With its annual spring game looming on April 16, the Ohio State football team held its sixth spring practice on Tuesday morning in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Following the morning of drills and conditioning, OSU coach Urban Meyer met with the media to discuss the previous Saturday’s intra-squad scrimmage and how spring drills have been progressing.
Here are three of the takeaways from the press conference.
Despite redshirt junior Tyquan Lewis — OSU’s lone returning starter on the defensive line — being out for the spring with a shoulder injury, Meyer said he was impressed with the play of the unit during the scrimmage.
Specifically, he commended the performances of redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard, junior defensive end Jalyn Holmes and redshirt freshman defensive tackle Davon Hamilton.
“D-line is the area of most concern in our program,” Meyer said. “I think that’s shifted a little bit to the O-line now.”
After amassing 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks as the primary backup defensive end last season, Hubbard is set to take over as the starter at defensive end for Joey Bosa, who is expected to be a top-five pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Holmes is currently getting first-team repetitions due to the absence of Lewis.
Hamilton, meanwhile, appears to be making headway at a defensive tackle position filled with question marks after the graduation of Adolphus Washington.
“He’s coming out of his shell a little bit,” Meyer said of Hamilton.
The coach also mentioned freshman receiver Austin Mack, redshirt freshman running back Mike Weber and freshman offensive guard Michael Jordan as other players who caught his eye in the scrimmage.
Concern at offensive line
Among the Buckeyes’ mass exodus of players from last year’s team were three of the team’s five starting offensive linemen, with only redshirt junior guard Billy Price and redshirt senior center Pat Elflein remaining.
Replacing 60 percent of the offensive line has been one of the major concerns for Meyer and his staff this spring.
“We’re still trying to find that starting five,” Meyer said.
One player who has caught the attention of his coach is Jordan, who has earned first-team practice time with the offensive line.
“He just loves it,” Meyer said. “He doesn’t know if it’s right or left sometimes, but at this point, we don’t care. You come in for extra work, enjoy the game, enjoy your practice, and be a tough guy. He’s done all that. We’re really impressed with him.”
Sophomore left tackle Isaiah Prince and junior right tackle Jamarco Jones — regarded as the favorites to win the starting jobs at their respective positions — are also “doing better,” Meyer said.
“Whoever plays that position, we can’t drop off (from last year),” Meyer said.
Tight running back competition
With 2015 Big Ten offensive player of the year Ezekiel Elliott gone to the NFL draft, the Buckeyes are trying to determine who will fill the sizeable void and take over the starting running back role in 2016.
As was widely expected, the former four-star recruit Weber is among those at the top of the depth chart after redshirting his freshman year due to a meniscus tear.
However, Meyer said redshirt senior Bri’onte Dunn — who hasn’t seen the field much through his first three years of eligibility at OSU — is “neck and neck” with Weber right now.
“I’m so impressed with him,” Meyer said. “You all know a couple years ago, there wasn’t a whole lot of conversation about him.”
Whether he wins the starting job or is the backup to Weber, Dunn should get his first real opportunity for playing time in his final year donning scarlet and gray. He has only 48 career carries for 287 yards and three touchdowns through his first three seasons in Columbus.
Meyer also said freshman Antonio Williams, a four-star recruit out of New London, North Carolina, has stuck out in spring practice and could be the first freshman to lose his black stripe.
Meyer and the Buckeyes will continue their march toward the spring game, which is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on April 16 at Ohio Stadium.