Losing highly rated prospect Vonn Bell to a knee injury at the beginning of spring practice was far from ideal for the Ohio State secondary, but new safeties coach Chris Ash said the pair he has working with the first team right now fit the perfect mold of what they are looking for at the position.
Bell is expected to return to full health in May, but in the meantime, sophomores Cam Burrows and Tyvis Powell are working as the starters and gaining valuable experience in head coach Urban Meyer's high-intensity spring practices.
And intensity is the emphasis right now, so Bell might not end up too far behind from a schematic standpoint.
"The first thing I want to make sure they're doing is coming out here and living the culture of Ohio State football that Coach Meyer has, and it's going 4-6, A to B and playing with extreme effort," Ash said Thursday night. "As long as we can do that, we'll fix anything else that is wrong. We've got some talented players here that if they can be consistently in the right spots and execute and are going at a maximum effort, we're going to do pretty well."
Bell displayed his playmaking ability with an acrobatic interception in the Orange Bowl, but he will have to wait to practice the new coverages and techniques from Ash. For now, he has been asked to take mental reps.
"He's doing that so far," Ash said. "He's still in all of our meetings, getting coached extremely hard in meetings. From a physical standpoint, yeah it's too bad that he's not out there, but does it hurt us? No. It's next man in. Cam Burrows has stepped in and taken advantage of the opportunity and done a great job. Vonn will be healthy soon and we're gonna have a great competition for those safety positions."
Powell, who was the team's No. 1 nickel back last year and started at safety in the Orange Bowl, was among those Ash said he has seen stand out early in spring ball.
"The obvious is he's long, he's tall, he can run," Ash said. "He's got great ball skills. He's a very smart player, has got a really good football IQ. We'll see what he does when we're going live tackling but up to this point he competes and he's smart and has a little bit of everything."
The newly minted Buckeye coach also confirmed that players like the 6-3, 205-pound Powell and the 6-0, 208-pound Burrows fit the bill from a physical standpoint, and their previous experience playing cornerback figures to be an asset in the new quarters coverage Ash plans to install.
"Oh absolutely," Ash said. "Getting big corners like that with good hips and feet who can run, that's outstanding. They're the model of what we'd like to recruit here."
Much has been made of schematic changes Ash plans to bring to the Buckeyes, but he and the players downplayed that to a certain extent in interviews so far.
"I'm sure they'll expand the playbook sooner or later, but right now they're just making it simple for everybody to understand so everybody can know where they're supposed to be and understand the defense, what we're trying to get done," Powell said.
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