Coach's Corner: Time For Spring Practice

In this edition of Coach's Corner, former OSU assistant coach Bill Conley discusses spring football, which will begin for the Buckeyes on Thursday. Conley looks at the four new Buckeyes with the team this spring. Plus, he shares some points of emphasis on what he sees for the spring for the Buckeyes.

The true kickoff to the 2006 college football season takes place with the start of spring practice, which, for Ohio State, begins on Thursday.

For the coaches and players alike, it is the first chance the 2006 "team" has to develop its uniqueness and personality. Just as the names and faces change, so does the character of the squad. Each college and university football program walks away from spring practice with a much better idea of its strengths and weaknesses.

The coaching staffs also have a much better idea of what needs to be accomplished before the team takes the field in the fall. Each coaching staff will have been pleasantly surprised by the improvement in many of its players since the end of the last season. It's remarkable how some players mature in that short amount of time. It's now their chance to earn a starting spot, and many take the "bull by the horns" and, for the first time, prove to the coaches they weren't a recruiting mistake.

Just as encouraging as the progress of many players seem to be, there are also disappointments. There are those high school superstars that still haven't lived up to their billing. For the coaching staff, especially at the Division I level, patience grows thin waiting for a player to live up to his potential. Big time football programs don't have the luxury of taking a couple of seasons for player development. The reality is that if a player doesn't see the field after a couple of seasons, a couple of spring practices and a couple of bowl games, it's time to look for a new player. Harsh reality, but true.

Pressure to be successful as a player, as a coaching staff and as a team is constant. Don't look for that to change in the modern arena of college football.

There has been a steady rise in the number of recruits that attempt to graduate from high school early so they can enroll at the selected college or university a semester or quarter ahead of the rest of their incoming class. The reason is obvious; they can participate in spring practice in hopes of learning the system and catching the eyes of the coaching staff.

It is a tough transition for a 17- or 18-year-old high school senior, but a transition they are willing to make in order to compete. Even though the game is much more complex mentally and the competition is physically superior to anything they have faced at the high school level, the desire to see the game field as early as possible provides the motivation.

Four players in OSU's 2006 recruiting class enrolled early in order to get a jump start on their college athletic and academic careers. They are chasing that gridiron dream of playing their first year on campus. When spring practice begins in two weeks, these four, first-year Buckeyes will try to make their early mark in one of the great football programs in the country. A tough task for "new blood."

Ross Homan from Coldwater, Ohio, seeks one of the vacant spots left by probably the greatest linebacking corp to ever play college football. To step into the cleats of A.J. Hawk, Anthony Schlegel or Bobby Carpenter is a huge goal for a freshman. Ross caught the eye of Division I coaches by his great effort every play. He was continually around the ball as a linebacker. His 200-plus tackles as a high school senior along with his 26 touchdowns proved to college coaches he has the toughness and grit to challenge for playing time as a college freshman. This tough, undersized linebacker may well make up for his physical dimensions with the great "heart" he has shown on the field. If Ross can adjust to the speed of college football, he can be an early challenger for on e of the three vacancies.

Don't forget, he not only has to show he can handle the game mentally and physically, he must also beat out some experienced Buckeyes that have been waiting in the wings for their chances. Rightfully so, Mike D'Andrea, Marcus Freeman, John Kerr, Chad Hoobler and James Laurinaitis will line up ahead of Ross Homan. They all want to become part of the great tradition of starting linebackers for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The dream that Ross Homan has is the same for newcomer Larry Grant who, like Ross, will participate in spring practice. Ohio State has a huge advantage of being on quarters, instead of semesters. By being on quarters, a high school senior or junior college player has till late March to finish their entrance requirements. The vast majority of colleges and universities are on semesters which mean that those seeking early enrollment must have completed requirements by January in order to begin classes and participate in spring practice.

