Thursday, April 1, 2010

IT WAS A BRIGHT FIRST DAY FOR BUCKS, BRIGHTER FOR PRYOR

Photo courtesy of the Ohio State University

COLUMBUS — Thursday afternoon in Columbus marked the opening of spring football practice for the Ohio State Buckeyes and there were plenty of questions that needed to be answered.

Obviously, most of the answers didn't come on Thursday, being that it was the first day of camp and the players were only in shorts and helmets.

However, two of the most important questions coming into the spring session were answered. The first, how is junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor coming along health-wise following off-season knee surgery? And the second, has he continued to progress as a passer.

Pryor definitely showed that he is injury-free, going through all of Thursday's drills with zero limitations. He looked agile, quick and didn't display any sort of hitch in his gait.

As for his progression as a passer? According to this observer, it's the best — and definitely the most comfortable — Pryor has looked throwing the football since he's been on campus.

Did the light turn on for the junior-to-be passer following his outstanding performance in the Buckeyes' Rose Bowl victory over Oregon back in January?

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel thinks the light has been on all along for the OSU signal caller — it's just getting brighter, that's all.

"I think people like to use the phrase 'did the switch go on' or 'did the light go on.'" Tressel said. "I'm not sure I've ever seen that before. Is the light getting brighter? Yeah, you can see that.

"Did it take an extra step of brightness during the bowl preparation and the bowl performance? I think so. But, you know, it's got to keep getting brighter. I thought coming into the winter and during this first day today, he was very business-like."

Pryor showed more velocity on his passes in offensive drills, mostly because he isn't guiding the ball like he has in the past, but instead stepping into his throws with more drive and confidence.

He completed most of his throws in the drills on Thursday with great accuracy, including a few lasers to DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher.

WHO WILL START AT THE TACKLES? — Although it was only the first day, it seems as though the Buckeyes have an idea who will begin — at least camp — at the starting offensive tackle positions.

During drills on Thursday, junior Mike Adams lined up at left tackle for the first team, while fellow junior J.B. Shugarts manned the right side. Obviously, the middle of the o-line is set with senior Justin Boren at left guard, junior Michael Brewster at center and senior Bryant Browning at right guard.

It will be interesting to see if the 6-foot-8, 320-pound Adams will be able to keep a firm grip on the starting spot, as he has had a rough go of it the past few seasons, on and off the field.

Senior Andrew Miller was the left tackle for the second team and sophomore Marcus Hall lined up as the right tackle.

We'll know more about what the Buckeyes are thinking on the o-line Friday, when offensive coordinator Jim Bollman will be made available following practice.

WHO WILL BE THE NO. 3 RECEIVER? — With Posey and Sanzenbacher locked in at 1-2 on the edges, the biggest question about the receiver position will be — who will emerge as the third man in the spread?

Sophomore wide receiver Duron Carter — who was ruled academically ineligible for the Rose Bowl — wasn't in practice on Thursday, and according to Tressel probably won't be at all this spring. Tressel didn't specify why, but it seems that academics could be the reason, being that winter quarter at OSU just ended a week ago.

No matter what Carter's status is, Tressel said that senior Taurian Washington is the No. 3 receiver for the Buckeyes going into 2010.

"Even with Duron, Taurian Washington would be our No. 3 receiver," Tressel said. "He did a good job in the bowl preparation and the bowl game itself."

WHICH PLAYERS WILL FILL THE MISSING GAPS ON DEFENSE? — With defensive end Thaddeus Gibson, safety Kurt Coleman and linebacker Austin Spitler all graduated or off to the NFL, the Buckeyes defense will have some big holes to fill.

With senior Cameron Heyward returning at one end and senior Dexter Larimore and sophomore John Simon manning the middle, juniors' Nathan Williams and Solomon Thomas will alternate at the other end position vacated by Gibson.

"Solomon Thomas and Nate Williams will compete with each other at the leo spot (left end)," OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. "I think both of those guys will compete well. Each had very good off-seasons with Thaddeus gone. They see an opportunity and are giving a real good effort."

Starting on Thursday at the strongside linebacker position — which is vacated by Spitler — was junior Etienne Sabino. Heacock more or less stated that the starting spot is Sabino's to lose, even though junior Andrew Sweat, who received more reps last year, is sidelined with an injury.

The other big gap in the defense is at safety, where the strong side is open after last year's free safety, Coleman, graduated, and last year's strong safety Jermale Hines moves to the free.

It appears as if sophomore Orhian Johnson has the inside track to win the strong safety spot. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder from St. Petersburg, Fla., played with the first team on Thursday and looked very promising.

FRIDAY'S PRACTICE — The Buckeyes will resume practice on Friday at 3:15 p.m. Following the session, offensive coordinator Jim Bollman, along with offensive linemen Bryant Browning and Justin Boren will speak to the media.

The Buckeye Times will be on hand for complete coverage.