Meyer says young players must contribute
COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio State just wrapped up its 15 spring practices with the spring game, and coach Urban Meyer and position coaches talked about the road ahead. Here are some things we learned from spring practice:
With the loss of 16 starters from last year’s team, building a credible depth chart for 2016 will be one of the biggest challenges Meyer faces as he starts his fifth season at Ohio State.
Inexperienced players will be starters, and some freshmen likely will see regular playing time. Meyer has said that early enrolled freshman Michael Jordan has a chance to start on the offensive line, and redshirt freshman Mike Weber will battle fifth-year senior Bri’onte Dunn and others for the starting nod at running back.
Joey Bosa’s little brother, Nick, a much-heralded incoming freshman, could see a lot of playing time on the defensive line. “The challenge is, are we good enough?” Meyer said. “We’ve played at a very high level for two years, now are we going to go down?”
WHO’S GOING TO CATCH THE DEEP BALL?
The Buckeyes will enter fall camp still waiting for a deep threat to emerge from a talented pool of receivers.
Spring practice was tough because the four players projected to be the top receivers — Noah Brown, Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and Curtis Samuel — were recovering from injuries and not available. That opened the door for youngsters like Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell and Torrance Gibson, all of whom had their shining moments in the spring game.
Right now, though, wide receiver is one of the more unsettled spots.
“The competition is really going to be fierce this fall,” said co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck.
LOFTY EXPECTATIONS FOR HUBBARD
With the departure of Joey Bosa, coaches are expecting sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard to step in and be the disruptive, game-changing force that Bosa was on the Buckeyes defense.
Hubbard saw plenty of action as a redshirt freshman last year and finished with 6 1/2 sacks, which ranked second on the team behind Tyquan Lewis’ eight. Hubbard came to spring camp heavier and stronger than last year, and Meyer said it’s critical that Hubbard assume Bosa’s role, which was to make everyone on the offensive side of the ball worry about him.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT J.T
Quarterback J.T. Barrett didn’t have a great day at Saturday’s spring game, working with an inexperienced line against the first-team defense. But he’s not worried about it, and neither is anyone else. Barrett, a junior who entered his first spring camp as the undisputed starter, is healthy, game-tested and ready to go. Coaches say he had a great spring.
The team’s fate will turn on his performance this fall. “He’s on a mission,” Beck said. He practiced like he was on a mission. He played extremely confident and fast….He threw the ball really well.”
BURROW IS RISING
Meyer liked the progress this spring from quarterback Joe Burrow, who is competing to be the backup to Barrett. Meyer said he wanted to see how Burrow would handle the pressure of the spring game with 100,000 fans screaming in Ohio Stadium, and the 6-foot-3, 208-pound redshirt freshman responded by completing 14 for 23 for 196 yards and three touchdowns.
He played the entire game and led his Gray side to a 28-17 victory. Those who were there Saturday just may have seen Ohio State’s QB of the future. Burrow, a former Ohio Mr. Football, will battle sophomore Stephen Collier for the No. 2 spot this fall, along with incoming freshman Dwayne Haskins, who Meyer raved about Thursday.
“If you’re going to play quarterback at Ohio State, you need to be a Heisman candidate,” Meyer said. “If you play quarterback at Ohio State in this offense, you have to be a Heisman candidate or we’re going to suffer.”