Grant comes to Ohio State from the City College of San Francisco. The advantage he brings to the table ahead of Ross Homan is college playing experience. Even though it is junior college experience, he still has been in the trenches against collegiate athletes. One of the biggest challenges Larry faces is being able to make the calls and adjustments necessary as a Division I linebacker. Until he hits the field, the Buckeye coaches really don't know if he can handle the game mentally. If he can, this talented 6-2, 220-pound linebacker may earn one of those coveted three vacancies.

The third of four recruits that will be participating in spring practice is running back Chris Wells from Akron Garfield High School. The most heralded of all the recruits, he brings the one attribute to the Buckeye running back position so desperately need -- size. Recognized by most recruiting services as the top running back in high school football last season, this 228-pound tailback rushed for 2,134 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior. He gave all Buckeye faithful a glimpse of his potential by being selected the MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. This is a huge measure of his chance to be a college superstar since the competition in the All-American Bowl was of equal stature.

Chris Wells goes into his first collegiate spring practice in hopes of passing Eric Haw and Maurice Wells to lock down a split-time situation with Antonio Pittman. Don't expect Erik and Maurice to just step aside without a fight, and don't expect Antonio to want to split time with anyone. Even though his size is a huge advantage, Chris must convince the coaching staff he can adjust to the demands of a big time running back. He must prove to the coaches he can pass protect, take the punishment and run block when necessary. Above all, I truly believe Buckeye fans are anxious to see how well this high school standout does this spring.

The fourth early arrival for spring practice is Kurt Coleman from Northmont High School in Clayton, Ohio. This 5-11, 180-pound, 17-year-old will experience his first spring practice prior to turning 18 in July. However, don't let his youth and size fool you. I think he is an extremely versatile and talented athlete. He has the ability to be a corner or a receiver. He also may become a valuable return man. He has speed, quickness and is one of those players who can be an early asset to the Buckeye program, especially on special teams. Even though it may be tough for Kurt to win a starting spot as a true freshman, his athleticism will definitely help him in the future.

These four players have worked hard in the classroom and on the field to live their dream of being a Division I college football player. Their time has now arrived. In the spring of 2006 these confident, determined athletes will face reality. As good and as talented as they are there's over sixty other scholarship players who believe that they're better than the rookies. Sooner or later Homan, Grant, Wells and Coleman will make their mark on Ohio State football. They want it to be sooner, the returnees want it to be later.

More Thoughts

Beyond those four newcomers in spring football, here are some other thoughts on the Buckeyes this spring:

* The competition for spots -- This is a spring for gaining spots if you are a player, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They have a couple guys up front that need to be found. They need to find three linebackers to replace the three great ones they lost. And the secondary lost all four players. Brandon Mitchell is the only guy in that group with a lot of experience. So that competition will be key.

* The need at kicker -- They need to find a kicker to replace Josh Huston, who did a great job of replacing Mike Nugent. That is a key area of need. It's going to be tough. You talk about pressure on a young man. To live up to what Josh and Mike have done, that will be really difficult. The fans are going to have to be patient with that. There will be no more guarantees on field goals or even a certainty the ball will be kicked off into the end zone.

* The youth in the secondary -- The thing about college football is you run so many different coverages. The more coverages you can run, the better chance you have of disguising your defense. You're not going to be able to do as much of that when you have young players. You'll need to keep it simple and keep it basic.

* The search at linebacker -- This is a make-or-break spring for Mike D'Andrea. I would think the coaching staff would try and get Mike as much work as possible. You worry about him getting hurt again but, at this point, he really needs to prove he can make it through a spring and make it through a fall. If you don't get him enough reps and he gets hurt in fall practice, you've wasted time in the spring when you could get somebody else ready.

And it's not only the three guys who get to start. The Chad Hooblers and Larry Grants and these guys, you need them to also be great special teams players for you. I would think, right now, some of those young linebackers have a chance to play at least on the punt team or the kickoff coverage team.

