Saturday's scrimmage provided one last chance for players to prove they belong in the two-deep heading into what could be a magical run for the Buckeyes.
What individuals stood out on the offensive side of the football in the scrimmage, and who looks to be headed for regular playing time?
Terrelle Pryor Has come so far since the day he took over for Todd Boeckman, less than two years ago. Forget the numbers, because they're meaningless in a controlled scrimmage. Pryor was more accurate, quicker delivering the ball, and appeared to be in total control directing the most diverse offense he's been given to date. He worked the middle of the field with precision, something not allowed in the first two seasons. He threw to the backs and to the tight end, and he could have done it more often. He was in a black jersey, not allowed to run, where's he's devastating. This is like making Kobe Bryant play hoops without being able to shoot, or watching Alex Rodriguez play baseball without being allowed to hit. Pryor is the best player on the best team. He's been good to date, and now he's poised to be great. He will put points on the board, but will not put up staggering passing numbers. He's a playmaker, not a stat sheet stuffer.
Taylor Graham Simply put, he was the second-best quarterback on the field, and it wasn't close. Took one sack because he held the ball too long, but other than that, he was more poised, more accurate, had a stronger arm, and moved the ball far better than Kenny Guiton or Joe Bauserman. Even saying that, I expect Graham to redshirt in 2010, but he's going to be a factor in the quarterback position some day at Ohio State because he can play.
Boom Herron Playing the best ball of his career, and he looks good. He is the best finisher of the backs, and it isn't close. When he attacks the tacklers, they go backwards, and none of the other three does that. He also seems quicker, shiftier and more elusive than ever. There's no way he doesn't deserve carries in this offense, because there is no feature back that could handle the load alone. All four deserve their carries, and each brings a different skill set.
Brandon Saine Probably the most versatile of the four, and his combination of running ability, blocking and pass-catching, makes Saine a desirable commodity. Less is more with Saine, as he wears down with too heavy of a workload. Keeping him at 15 touches per game keeps him fresh, healthy and productive.
Jordan Hall Possibly the best overall back on the roster, yet I don't see him as a 25-30 carry tailback. Hall has the best vision, and the best cutting ability of the four, with a knack for finding the hole in the defense. He needs to touch the rock 10-15 times per game, and should be a huge threat in the passing game. Pryor missed him twice today, when getting the ball to Hall early in the play would have been big yardage.
Jaamal Berry Hasn't received the reps Hall has grabbed in the past year, but there's no doubting his speed and home run ability. His pass blocking was very good, and he's another player that could be devastating in the flats with the football, and I expect Pryor to check to the backs in the games. Berry sat out a lot last year, and is now rounding into form. He has a chance to be a special back at Ohio State. Would love to see him get 5 touches per game early in the season, and get more if he proves himself worthy.
Zach Boren Does any player on this team do their job better than Little Boren does his? It's simply amazing how valuable this guy is to this team. He's going to play in the NFL too, as shocking as this sounds. A better all-around fullback than Jamar Martin, and can do things with the ball in his hands.
Devier Posey Missed the opportunity for a highlight-reel catch early, but came up with one later in the scrimmage. In between, there were crisp routes, sure hands and the ability to beat any defender one-on-one. Posey has been good from day one, but today he showed why some see him in a class with A.G. Green, Julio Jones or Michael Floyd. He seems ready to join the elite receivers in college football.
Taurian Washington Had more drops today, although he bounced back with a nice catch-and-run for a touchdown. You could literally feel the parents and media members exhale when he caught the last one, because everyone was expecting another drop. He's a great kid, and someone you root for, but this is big-boy football, and I can't see the coaching staff trusting him in a tight spot. I wouldn't throw him the football on third-and-ten in the fourth quarter of a tight game, and I hate saying that. Hopefully, he finds a way to overcome his issues, because he has talent.
