The first point of interest was the play of the new offensive linemen, including first time starter Bryant Browning. In his first day of true playing time I thought Browning was decent, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. He seemed to struggle at times in pass protection, and I'm not sure that was unexpected. Browning should improve next week against Ohio U., and he'd better, because it might not be long before freshman J.B. Shugarts is challenging for playing time.
Of the three true freshman offensive linemen, Mike Adams and Mike Brewster being the others, Shugarts stood out the most. Shugarts had a handful of pancake blocks and looked really strong in pass protection. Shugarts played the game like a veteran, being both strong off the ball and showing nice footwork. If he can build off his performance he will be very tough to keep off the field.
Brewster was flawless in snapping the football at center, remarkable considering he is learning the position after not playing there in high school. Brewster missed a lot of lifting time due to injury and will be a monster next year as he gets stronger. As it is, he's pretty good and ready to contribute. Look for Brewster to also get reps at guard and push for playing time there as the weeks go by.
Adams was considered to be a sure red-shirt candidate after a pre-season injury, but through hard work he put himself in a position to contribute this year. Adams was very good on Saturday and will get even better as his playing time increases. In short, I think the three freshmen showed they deserve more playing time this week, and they just might work themselves into the rotation in bigger games down the road.
Larimore was the player I expected to be the most improved on the defensive line, and he didn't disappoint. Larimore was active at the point of attack, and was able to put pressure on the quarterback. Keep an eye on Larimore, as he just might be the most improved player on the team.
Rose played both end and tackle and it was great to see him healthy and contributing. He made some nice plays, but to me, the best part was seeing him out there competing. When Rose is 100% healthy, he is capable of being a difference maker.
Another player that will certainly find himself on the field in passing situations is Thad Gibson, as "The Predator" can get to the quarterback. He still needs added upper body strength, but he must be accounted for when he's on the field. His quickness off the ball opened up the lane for a tackle for loss by Marcus Freeman early in the game. The credit went to Freeman, but Gibson's speed helped set it up.
I've said since this freshman class was recruited that Devier Posey was my choice to be a star at Ohio State. I also predicted he would score a touchdown against the Penguins, in last Friday's column. Players like Posey make those kind of predictions easy to make, because he's such a talent. There is no way to keep Posey off the field in any situation. I don't see any receiver better than Posey on this roster not named Brian. If you think he's good right now, just wait six weeks and you will be amazed at how much better he will be.
I purposely saved the best for last....... Terrelle Pryor. I wasn't just pleased with Pryor's play, I was awestruck at not just the talent, which everyone knew about, but his poise and his grasp of the offense. In his first series, he was darn near perfect in execution and decision-making. The throwing motion will never be Marino-esque, but it doesn't have to be. He has good arm strength and he throws a catchable ball, and to heck with the pretty throwing motion. His play was certainly a testament to Jim Tressel and Joe Daniels and their ability to mold a quarterback. There has never been a more talented athlete to play the position at Ohio State, and the debut was not solid, it was spectacular. It is very hard for a true freshman to play the quarterback position. Pryor is not running a portion of the offense, or just running a special package designed for him. He is running it all, and should Todd Boeckman go down with injury, it might be Pryor, not Joe Bauserman, getting the call. I cannot wait to see Pryor in action this week against Ohio U.
Obviously there were other youngsters that stood out last Saturday. I wanted to mention a few that performed well in key areas of the football team. With the injury to Chris Wells, and the expectation of limited playing time this week, the focus will shift to Dan Herron and Brandon Saine. Both were steady last Saturday, although I saw a lot of good things out of Saine.
Defensively, Tyler Moeller and Jermale Hines were particularly inpressive, especially with their speed and athleticism. They are two players to keep an eye on this week, as they should have earned more playing time.
There were a lot of areas I was looking at last Saturday and I believe there were encouraging signs, even playing an out-manned opponent. This Friday at noon I will take a look at the upcoming game with Ohio U. and highlight the areas of interest I will be targeting.