* Keeping the momentum going on offense -- The thing I was impressed with Troy Smith was how he got better as the year went on. He made better decisions as the year went on. That's why he's been such a good quarterback. You have the great skill position players coming back like Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez. If you succeed in getting the ball in those guys' hands, it can be six at any time.


 

 



Buckeye Sports Top Stories

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\r\n \r\n","mobileBody":"The true kickoff to the 2006 college football season takes place with the start of spring practice, which, for Ohio State, begins on Thursday.

For the coaches and players alike, it is the first chance the 2006 \"team\" has to develop its uniqueness and personality. Just as the names and faces change, so does the character of the squad. Each college and university football program walks away from spring practice with a much better idea of its strengths and weaknesses.

The coaching staffs also have a much better idea of what needs to be accomplished before the team takes the field in the fall. Each coaching staff will have been pleasantly surprised by the improvement in many of its players since the end of the last season. It's remarkable how some players mature in that short amount of time. It's now their chance to earn a starting spot, and many take the \"bull by the horns\" and, for the first time, prove to the coaches they weren't a recruiting mistake.

Just as encouraging as the progress of many players seem to be, there are also disappointments. There are those high school superstars that still haven't lived up to their billing. For the coaching staff, especially at the Division I level, patience grows thin waiting for a player to live up to his potential. Big time football programs don't have the luxury of taking a couple of seasons for player development. The reality is that if a player doesn't see the field after a couple of seasons, a couple of spring practices and a couple of bowl games, it's time to look for a new player. Harsh reality, but true.

Pressure to be successful as a player, as a coaching staff and as a team is constant. Don't look for that to change in the modern arena of college football.

There has been a steady rise in the number of recruits that attempt to graduate from high school early so they can enroll at the selected college or university a semester or quarter ahead of the rest of their incoming class. The reason is obvious; they can participate in spring practice in hopes of learning the system and catching the eyes of the coaching staff.

It is a tough transition for a 17- or 18-year-old high school senior, but a transition they are willing to make in order to compete. Even though the game is much more complex mentally and the competition is physically superior to anything they have faced at the high school level, the desire to see the game field as early as possible provides the motivation.

Four players in OSU's 2006 recruiting class enrolled early in order to get a jump start on their college athletic and academic careers. They are chasing that gridiron dream of playing their first year on campus. When spring practice begins in two weeks, these four, first-year Buckeyes will try to make their early mark in one of the great football programs in the country. A tough task for \"new blood.\"

Ross Homan from Coldwater, Ohio, seeks one of the vacant spots left by probably the greatest linebacking corp to ever play college football. To step into the cleats of A.J. Hawk, Anthony Schlegel or Bobby Carpenter is a huge goal for a freshman. Ross caught the eye of Division I coaches by his great effort every play. He was continually around the ball as a linebacker. His 200-plus tackles as a high school senior along with his 26 touchdowns proved to college coaches he has the toughness and grit to challenge for playing time as a college freshman. This tough, undersized linebacker may well make up for his physical dimensions with the great \"heart\" he has shown on the field. If Ross can adjust to the speed of college football, he can be an early challenger for on e of the three vacancies.

Don't forget, he not only has to show he can handle the game mentally and physically, he must also beat out some experienced Buckeyes that have been waiting in the wings for their chances. Rightfully so, Mike D'Andrea, Marcus Freeman, John Kerr, Chad Hoobler and James Laurinaitis will line up ahead of Ross Homan. They all want to become part of the great tradition of starting linebackers for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The dream that Ross Homan has is the same for newcomer Larry Grant who, like Ross, will participate in spring practice. Ohio State has a huge advantage of being on quarters, instead of semesters. By being on quarters, a high school senior or junior college player has till late March to finish their entrance requirements. The vast majority of colleges and universities are on semesters which mean that those seeking early enrollment must have completed requirements by January in order to begin classes and participate in spring practice.

