Football has officially kicked off again in Columbus. The Ohio State football team began spring practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex on Tuesday, giving a glimpse of what’s to come in the 2017.
Brendon White starting out as a wide receiver
Freshman Brendon White is a dynamic athlete, which is exactly why OSU coach Urban Meyer recruited him. Standing at 6-foot-2, White came in as a safety who could also play at linebacker, but Meyer has bigger plans for the Ohio native.
“Right now, we have a little bit of a need at wide receiver,” Meyer said. “We’re pretty deep at linebacker. So Brendon White, he was a good athlete, a quarterback in high school. Let’s take a look at him there, see how he develops. He’s also learning how to tackle and play on defense because … probably his first impact will be on kicking game.”
White said during National Signing Day he was working to learn receiver techniques, and flashed a combination of good hands and crisp route running during the team’s morning workouts.
The Buckeyes were disappointing in the passing game last season, and the receiving corps was responsible for some of that blame. The leading receivers from last season, Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown, both high-tailed it to the NFL Draft, leaving holes at wideout.
Meyer has a habit of turning athletes into stars at other positions, and named a former Florida college football star as a success story when talking about White.
“Joe Haden is a perfect example for him,” he said. “We took him because he was a great athlete, and then we found out where he fit once he got there.”
White will get his chance to make his mark with OSU sooner rather than later with a plethora of talent needing replaced.
Transfers not the only thing affecting roster numbers
OSU has been scrutinized for an overabundance of players, and is facing the real possibility of having too many players and not enough roster spots. However, the Buckeyes might have a little more breathing room following the latest developments regarding transfers and departures.
Meyer said wide receiver Alex Stump will be transferring from the program, and was not seen at drills on Tuesday. His absence could open the door for younger talents, such as freshmen Trevon Grimes and Brendon White to earn playing time.
James Clark, another former wide receiver with the team, remains on campus as a member of the track team, but will be leaving as a graduate transfer following this season. Kyle Trout announced he, too, will not be with the team, and plans to transfer after graduation.
He currently remains with the team and will continue to work until after he earns his degree.
The next departure from OSU — Tyler Gerald — is a bizarre one.
“Yeah, he just quit,” Meyer said. “I don’t know. I really wasn’t part of that one.”
This just adds another open spot for someone on scholarship, but it’s a strange anomaly for a Meyer-coached team.
Linebacker is sorted out … kind of
Meyer confirmed redshirt senior linebacker Chris Worley as middle linebacker, with redshirt sophomore Jerome Baker as the weakside linebacker and redshirt senior Dante Booker at the strongside.
However, true to Meyer’s form, he quickly said he has yet to solidify this lineup.
“That’s just day one though, that could change,” Meyer said. “We’re trying things out and Worley’s got the mentality and now we just got to see if his body can hang in there at the MIKE linebacker spot.”
Worley has been in the program long enough to know the defense through and through, but his size is clearly an issue. Listed at 230 pounds, he’s a little on the light side for playing in the middle, but is a sound enough tackler he might just be able to succeed.
Kevin Wilson’s influence will be seen in the fall
Indiana’s offense was revived from the dead under Kevin Wilson, and the OSU coaching staff will be hoping for the same kind of reinvigoration this year. Meyer said his presence will be felt in the passing game early in the season, especially in the routes of wide receivers.
“If it fits into (conceptually) what we’re trying to get done, then we add it,” Meyer said. “The term we use around here is, ‘We’re not changing, we’re enhancing what we do.’ If it’s broken, we have to change it.”
Wilson will be working with young talents like sophomore Binjimen Victor and redshirt sophomore K.J. Hill, along with veterans in junior’s Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon. Junior Eric Glover-Williams is making the switch to receiver from safety this season, and could be a factor in the slot.
Barrett, too, could benefit from Wilson’s concepts. Only time will tell how much of the ingenuity of the longtime coach shines through.
The secondary will be a revolving door
There will be no replacing talents like Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Malik Hooker. But OSU is going to try to replicate the production of three potential first-round picks by implementing a rotation in the secondary.
“I think the way we play defense, we’d like to do that,” Meyer said. “We have Damon Arnette and Denzel Ward (who) are the only guys who have ever played for us right now. You’ve got Rodjay Burns. We moved Wayne Davis to safety. You’ve got these four corners that just stepped out there today that looked pretty good. We’d like to play three or four — we’d like to play more than three or four. We learned a lesson. That was as good of production as we’ve had out of corners anywhere we’ve been. Obviously, you’ve got great players, but what we ask those guys to do … it’s a track meet for four hours. If you can (get) a little rotation in there, it’s going to be much better. So the answer is yes.”
Arnette and Ward had limited playing time last season with OSU, and will be replacing arguably the best duo of corners the Buckeyes have had in a long time. It will be no easy task, but the help from incoming freshmen Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade, as well as transfer and sophomore Kendall Sheffield, should make things a little easier on OSU.
Expect to see plenty of fresh faces during the spring game on April 15. OSU will be in Ohio Stadium for the team’s annual scrimmage, and fans will get a glimpse of the skills of the new Buckeyes.