OSU’s First Practice Brings Season To Life

By Jeff Rapp, July 27th, 2017

The Ohio State football coaching staff has 29 practices to prepare the Buckeyes for their unusual Aug. 31 season opener at Indiana, a fellow member of the Big Ten’s East Division.

Might as well get an early start, Urban Meyer no doubt felt.

Sure enough, preseason camp opened at the break of day, 6:30 a.m., on Thursday with knees hiking, whistles and rock music blaring and coaches barking.

On one edge of the practice field behind the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, offensive line coach Greg Studrawa could be heard yelling, “Sprint!” at one of his young tackles during a drill. Fifty feet away defensive line coach Larry Johnson had his charges changing direction in a sand pit. On a deeper field, Kerry Coombs was hopping around like a kangaroo trying to get his special teams players enthused.

The entire 105-man roster was present, although three players – running back Mike Weber, tight end Marcus Baugh and defensive tackle Malik Barrow – worked on the side and mainly stretched because of nagging injuries. Another key performer, starting left tackle Jamarco Jones, was on the field but limited because of an injury he opted not to disclose.

Weber, Baugh and Barrick took it easy.

“I’ll be all right,” Jones said, intimating that the setback wasn’t at all serious.

Everyone else participated in a brisk, lively practice – despite the hour.

Meyer said at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago that he wanted fall camp to be “a continuation of summer conditioning.” That certainly gabbed the attention of players such as junior Sam Hubbard, who labeled the summer workouts as the toughest he’s endured yet.

“I get it,” said Hubbard, a standout defensive end. “We have a lot of talent and we don’t want to swing and miss.”

Hubbard said the Buckeyes already have been through the ringer since a 31-0 playoff loss to Clemson.

Linemate Jalyn Holmes grudgingly admitted that the demanding tenor or practice actually will pay dividends.

“Camp is a good time for team bonding,” he said. “We don’t really get to be this close with each other once the season starts. This is good for us … because we’re all suffering together.”

The Buckeyes get to suffer together again during another early-morning practice on Friday then will take the weekend off before returning to the field on Monday. Wednesday is day off and then the team will conduct 15 practices on fields just across the Olentangy River in the shadow of Ohio Stadium.

A few observations of practice No. 1 follow:

• DL Tracy Sprinkle, back from prolonged injury, led the team in the pre-practice huddle and fired up the troops.

• Baugh seemed to be going the easiest. He suffered a sprained toe recently and the coaches don’t want him to worsen the inflammation in it.

• With Jones out of almost all reps, 6-7 sophomore Branden Bowen lined up as the first-team left tackle to open drills. Next to him, left to right were lleft guard Michael Jordan, center Billy Price, right guard Malcolm Pridgeon and right tackle Isaiah Prince. The media only was invited to watch the first three periods of practice but it was clear sophomore Matthew Burrell received some first-team reps at right guard in addition to Pridgeon.

• With Weber sidelined, true freshman J.K. Dobbins took the first-team reps at running back. Dobbins has created a bit of a buzz and some close to the program believe he will be an immediate and viable option this fall.

• DT Davon Hamilton, who missed most of the spring because of a fracture on his foot, looked unrestricted.

• Sprinkle practiced full-go for the first time since his knee injury in the 2016 season opener against Bowling Green.

• Players on the field but wearing orange jerseys (limited participation) were freshman linebacker Baron Browning, sophomore linebacker Malik Harrison and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Gavin Cupp.

• The group of players who took turns fielding punts included Demario McCall, K.J. Hill and Parris Campbell. Their battle figures to continue well into camp. Dobbins is yet another possibility.

• Freshman Brendon White is now wearing No. 25 and appears to have a home at safety even though he had a cup of coffee at wide receiver. Also, Rashod Berry is back at his natural position of tight end after working with the defensive line last season.

J.T. Barrett, of course, is the team’s listed starting quarterback and on Thursday he met at length with reporters to detail the direction of the offense. He wore a black jersey for the first practice, as did Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins, who are battling for the backup spot. Incoming freshman Tate Martell wore scarlet, meaning he was “live” and allowed to be hit.

Barrett was engulfed by reporters.

• All 21 members of the 2017 signing day class were on the field and so were nine walk-ons: QB Kory Curtis from Cape Coral, Fla.; P Jake Metzer from Doylestown, Pa.; WR Michael Hartway from Columbus; DB Jack Hamilton from Dublin, Ohio; DB Kevin Dever from Cleveland; RB Jeremiah Knight from Jefferson, Ohio; WR Garyn Prater from Cincinnati; SAF Clay Raterman from Dublin, Ohio; and DL Nick Seme from Wadsworth, Ohio.