It wasn’t a big day for surprises as the Ohio State football team got going with spring practice on Tuesday.
But it was a day for encouragement.
Second-year head coach Urban Meyer liked a lot of what he saw as the team staged the first of 15 practices that will shape how the 2013 season – one already loaded with expectations for the only team to go through the 2012 campaign without a loss – will go down as the team got to work this afternoon in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Coming off a frustrating 2012 season that ended up needing a medical redshirt, new slot player Jordan Hall “was great today.” Quarterback Braxton Miller, fresh off of working this offseason with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., had “a heck of a day” and his footwork was “outstanding.” Meyer even thought potential starting middle linebacker Curtis Grant “looked pretty good to me.”
Tape will show exactly how the Buckeyes did, but you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and that first impression was a good one.
“The only thing I don’t feel great about is when I look and I don’t see my leaders from last year,” Meyer said. “I grew to love those guys. The (John) Simons, the Etienne (Sabinos), the (Zach) Borens, the (Garrett) Goebels and some others have turned out to be as good of human beings as I’ve been around. That’s the only void.
“Other than that, I feel great. There’s so much carryover. On defense, there’s a lot of young puppies running around out there, but offensively I thought the carryover was really good.”
The Buckeyes welcomed a few new players to the starting unit, including right tackles Taylor Decker and Chase Farris, defensive linemen Adolphus Washington, Noah Spencer, Joel Hale and J.T. Moore, linebackers Curtis Grant and David Perkins, cornerback Doran Grant and "Star" Tyvis Powell.
A number of players stood out, especially Hall, whose comeback from injury to take over the slot position was one of the key questions of spring workouts but looks to be off to a good start as he caught one deep pass and was solid on underneath throws.
Bradley Roby pulled in two interceptions – including one of Miller on a slant pass to Evan Spencer that Roby jumped during full 11-on-11 scrimmaging – and a number of young players got a chance to step up on the defensive side of the ball missing seven starters from last year.
“One of our mantras is just grading the day,” Meyer said. “We’re going to evaluate every day, and a guy like Roby comes and has two picks, if he comes out and performs, he’s 1 for 1. I’m going to grade him every day. Everybody has big dreams, even as a football team we have big dreams, so we’re going to grade the day. That means you either did your job or you didn’t.
“We have a big saying around here, ‘Hey, we don’t coach effort.’ We’re going to coach fundamentals. We’re going to coach specifics, which means play specifics, but by now they have a better understanding of four-to-six seconds (of relentless effort). And I liked it today.”
The Buckeyes didn’t do much scrimmaging, focusing mostly on position drills as they got back to action for the first time since the Michigan game. The team will practice again Thursday before splitting for spring break, then come back for four more weeks of practice.
This year’s start is the earliest on record at OSU but Meyer said there is a good reason for that, as well as the decision to stage three practices per week going forward.
“We felt it was really important, especially with this outfit, to get the 20-hour work weeks as often as we can,” Meyer said. “We have the 20-hour work week this week. That means Monday, Wednesday and Friday we get a significant amount of meeting time. Then when we get back, we’re going to go Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday again.
“Because of where we’re at as a football team, with some youth in some certain spots, if we go Monday, Wednesday, Friday, they’ll be four-hour meeting days. It’s significant. It’s the first time I did it, and so far I love it because we had a good work day yesterday.”
There is still a long way to go, but Meyer was happy to have the first day in the books.
“I knew we would have good attitudes,” Meyer said. “What I’m concerned about is just development of some players. After day one, I can’t give you a whole lot because I don’t know other than we went out in shorts. We did have a good attitude. Some guys like Tyvis Powell and Pittsburgh Brown and some other guys had good days. We threw and caught pretty well, but once again, there’s not a lot. But we did have a good attitude.”
Ohio State practiced without a pair of No. 10s today in wideout Philly Brown (knee sprain) and linebacker Ryan Shazier (sports hernia), though no other major injuries could be reported.
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