the field, he is going to help us a lot. We need to keep his hamstrings strong. Roy Hall, we need him to be a guy. He has to be a guy this fall, so we just have to keep working him."
Hall has all the physical attributes, but still has a ways to go on the mental side of things.
"He needs to relax," Hazell said. "He needs to play more relaxed and probably have a little more confidence in his abilities. He can be a good player for us - a real good player - because he's a specimen. He's physical, he's fast, but Roy and I have talked about taking that next step."
In addition to coaching the receivers, Hazell also coaches the kick and punt return teams. Several players will vie for the two kick returner roles, led by Holmes and incoming freshman Ted Ginn Jr.
"It's hard to say who will end up as our primary kick returner," Hazell said. "Both of those guys will get a crack at it and one guy I liked coming out of spring was Ashton Youboty. He banged it up in there real good. Bam banged it up in there real good.
"I'm looking for a guy that's aggressive with the football and can hit the right creases. That's the main thing that you look for in a returner right now: just being decisive with the ball in their hands. And obviously the success of that team is finding the front five guys. Not necessarily the back two guys - the front five guys need to get their hands on people and open spaces. That's where the success of that team happens."
It's no secret that the Buckeyes were downright horrid in the return games last season. They were among the worst in the country in both kick and punt returns. For a team that stresses the importance of special teams, there was no excuse for it. If the punt is the most important play in football, isn't the kick return the second most important?
Hazell isn't worried about what happened last year. He just wants to make sure the Bucks are much better this year.
"You know, I've watched the film and I don't want to speculate (on what went wrong) and say things like that because I wasn't here, but I think we'll be a much improved team in that area this year," he said. "I'd like to think so. We're going to keep it simple. We're going to get guys in the right places and have them play hard."
Holmes is going to be a busy man this year. In addition to being the No. 1 target for Justin Zwick and possibly returning kicks, he might also be the primary punt returner.
"Yeah, he's probably the No. 1 guy right now," Hazell said. "Bam did a nice job and so did Ashton this springtime, so we got some guys. And hopefully we can get one or two freshmen in there and give me a, 'Whoo,' and he'll help us out somewhat throughout the course of the year."
Hazell, who played college football at Muskingum, is happy to be back in Ohio and coaching for the Buckeyes.
"It doesn't get any better than this and I knew that coming in, but it's been validated," he said. "You're working for a great guy and with great staff members and it's such a joy to come to work. It's a special place.
"This is always a place that you aspire to be at if you're in the college coaching profession. So, it's everything I expected and then some."
The Buckeyes landed a good young coach in Hazell. He's engaging, intelligent and has all the makings of an excellent recruiter.