Chris Fields Didn't do anything of note today, but ran a few poor routes, costing Pryor two completions. Fields has a great chance to establish himself in the rotation, especially with so many wideouts banged up. Even with everyone healthy, he's probably the number four receiver, but he was not impressive Saturday.
Corey Brown "Philly" is going to wow people at some point, because he looks so much like what Ohio State thought they were getting with Flash Thomas. Philly has speed, quicks and seems to be pretty intelligent in the passing game, knowing how to get open. He ran a "jet" sweep, and was thrown a slip screen, plays designed for Thomas last year, but Flash couldn't get on the field. Philly had two drops, but he doesn't give the impression that's going to be a problem. He's ahead of James Louis, Verlon Reed and Tyrone Williams, as none of them did much to stand out today.
Jake Stoneburner The hype is being realized, and one play explained why they never threw to Jake Ballard. Stoneburner got deep in a hurry, between linebacker and safety, and Pryor drilled him for a 25-yard gain. That play alone sold me that the tight end spot has been upgraded dramatically. Oh yah, that play took place DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD. Stoneburner's blocking was extremely improved over last year, and he's still only a sophomore eligibility-wise. He's a far better player than Ballard.
Reid Fragel The best blocking tight end on the roster, and a player who will see a lot of playing time in 2010. Was open a few times in the short hook zones, and can be a threat in the passing game. Fragel also upgrades a previously weak position in this offense.
Hardest area to evaluate in this type of scrimmage.
Justin Boren Flunks the "look-test." But passes the "play-test." Just a mean, nasty bar-room brawler, and probably the lowest rated player on the line by NFL standards. But he might play ten years in the league, and fool all the experts. I would call him the best offensive lineman on the team, and feel comfortable making that statement.
Michael Brewster Watching Corey Linsley struggle mightily with the shotgun snap makes one appreciate Brewster. Got beat a few times, once by Hankins, but Brewster is healthier, bigger and stronger than any time in his career. He's on his way to being Ohio State's next Nick Mangold, and he has two more years to earn that tag. He gets better by the game. Exactly what you want from every player on the roster. Still has a high ceiling.
Mike Adams Couldn't be more impressed by what Big Mike is doing out there, and it appears the open tackle spot is his, even though Andy Miller gets reps with the ones. Adams was better in pass protection Saturday than at any time since he's been at Ohio State. I expect a big year out of Big Mike.
Bryant Browning Look up steady in your dictionary. The face smiling back at you is Browning, and he's another unsung guy that just gets better and better. Has worked hard to transform his body, and he gives all he has on every play. Battled hard against Johnny Simon and Dexter Larimore all day, and showed himself well.
J.B. Shugarts Maybe the highest ceiling of any lineman on the team, and in two years he's going to be a rich young man. Prototype NFL right tackle. Handled the speed rushers well, and seemed quicker moving his feet. Shugarts aces the "look-test."
Andy Miller Found his way on the field in 2009, and he's not going away either. There's no way the five starters stay intact throughout 2010, and Miller plays the sixth-man role extremely well. The loss of Marcus Hall makes Miller even more valuable, and Ohio State is fortunate to have him on the roster.
Jack Mewhort Had an up-and-down day, but I would love to see him lined up with the ones, to see how he would do surrounded by better talent. Only a redshirt freshman, and he stands a chance to get playing time in 2010. Needs to work on quickness and flexibility, but this is a bad, bad man out on the field.
Andrew Norwell The true freshman struggled Saturday, and anything other than struggling would be surprising. Only played a few games as a high school senior because of an injury, so he needs reps. Norwell needs to redshirt in 2010, and play against Heyward-Simon-Williams all year long in practice. Great skill set, and Andrew Norwell is going to be a fine player some day, maybe next year.
Ohio State is clearly doing more on offense than at any time since Pryor took the starting job. Rollouts. Boot action. Waggles. Screens. Tight ends.
Even though it was a mosh-pit out there because of the scrimmage structure, the Ohio State offense showed more than enough Saturday to be excited about. This team looked like a team with enough talent to win every game.