With spring practice nearly over for the Ohio State football team, head coach Urban Meyer seemed to want to speak more about an exciting weekend ahead in Ohio Stadium than practice No. 13 of the year at the Harmon Family Football Practice Park.
Maybe that’s because the banged-up Buckeyes weren’t quite at their best Wednesday afternoon as temperatures settled in the beautiful mid-60s in Columbus.
“If you watched today’s practice, it wasn’t like last Wednesday,” Meyer said, referencing a practice a week ago after which the coach raved about his squad. “Guys tried, but I think they’re leg weary. I think they’re beat up a little bit. It’s practice 13. That’s what happened, but the guys tried.”
The offense and defense finished tied on the day. The offense moved into position to attempt a potential game-winning field goal with just seconds left, but backup kicker Kyle Clinton’s try went wide right to send the defense off on a happier note.
“You saw it come down to a field goal, win or lose,” Meyer said. “The energy was all there. How many times do you get to see a practice after two hours on the field in the heat and they still have that energy to go? That’s good stuff.”
With both units struggling to find healthy bodies, it appeared the passing game – featuring a fair compliment of rollouts and play-action passes – had its moments inside the red zone but struggled otherwise. With the linebacker position hurting in numbers, the running game was able to find some traction as well.
Clinton, a sophomore walk-on from Dublin Coffman, was taking the deciding field goal with starter Drew Basil nursing a sprained ankle. Basil joined a group of injured Buckeyes nearing 20 in number, including linebacker Ryan Shazier and quarterback Cardale Jones, both of whom missed practice with an illness.
A number of other impact players who have been missing time were limited or just plain out. After suffering injuries in Saturday’s open practice, linebacker Curtis Grant was limited while safety Christian Bryant was out, though backup center Brian Bobek was back on the field.
The injured Buckeyes joined a group that includes wideouts Evan Spencer and Verlon Reed, defensive linemen Nathan Williams and Se’Von Pittman, linebackers Storm Klein and Joshua Perry and safeties C.J. Barnett, Zach Domicone and Jamie Wood as those held out of full scrimmaging.
However, Meyer doesn’t expect that to have a majorly negative impact on Saturday’s spring game.
“Every team in the country is dealing with that right now,” he said, noting the team had enough offensive and defensive linemen to proceed. “We’ll be fine for the spring game. I’m actually pleased. I’ve been in much worse situations for a spring game.”
The teams will be drafted Thursday morning at 6 a.m. with offensive coordinator Tom Herman running the Scarlet team and defensive coordinator/former head coach Luke Fickell choosing the Gray. Traditionally, the team’s seniors chose the teams under former coach Jim Tressel.
However, there will be something on the line in this one. Meyer said the teams will split all football personnel to each side, with the losing team then volunteered to complete a community service project next Friday.
“I’m hoping to get involved with the Buckeye Grove (All-America garden by the stadium) and do a two- to three-hour service project over there and get that place cleaned up,” Meyer said. “We’re going to have some fun with it.”
Football communications director Jerry Emig said 46,000 tickets have already been sold, with Meyer hoping the number continues to rise.
“I hope we fill that (stadium),” he said. “Wouldn’t it be fun? It means a lot. It’s what you expect at Ohio State. If I remember, Ohio State has always had great crowds at the spring game. One year, we had almost 100,000 if I remember right. I just hope the weather is nice and we have a good day.”
The stadium will also stage Friday evening’s Ohio North-South All-Star Classic, the annual prep all-star game that will feature OSU signees Warren Ball of Columbus DeSales, Najee Murray of Steubenville and De’Van Bogard of Cleveland Glenville. The game coincides with an annual high school coaching clinic.
“I know a lot of people including Coach Tressel did a lot of work to get that thing here,” Meyer said of the North-South game. “That’s where you want it. We’re going to fight to keep it here. It should be in Ohio Stadium. I’m a big fan of it.”
In addition, reserve walk-on quarterback Ross Oltorik moved to linebacker and continued to wear his No. 19.
For more of BSB’s observations from practice, click here to read the BuckeyeSports.com Ask the Insiders message board.