Night Moves: OSU Practices Under The Lights

Some Division I college football teams have trouble getting 28,000 fans to show up for a real game. However, that's how many people attended Ohio State's night practice at Ohio Stadium on Monday. We have comments from head coach Jim Tressel on the practice, the shakeup at cornerback, the battle to be OSU's backup QB, the transfer of Chad Hoobler, and more.

An estimated 28,000 fans showed up for Ohio State's night practice on Monday at Ohio Stadium.

Head coach Jim Tressel met briefly with reporters following the practice and was pleased with the results of his first public night practice at OSU.

"It was a great experience for our guys," Tressel said. "They were talking on the line of scrimmage that they couldn't hear and we had to communicate a little bit more like game-like. Look up in the air into the lights and catch punts and passes. I think it's a great reminder of the responsibility that we have. A lot of people care deeply about Ohio State football.

"We don't have lights on our practice field, so typically we don't get night rehearsals. So we thought it would be a good idea. Some of the upperclassmen mentioned it during the winter during our evaluations. They'd say, ‘Hey coach how ‘bout we get a couple workouts under the lights.' And I think the juices get going a little bit and they had fun and it's really unbelievable to see how many people came and got their kids autographs and enjoyed the evening."

Even the marching band showed up for the practice, making it feel even more like a game day atmosphere. The practice was preceded by an autograph session that was supposed to run for an hour, but due to the long line went an hour and a half.

A few fans had to be turned away so the Buckeyes could begin practice. Tressel was asked if it was hard to turn away some autograph seekers.

"Well, we went about a half-hour longer than we were scheduled, so it wasn't real hard," he said. "We had work to do and I thought our guys gave a lot of time and it looked like a whole bunch of people got through and I know a lot of the stuff we signed had tons of autographs on them by the time they got to us, so a lot of people got through."

The Buckeyes were in full pads during the practice, but did not go live. However, there were several drills that pitted the first-team offense against the first-team defense.

Possibly the most interesting development was that redshirt freshman cornerback Donald Washington saw most of his reps with the first-team, in replace of senior Antonio Smith (who saw most of his reps with the second team at safety).

But Tressel wasn't ready to proclaim Washington a sure-fire starter at the field corner.

"The first third of the season, we're going to play a lot of guys," he said. "On the defensive front, offensive front, in the secondary, at linebacker, at receiver, at running back. We're going to play a lot of guys for a couple reasons. One, we want to see who really emerges on game day. Two, we know it's going to be warm at 3:30 on Sept. 2; we know it's going to be warm at 7 central Sept. 9. You are going to need to play a lot of guys and I think a lot of guys deserve to play and it will be interesting to see how they do when the lights come on for real."

Another young cornerback that continues to impress is freshman Kurt Coleman. He is still running with the second team, but is sure to play a lot this year. Coleman returned a Justin Zwick interception for a touchdown on a pass intended for tight end Brandon Smith.

"Yeah, I tell you what, I think I mentioned it after the jersey scrimmage: somebody that I thought flashed pretty well was Kurt," Tressel said. "And Kurt has got a lot of work fundamentally to do, but I think he can make plays. And when you can make plays, now you've just got to work hard and get experience and I think Kurt Coleman is going to help us."

Zwick practiced just three days after suffering a shoulder injury during OSU's jersey scrimmage. But sophomore Todd Boeckman was held out of Monday's practice.

"Justin missed one practice," Tressel said. "He hasn't gone live as far as people banging. Todd Boeckman got banged up a little bit in the scrimmage and he didn't even know it until the day after. So, it's just one of those things that he got nicked a little bit and our people are being conservative, but he'll be fine."

Tressel commented on the competition to be Troy Smith's backup between Zwick, Boeckman and Rob Schoenhoft.

"There's a pretty good battle," he said. "I think Justin had two real good practices today. He's got big game experience and so forth. I like a lot of things I'm seeing out of both Todd and Robbie. It's a good battle."

Freshman tailback Chris Wells saw a lot of reps with the first team and looked great. Yes, it was no-contact practice, but Wells is an impressive specimen and there were rumblings that he might be pushing Antonio Pittman for the starting job. But Pittman isn't going anywhere after his 1,331-yard season last year.

"Oh no, Antonio Pittman will start at tailback," Tressel said. "That's probably as solid as anything. But he will get to play. Mo Wells, Chris Wells and Antonio Pittman will all carry the ball."

Junior DE/LB Chad Hoobler has left the program and will reportedly transfer to Division II Ashland. Tressel commented on that situation.

"Well, Chad has left the team for personal reasons," he said. "I can't comment on where he is."

Also Notable

* Junior wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. already appears to be in midseason form. He had a long kickoff return, hauled in a one-handed reception, and scored about a 20-yard touchdown on a drag route from Smith.

* Freshman defensive end Robert Rose had a very impressive practice and was all over the field making plays. He is going to play a lot this year as the No. 3 or No. 4 defensive end.

* Freshman defensive end Walter Dublin suffered a foot injury (looked like it was possibly his right ankle) and had to be carted to the locker room towards the end of practice. He was able to walk off the field, but was carted from the bench to the locker room.

* Sophomore Steve Rehring received some snaps with the first team at left tackle. It appears that Alex Boone is still the starter, but Rehring is getting a long look.

* The placekicking battle is still too close to call. Freshman Aaron Pettrey made a field goal from 35 yards, while Ryan Pretorius made one from 29, and missed one short from 50.

* In attendance at the practice was OSU basketball players Jamar Butler, Greg Oden, Daequan Cook, David Lighty and Mike Conley Jr. They drew plenty of attention from fans and photographers. Oden's right wrist is still in a cast.

* The autograph line for the table that included Tressel, Troy Smith and Anthony Gonzalez was 1,000 deep at one point and wrapped all the way around the rotunda at the stadium.


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