Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer came off the practice field feeling good about the first day his first Buckeye squad was together as a whole unit.
Preseason camp officially opened Friday with the veterans getting an early wake-up call for a 6 a.m. practice and the freshmen coming later in the day to work with the coaching staff as a group. Meyer explained that was to better address the specific needs of the freshmen without having to slow down for the veterans.
“We wanted to acclimate the freshmen – teach them how to get taped, teach them how to do everything, teach them how to stretch so we don’t disrupt and get guys hurt,” Meyer explained.
On Monday, he saw what he hoped to see from the offense, and that was plenty of carryover from 15 spring practices (including the Scarlet and Gray Game) spent installing his spread scheme.
“We were all disappointed (at the end of spring), but when we evaluated it we probably weren’t that disappointed from early spring to later in the spring because it was all new for them,” Meyer said. “I could tell you this: They did something in the summer. They sure did.”
Asked if he has the players to run his offense, Meyer answered in the affirmative but acknowledged some adaptation might have to be done. If so, it won't be the first time. He mentioned having to do so at Utah, where he was head coach in 2003 and '04.
He hopes someone steps up on offense and liked what he saw from Devin Smith, a sophomore wide receiver who played sporadically last season but produced some of the season's biggest plays, including a game-winning touchdown pass against Wisconsin.
“My gosh, do we need a guy like that to step up to do something,” Meyer said.
Curtis Grant, a sophomore linebacker expected to start in the middle this fall, was not at practice because he was in Virginia to be with his ailing grandfather. Meyer said he believed things were looking up on that front, and Grant could be back in Columbus on Tuesday.
There were no major surprises as far as personnel was concerned on either side of the ball aside from the absence of Grant, who was replaced by redshirt freshman Conner Crowell.
Jacob Stoneburner and Jack Mewhort were at their respective starting positions – tight end and left tackle – throughout practice, and Meyer said they remain on track to regain their scholarships at the beginning of the next academic period. The pair lost their financial aid and some team privileges during the summer after they allegedly fled from police on an early morning in June.
“I don’t know them that well because I’ve only been here (a short time), but they’re not good students, they’re great students,” Meyer said. “They’re on my leadership committee and I think the code word there is stupid. That is the word you associate, so are they less stupid now? I don’t know. I hope not. Right now we’re going to do the best we can to help them be less stupid. If there was a bad guy situation, they wouldn’t be playing.”
Freshman running back Brionte Dunn took part in practice, seeing time with both the first and second team offense. Meyer said he remains in limbo as his legal situation continues to play out following a traffic stop July 29. A small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia were found in the car Dunn was driving, but police chose not to press drug charges after his mother, the owner of the car, told them the items were not his. He pled not guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct stemming from the stop. Police allege he ran over a crosswalk and nearly hit a patrol car.
“I’m still waiting,” Meyer said of Dunn, who is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Alliance (Ohio) Municipal Court. “He’s going to plead not guilty. We did a series of tests, and everything came back that he was honest with me. However, if there is some charge that sticks then there will be a penalty like all kids that have a charge.”
Senior defensive end Nathan Williams and freshman center Jacoby Boren were both limited as they recover from surgeries to the knee and shoulder, respectively.
Boren is expected to backup starting center Corey Linsley, but that job fell to sophomore Antonio Underwood with Boren sidelined during team drills.
Exactly when either will be back is not clear at this point, but Meyer acknowledged Williams' availability will determine how the defensive line is configured. As of now, senior John Simon is playing the Leo rush-end position, but he would slide to the other side if Williams is able to return.
Although Meyer made a point to say the depth chart would be set at the end of spring practice, he acknowledged spots remain open for freshmen to win this month. He singled out linebacker Jamal Marcus as a player who stood out to him for his effort on day one. Marcus saw time with both the second and third team.
For more notes and observations from the day’s practice, see the Ask the Insiders message board.
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