Grant comes to Ohio State from the City College of San Francisco. The advantage he brings to the table ahead of Ross Homan is college playing experience. Even though it is junior college experience, he still has been in the trenches against collegiate athletes. One of the biggest challenges Larry faces is being able to make the calls and adjustments necessary as a Division I linebacker. Until he hits the field, the Buckeye coaches really don't know if he can handle the game mentally. If he can, this talented 6-2, 220-pound linebacker may earn one of those coveted three vacancies.

The third of four recruits that will be participating in spring practice is running back Chris Wells from Akron Garfield High School. The most heralded of all the recruits, he brings the one attribute to the Buckeye running back position so desperately need -- size. Recognized by most recruiting services as the top running back in high school football last season, this 228-pound tailback rushed for 2,134 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior. He gave all Buckeye faithful a glimpse of his potential by being selected the MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. This is a huge measure of his chance to be a college superstar since the competition in the All-American Bowl was of equal stature.

Chris Wells goes into his first collegiate spring practice in hopes of passing Eric Haw and Maurice Wells to lock down a split-time situation with Antonio Pittman. Don't expect Erik and Maurice to just step aside without a fight, and don't expect Antonio to want to split time with anyone. Even though his size is a huge advantage, Chris must convince the coaching staff he can adjust to the demands of a big time running back. He must prove to the coaches he can pass protect, take the punishment and run block when necessary. Above all, I truly believe Buckeye fans are anxious to see how well this high school standout does this spring.

The fourth early arrival for spring practice is Kurt Coleman from Northmont High School in Clayton, Ohio. This 5-11, 180-pound, 17-year-old will experience his first spring practice prior to turning 18 in July. However, don't let his youth and size fool you. I think he is an extremely versatile and talented athlete. He has the ability to be a corner or a receiver. He also may become a valuable return man. He has speed, quickness and is one of those players who can be an early asset to the Buckeye program, especially on special teams. Even though it may be tough for Kurt to win a starting spot as a true freshman, his athleticism will definitely help him in the future.

These four players have worked hard in the classroom and on the field to live their dream of being a Division I college football player. Their time has now arrived. In the spring of 2006 these confident, determined athletes will face reality. As good and as talented as they are there's over sixty other scholarship players who believe that they're better than the rookies. Sooner or later Homan, Grant, Wells and Coleman will make their mark on Ohio State football. They want it to be sooner, the returnees want it to be later.

Beyond those four newcomers in spring football, here are some other thoughts on the Buckeyes this spring:

This is a spring for gaining spots if you are a player, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They have a couple guys up front that need to be found. They need to find three linebackers to replace the three great ones they lost. And the secondary lost all four players. Brandon Mitchell is the only guy in that group with a lot of experience. So that competition will be key.

They need to find a kicker to replace Josh Huston, who did a great job of replacing Mike Nugent. That is a key area of need. It's going to be tough. You talk about pressure on a young man. To live up to what Josh and Mike have done, that will be really difficult. The fans are going to have to be patient with that. There will be no more guarantees on field goals or even a certainty the ball will be kicked off into the end zone.

The thing about college football is you run so many different coverages. The more coverages you can run, the better chance you have of disguising your defense. You're not going to be able to do as much of that when you have young players. You'll need to keep it simple and keep it basic.

This is a make-or-break spring for Mike D'Andrea. I would think the coaching staff would try and get Mike as much work as possible. You worry about him getting hurt again but, at this point, he really needs to prove he can make it through a spring and make it through a fall. If you don't get him enough reps and he gets hurt in fall practice, you've wasted time in the spring when you could get somebody else ready.

And it's not only the three guys who get to start. The Chad Hooblers and Larry Grants and these guys, you need them to also be great special teams players for you. I would think, right now, some of those young linebackers have a chance to play at least on the punt team or the kickoff coverage team.

The thing I was impressed with Troy Smith was how he got better as the year went on. He made better decisions as the year went on. That's why he's been such a good quarterback. You have the great skill position players coming back like Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez. If you succeed in getting the ball in those guys' hands, it can be six at any time.

 

 

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