Jard Work: Blankenship Switching Sides

BuckeyeSports.com staff writer Adam Jardy continues to clean out his spring notebook. In his edition of "Jard Work," find out more about Evan Blankenship's switch to defense, Cameron Heyward's emerging talent and which Buckeyes impressed their teammates throughout the spring.

The man with the best singing voice on the team will be whistling a new tune this fall for Ohio State.

After having spent the previous three years as a reserve offensive lineman for the Buckeyes, Evan Blankenship switched sides and began lining up as a defensive lineman. Having experienced a redshirt season, Blankenship has seen limited action during his OSU career after having battled injuries throughout the early going.

Now behind from a depth chart standpoint, the decision was made to approach Blankenship about swapping spots.

"It's gone pretty well," head coach Jim Tressel said April 21. "He's got a little athleticism there and I think he's helping out."

Senior defensive tackle Dexter Larimore said he views the position change as permanent.

"It's a great opportunity to really be able to get in some games," he said. "He was a little bit on the light side for an offensive lineman."

Blankenship, who has displayed his impressive vocal skills at an OSU sport-wide talent competition, entered the spring listed at 6-3, 288 pounds. Last season, he saw action in just one game when he played for four minutes in a blowout victory against New Mexico State.

It also marked the only time Blankenship had played for the Buckeyes. He was listed as the fourth-string right guard on the spring depth chart behind one fifth-year senior and two redshirt freshmen.

A three-star prospect out of Monaca (Pa.) Center Area, Blankenship earned first-team all-conference honors as a senior and was named the No. 50 offensive guard prospect in the nation. He also held offers from Pittsburgh and Temple.

Following the team's April 17 jersey scrimmage, Larimore said he was impressed with Blankenship's development as a defensive lineman.

"He was playing well today," he said. "That's really good considering he's only been over there for about a week. There's a different mentality for being an offensive guy and being a defensive guy. He has a lot of potential to be able to really get after the quarterback."

Moving a player to a new position late in his career can be a delicate situation, but Tressel said Blankenship was amenable to the change.

"We always approach it like, ‘Hey, we need some help, what do you think?' " the coach said. "Most of our guys are pretty honest. We've had guys say, ‘No, that's not me,' but most of our guys are willing to help wherever they can."

The Shout-Outs – With no real games to be played for another four-plus months, reporters are often left with few questions to ask the Buckeyes during spring drills. A staple, however, is a query as to which players have looked good throughout practice.

Here is a sampling of responses to that question gathered throughout the spring:

Dane Sanzenbacher "I think aside from Taurian Washington, who I always think has been a good receiver, I think Chris Fields has stepped up a little bit in my eyes. He's a guy that worked a lot with the scout team during the season last year and you would always hear a little bit about him playing well against them but now you actually get to see it on our side of the ball."

Jermale Hines "Dominic Clarke is stepping up and Corey Brown. Donnie Evege has played a big part this spring."

Brandon Saine "I think all of the younger guys are doing better. It takes a while to get into a rhythm and learning plays. Carlos Hyde especially. We can tell he's a great football player. He knows what he's doing out there. I think with me and (Dan Herron) and Jordan Hall, we'll be able to help him out."

Larimore – "I think Melvin Fellows. He's really shown that he can pass rush, which is what we need on third downs to really get after the passer. I think Garrett Goebel. He's been working at my position and he's really been using his hands well. I think Adam Bellamy. He's a big guy. He's hoping to be able to be in the rotation this year. Those three guys, and obviously Solomon Thomas. He's always been fighting for spots."

Cameron Heyward "I think three guys: Melvin Fellows, Solomon Thomas and Johnny Simon. They dedicated so much in the weight room, gotten better from injuries and just learned the defense and are ready to play."

Tressel, on the first day of practice – "So far, after one practice in shorts? I saw Corey Brown do a couple of things that I'm not sure that I noticed in the fall. He's a newcomer there at corner. He was a do-everything guy as a wideout and a DB in high school. He looked a little bit more like a fluid guy that was playing that position. I saw Chris Fields do some things. I think he's been steadily coming along, but it's different reading it from a card than it is understanding the concepts. James Jackson had a couple of nice catches. Zach Boren caught the ball pretty well."

More Heyward – Another common theme from throughout the spring – at least where the defensive line is concerned – was the emergence of Cameron Heyward as a leader among the front.

"He's going to be a great leader for this team," Tressel said. "Obviously we will count on him a lot on the field. I think he has a good knack for helping bring other people along. That's the type of person he is. He's a real inclusive guy. He knows we lost a great deal of personnel on that defensive front.

"He's at the front of the room encouraging those (young) guys (and) at the front of the line at practice encouraging those guys. His performance will be crucial for us, but his leadership will be just as important."

Senior right guard Bryant Browning described Heyward as being relentless.

"Cam, he's a big, strong guy and he's got a motor," he said. "Most big guys that use that wear down after a while, but Cam keeps coming at you as hard as he can. He keeps (bull-rushing), then once he gets (his strength) in you he can fake the bull(-rush) and work a move and work his quickness."

BuckeyeSports.com staff writer Matthew Hager contributed to this report.

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