Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
It was inside a heated facility, with no pads on, in March, but football was back on Ohio State’s campus.
The Buckeyes held their first of 15 spring practices Tuesday afternoon on the indoor field of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. OSU practiced from shortly before 4 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. in helmets, T-shirts and shorts.
Heading into the outing, we looked at questions OSU needs to get answered if they are going to truly be considered a national championship contender.
Here are some things we learned from watching the Buckeyes’ first practice in its entirety:
Braxton Miller listened to his coach
All off-season, Urban Meyer hammered down the point that if Miller could improve his fundamentals, he could become the best quarterback in the country. It was only one practice, throwing against a defense he’s very accustomed to seeing, with no threat of being tackled, but the rising junior looked Tuesday like he took Meyer’s words to heart.
Miller opened Tuesday’s session against the first-team defense making every throw in the book.
He hit rising junior wide receiver Evan Spencer on a sharp slant over the middle. Then he found rising junior wideout Devin Smith on a deep out route to the sideline. The highlight of Miller’s throws came on a 45-yard bomb up the seam to rising-senior H-back Jordan Hall.
“Braxton Miller had one heck of a day,” Meyer said.
The fundamentals? Those were sharp and improved, too.
Most of Miller’s passes came in the pocket on three-or-five step drops, a rarity last season. His footwork was precise, and he seldom dropped his shoulder – a nuisance of Miller’s game in his sophomore season – while making a throw.
“It was fantastic,” Meyer said when asked about his quarterback’s fundamentals.
Kerry Coombs still likes to yell
After watching Coombs for a full season in the fall, it was obvious that yelling is one of the defensive backs’ coach favorite things to do.
Tuesday’s practice just reinforced that.
Coombs favorite target seemed to be incoming freshman cornerback Eli Apple. After Apple let a wide receiver get past him to make a catch, Coombs went to work.
“You’re faster than that, Eli!” Coombs screamed.
Apple nodded his head and slowly proceeded back to the huddle.
Coombs, still not happy with the effort, ran up to Apple and got inches from the highly recruited player’s facemask.
“Don’t jog!” Coombs bellowed. Apple sprinted back to his teammates.
Coombs’ possible best outburst, though, was directed at rising junior cornerback Adam Griffin.
Coaching his defensive backs through a press coverage drill, in which players shuffled from the 40-yard line to the 45 while bumping wide receivers off their routes, Griffin wasn’t strong enough with one of his bumps.
The wide receiver got by Griffin, easily.
“You have no freaking power,” Coombs barked. “You’re a marshmallow!”
By the end of the two and a half hour practice, Coombs was somehow still going strong.
Jordan Hall as “Robin”
If Miller is the Batman of OSU’s offense, Hall looked like he could be his quarterback’s Robin.
Playing the H-back position Meyer made famous at Florida with current NFL wideout Percy Harvin, Hall looked very comfortable out in space Tuesday.
He helped Miller make the play of the day with his leaping 45-yard catch over rising senior defensive back Christian Bryant, but he did a lot more than just make one play.
Hall was lined up in the slot when the first-team offense faced the first-team defense, and OSU’s safeties and linebackers had all sorts of trouble sticking with the speedy playmaker. The rising senior has the speed to get by most players that will get put in front of him, and he showed Tuesday he has the hands to make his athleticism count.
“Boy, was he great today,” Meyer said of Hall.