What Ryan Day did, couple of position surprises: Ohio State football practice observations


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State football opened up the first portion of Tuesday’s fall camp practice. Here’s what we saw:

* Tuesday marked the fourth practice of camp, and the first full day in pads. The Buckeyes will move away from the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Wednesday, and begin practicing at the grass fields on Coffey Road — across from Ohio Stadium — for the next two weeks.

* What I was most interested in on Tuesday was how the coaches ran things with Urban Meyer still on paid administrative leave pending the university’s ongoing investigation of the OSU head coach. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day is acting head coach, and I wanted to see how he handled that.

Does he oversee everything? Or does he stick with his guys, with the offense, and let the position coaches handle their players?

It looked like much more of the latter on Tuesday. During the warmup and stretching period, Day stayed on the side of the quarterbacks and offensive players. Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch stayed with the defensive players. Normally when we come to these things Meyer is meandering throughout all of the players, picking out random ones to have a brief conversation with and surveying the entire team.

That didn’t happen on Tuesday, which is fine. I was just interested to see if Day would do that.

* This probably sounds a bit silly, but it’s always easy to find Meyer because he usually wears something different than the rest of the coaching staff. If they’re all wearing red, he’s wearing white or gray. Maybe that wasn’t by design, but it seemed to happen a lot. I wondered if Day would do the same. He didn’t. There was nothing about Day, in dress or demeanor, to distinguish him from the other assistant coaches.

* Strength coach Mickey Marotti addressed the team as a whole before practice, not Day. That doesn’t mean Day hasn’t done it in previous practices, they just kicked things off on Tuesday with Marotti delivering the message for the day.

* During position group practice periods, Day stayed with the quarterbacks. The only coach who roamed was Schiano, who’s not tied to a position group so he can oversee the entire defense.

* Mostly, though, it felt like a normal practice. We saw stretching and the first three periods, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary from how things are run when Meyer is there. Again, not surprising, just the kind of thing you’re on the lookout for in a situation like this.

* Having only watched about 30-35 minutes of practice, it’s hard to get a full picture of who’s where in some of these position battles. But two things stuck out to me: Guard Michael Jordan was practicing snapping (I didn’t see that with my own two eyes, but was told it happened), and Pete Werner was playing middle linebacker.

* I should say that from everything I saw on Tuesday, Brady Taylor looks like the No. 1 center. Still, Jordan taking reps at center is interesting. I asked Meyer at Big Ten media days what happens if, in the search for the best five offensive linemen, it turns out one of them isn’t Taylor — a fifth-year senior who’s never started. Meyer said he’d “be disappointed.”

The starting experience on the offensive line is at tackle with Isaiah Prince, and at guard with Jordan, Demetrius Knox and Branden Bowen. I could see a scenario where Jordan plays center with Knox and Bowen at guard. I’m not saying that’s going to happen now, but Jordan repping at center is a window into that at least being a possibility.

From what I could tell on Tuesday, though, the first-team offensive line was: LT Thayer Munford, LG Michael Jordan, C Brady Taylor, RG Demetrius Knox and RT Isaiah Prince.

* Werner at middle linebacker was a little more surprising to me. Any conversation about the position should be had with the understanding that Tuf Borland is expected back early in the season from an Achilles injury he suffered in the spring. And Borland was out there on Tuesday, which was a good sign that he’s on pace to come back. Meyer said in Chicago that he wasn’t sure if Borland would be cleared for full contact at any point of camp.

It’s hard to get a read on first-team linebackers right now, other than Malik Harrison being pretty solid there. But Werner is another name to consider at middle linebacker along with Baron Browning and Justin Hilliard.

* Demario McCall was the first-team punt returner, but C.J. Saunders and freshmen Jaelen Gill were working there with him.

* J.K. Dobbins was first in line during running back drills, followed by Mike Weber and Master Teague.

* Quarterback Matthew Baldwin was in a black non-contact jersey like the other two scholarship quarterbacks, Dwayne Haskins and Tate Martell. Baldwin, who’s coming off an ACL injury in December, looked like he was full go. Haskins was first in line, for whatever that’s worth.

* The quarterbacks did an interesting drill that I don’t think I’ve seen before. They practiced handing the ball off the the running back on a read, then sprinted out to their left. While moving, one of the assistants pitched a ball to them, and then the QBs threw a pass into the flat. Looked like it was meant to mimic all aspects of an RPO, with a bubble screen packaged with an inside run. Expect more of those packaged plays with Haskins at quarterback to make up for the fact that he’s not as effective of a runner as his predecessor.

* The safety spot opposite Jordan Fuller is maybe the biggest position battle to watch in camp. My quick glance at the first-team defense had Isaiah Pryor in that spot. But expect Amir Riep, Jahsen Wint, Brendon White and Josh Proctor to get a shot.

* If Ohio State is searching for three corners to rotate again, I think Marcus Williamson has a shot to get in, or stretch it to four. He seemed like he was right there with Damon Arnette, Kendall Sheffield and Jeffrey Okudah. Some good depth there.

* Both Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper repped at first-team defensive end opposite Nick Bosa. Think Young and Copper might a little closer than first anticipated.

* On paper this certainly looks like the deepest Ohio State has been at defensive tackle. Getting a look at guys like Dre’Mont Jones, Robert Landers, Davon Hamilton, Haskell Garrett and Tommy Togiai on Tuesday — you really get a feel for it. Not sure how Larry Johnson is going to sort through all of those guys, but that to me looks like the deepest position on the team right now. And that’s without mentioning junior college transfer Antwuan Jackson and freshman Taron Vincent.

* Most physically impressive freshman? Offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere. He’s got a shot to be in the two-deep with tackle lacking in depth a little bit.



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