The Ohio State offense held on to win a competitive scrimmage that capped another day of spring football Tuesday in Columbus.
Kenny Guiton’s fade pass to tight end Nick Vannett in the corner of the end zone was the difference, and it sent the defense to the sideline for practice-ending gassers.
“It’s an awful scrimmage if the offense can’t gain five yards, and we’ve had scrimmages like that,” said Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. “It’s good to see competition. I’m not sure we have any answers yet other than Kenny did a nice job in there leading the second group on a touchdown drive. So it was a good day.”
Guiton led the backups 50 yards in a simulated two-minute drill that gave the offense a victory (via a custom scoring system Meyer chose not to explain). He connected with Vannett three times on the final drive.
The result was the opposite of a closed scrimmage held Saturday. Meyer said the defense won that affair, a result that might have come as a surprise considering the rebuilt stop unit lost six of seven players up front as well as one starting cornerback from last season.
Meyer revealed the coaching staff might turn to more blitzes in an attempt to make up for some of the production lost, something that was evident in the Tuesday practice. Using a variety of formations – base 4-3, nickel and dime – the defense seemed to blitz on nearly every play. They put plenty of pressure on Guiton, fellow backup quarterback Cardale Jones and starter Braxton Miller.
That was also the case Saturday, a test Meyer saw Jones pass.
“I think Cardale really showed that he can play quarterback for Ohio State,” Meyer said. “You had no idea other than he looks good. He throws the ball nicely once in a while, but he needs to show the energy that’s expected out of a quarterback.
“On defense we’re doing a lot of blitzing, a lot of pressures. There’s a lot of stuff going on. We weren’t a big blitz team last year, so we’re doing a lot of evaluation of what we want to be on defense because we lost some pretty good players.”
The most nerve-racking moment of the afternoon involved a quarterback taking a hit, but it was not the result of a blitz. Early in the scrimmage, Miller took a shot to the midsection from Leo end Noah Spence that left the junior All-Big Ten signal caller crumpled on the ground for a few minutes.
Miller eventually got to his feet and walked off the practice field on his own power. He later returned to lead the team again. When he approached the defensive sideline with some words after one play, tensions rose for a moment, but no altercation ensued.
“I like quarterbacks who want to get in a street fight and go after them,” Meyer said. “That’s not probably the time to do it, but he’s a competitor. I didn’t really see what happened, but Braxton is a competitor. That’s better than the opposite, just lie on the ground and curl up and go, ‘Why did you hit me?’ So he’s a tough kid.”
The offense showed its own twist early by lining up in a “diamond” or inverted shotgun wishbone formation that had the quarterback flanked on each side by a running back with a third back lined up behind him.
Meyer confirmed that is the fruition of a statement he made in the offseason about wanting to copy something he saw in an NFL game after the Buckeyes were done for the season.
“Some teams are doing some really good things,” he said. “We studied the 49ers. They’re doing some really good things.”
While the zone read the 49ers and other teams brought to the NFL is nothing new for Meyer or Ohio State, the new look does provide more options with which to attack a defense, and it could be an especially effective formation for Ohio State given its wealth of tailbacks.
As far as who will be helping clear the way for those ball carriers, Meyer revealed a new man has entered the battle while another fell out.
Sophomores Taylor Decker and Chase Farris continue to compete at right tackle, but redshirt freshman Pat Elflein has worked his way into the mix as a potential starter as well.
“He probably won’t be right tackle, but we would move somebody to right tackle if he’s the next guy,” Meyer said. “He’s been a big surprise. I love who he is, though. He’s a tough guy.”
On the other side of the coin, Meyer was sorry to share the news that junior Tony Underwood will not have a chance to earn minutes this season after he tore a knee ligament last week in practice.
“For the first time in his career, he’s made a real push,” Meyer said. “He was fighting his way into the rotation and then I think it was Thursday last week. We just found out recently, though. He’s going to have surgery and we’ll see what happens.”
For more observations, news and notes from Ohio State’s practice, check out the dedicated thread on our Ask the Insiders message board.