April 12, 2011

Open Practice No. 3: Wasserman's Thoughts

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Amidst the most controversial time at Ohio State in the Jim Tressel era, there is still football to be played.

The Buckeyes took the practice field for the Tuesday afternoon for their latest spring football practice and the media was invited to catch 30 minutes of the action at the tail end of practice. It was the second time the media was invited to watch this spring.

Given all the talent Ohio State lost last year and the looming suspensions of some critical players on offense this season, this year's spring practice may be the most important spring the Buckeyes have had in some time.

Here are some of my thoughts from the limited time spent watching Ohio State's spring practice Tuesday:

  • Jordan Hall will have an impact[/db] - As spring practice continues to progress it is becoming more and more clear that Hall's role in the backfield may be diminishing because of all the rising talent Ohio State boasts at running back. However, that doesn't mean Hall isn't going to have a big role on this team.

    Though it has already become apparent that Hall is going to be utilized this season in the slot, Tuesday's practice featured a lot of passes to the running back in a variety of different ways. While sporting good hands all spring - whether it be on a pattern down field or a swing pass out of the backfield - Hall seems like a natural.

    For a solid portion of the 30 minutes the media was allowed to watch, Ohio State was working on a drill that emphasized bubble screens. In that drill, Hall caught the pass in the backfield and showed the natural ability to let blocks develop before exploding for a big gain. When the blocks didn't develop, his great elusiveness was the key to a nice gain. He was born to have the ball in open spaces and getting him involved in the receiving game seems to be the most effective way to do that.

  • Bucks need options like Hall, Jake Stoneburner - The bottom line with the wide receiver situation is simple: it's thin. Though DeVier Posey is returning for his senior season, Ohio State will have three wide receivers with limited experience playing all of the snaps for the first five games. While those players - namely Corey Brown, Chris Fields, and T.Y. Williams - are filled with potential, it's fair to say that Ohio State's wideouts are a weakness at this point.

    Though I don't anticipate Ohio State is going to come out and fling the ball all over the field in the first five games of the year, particularly because the quarterback will be a novice, there will be points in the game where the Buckeyes will need to put the ball in the air. When that time comes, the Buckeyes will have options like Hall and Stoneburner.

    That's not saying the receivers won't be ready or capable of carrying the load, but Stoneburner and Hall will be ready to run manageable routes that the quarterback can use to gain confidence. Stoneburner is an upperclassman that really came on last year as a receiver and should be a comfortable target for whoever is throwing him the ball and Hall is the perfect dump-off candidate out of the backfield.

    Piggy-backing off of what I said above, I think it is possible that both Hall and Stoneburner can be two of the leading four receivers in the first five games of the 2011 season. Both are experienced players that have big-play ability.

  • Taylor Graham making progress? - It's hard to make a read on the depth chart situation when you're only allowed to watch practice once a week for 30 minutes, but Graham repped with the second team today. While there's no saying that he has jumped Kenny Guiton on the depth chart, it seemed like an appropriate move given the way the redshirt freshman played in Saturday's scrimmage. Perhaps the most impressive signal caller of the group on Saturday, Graham led a couple scoring drives against the potent Ohio State defense. Don't quote me and say he is the No. 2 quarterback for the Buckeyes, but it was interesting to see him in that position.

    Odds & Ends

  • Marcus Hall, Andrew Norwell, and Jake Mewhort all took reps at left tackle. That position, which will be vacated by Mike Adams for the first five games of next year, is a priority for the Buckeyes. Norwell also took snaps at right tackle with the first team.

  • There was one drill that Braxton Miller threw a nice deep pass to T.Y. Williams down the sideline. It is clear that Miller can throw and I think it is safe to say that he's way more developed as a passer at this stage of his career than Pryor was.

  • During the scrimmage there was one play where Dan Herron took a handoff and was completely destroyed by Nate Williams. This was a hit that made me go "wow" out loud because I forgot where I was. Herron was leveled -- his body was parallel with the ground. I don't think there was any way Herron was expecting to get popped like that without full pads on. I don't even know of Williams is permitted to hit like that. Herron popped back up off the ground and was fine, but it was a huge hit.

    Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.


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