Tuesday, April 27, 2010

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED THIS SPRING ABOUT THE 2010 BUCKEYES

Ohio State senior wide receiver Taurian Washington took advantage of Duron Carter's (not pictured) absence this spring, locking down the No. 3 spot out on the edge. (Photo by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — Now that spring practice at Ohio State is in the rearview, it's time to look back, process all of the information and come up with the five most important things we learned about the 2010 Buckeyes football team.

THE GAME HAS SLOWED DOWN FOR PRYOR ... Quarterback Terrelle Pryor has become much more comfortable in the pocket this spring, not only with his improved passing mechanics and foot work, but also with the way he's making decisions, especially under pressure.

Pryor said the game is really beginning to slow down for him, coming into his third season in Columbus.

"It's all about decision making," Pryor said this spring. "I'm making a lot better decisions and the game has really, really slowed down. When you first get here you are kind of thinking like, 'is this ever going to slow down? Is this ever going to get easy like high school?' But, finally it has really slowed for me."

SIMON IS A MONSTER ... Sophomore defensive tackle John Simon was flat out unblockable this spring. The 6-foot-2, 270 pounder from Youngstown wreaked havoc on the Buckeyes interior offensive line all spring long.

During the jersey scrimmage on April 17, the big man flourished in live action, collecting two sacks, two batted down passes at the line, as well as recovering a fumble in the end zone for the only touchdown of the day.

Simon earned his way into the defensive line rotation late last season. His incredible play and unlimited potential has earned him a starting spot in 2010.

"I think John Simon's going to be a really good player," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said, after the April 17 jersey scrimmage. "In fact, if you watched us last year by the end of the year, he was on a very deep defensive front and he was earning some reps, which tells you a little something."

CARTER CAN'T BE TRUSTED ... After missing last January's Rose Bowl game due to grades, sophomore wide receiver Duron Carter was expected by coaches and players to make amends this spring, by becoming more mature off the field, while locking down the No. 3 receiver spot on it.

Instead, Carter missed the entire spring because of ... you guessed it ... GRADES!

Now, I didn't see Carter at all this spring, but I was able to read some of his tweets, and I've come to the conclusion that Carter, although very talented, still doesn't get it. And I'm really beginning to doubt that he ever will.

Either way, he's definitely in Tressel's doghouse — a place no OSU player ever wants to be (just ask Antonio Henton and Ray Small).

According to Tressel, senior Taurian Washington will fill the role at the No. 3, whether Carter makes it back or not.

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

Translation: He that works his butt off, gets to play — even if he's not as talented as the other guy.

STONEBURNER BRINGS A WHOLE NEW DIMENSION ... Redshirt sophomore tight end Jake Stoneburner appears to have become a favorite target of quarterback Terrelle Pryor this spring.

The 6-foot-5, 245 pounder from Dublin Coffman, was virtually uncoverable this spring, using his size and speed to get open in the secondary pretty much at will.

Coaches and players have been giddy when describing Stoneburner's role in this season's offense.

"I tell you what's going to help us this year and that is Jake Stoneburner," OSU assistant head coach Darrell Hazell said this spring. "He brings an added dimension of speed up the middle of the field and that can create a lot of problems for people. It keeps the safeties on the hash, it gets the wide outs open and if they don't cover him, he's going to run right by them and catch the ball."

Pryor agrees with Hazell.

"Man, we've got Jake stepping in. Jake's a whole other dimension," Pryor said. "I think he is going to be a big time play maker. He's been great this spring."

In just one quarter with Pryor on the field during Saturday's spring game, Stoneburner hauled in three receptions for 43 yards.

GUITON DESERVES TO BE NO. 2 ... It was abundantly clear that redshirt freshman quarterback Kenny Guiton outperformed junior backup Joe Bauserman for the the No. 2 spot under center.

Guiton's senior teammates agree with that assessment, as well, selecting him as the Gray team's starter in last Wednesday's spring game draft.

The Texas native didn't disappoint his senior teammates, by going 11-of-21 passing for 167 yards and two touchdowns, including a 45-yard scoring toss to Taurian Washington with 55 seconds to play, giving the Gray a 17-14 victory on Saturday.

"He proves himself every day in practice and his confidence has risen lately," Washington said of Guiton. "He has played extremely well this spring and I think there are great things in the future for him."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

GRAY EDGES SCARLET 17-14; PRYOR LOOKS GREAT IN LIMITED ACTION

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor (2) and tight end Jake Stoneburner gather on the Scarlet sideline Saturday, during the OSU Spring Game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. (Photo by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — Will Ohio State open up the offense in 2010 like they did during their Rose Bowl victory over Oregon last January?

If Saturday's Spring Game was any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.

Buckeyes junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor — who was the Rose Bowl Game's Most Valuable Player — came out of the gates on Saturday slinging the football all around the yard, hitting on eight of his 12 passes — all in the first quarter — for 108 yards and a 12-yard touchdown toss to senior Dane Sanzenbacher.

Pryor only played three drives in the Scarlet's 17-14 loss to the Gray, but he definitely made a statement in the limited action that he is ready to open it up this fall.

Pryor, who was prohibited from running the football during Saturday's game, showed great poise and confidence in the pocket, even though he wasn't allowed to take off with the rock — something he has done so many times in the past.

"I think he played a good game," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said of Pryor. "You have to play with the hand that was dealt to you. He knew he wasn't going to play too much and he knew he couldn't go live on the run part of it. He focused on what he could do, which is work on his footwork and his coverage recognition.

"And decision making."

Sanzenbacher said it's all about Pryor's decision making this season.

"From my view, I think his decision making is what's improved the most over this spring," Sanzenbacher said of Pryor. "I think that in the past he's always been able to have hot streaks like that, but I think overall you don't see him make as many bad decisions anymore."

After falling behind early to the Gray, 7-0, Pryor sliced and diced the opposing defense on a 4-play, 78-yard scoring drive, which consisted of three passes to Sanzenbacher of 33, 10 and 12 yards — the final one being a touchdown.

Sanzenbacher said that he and Pryor are to a point now — going into their third season together — where it's not about words, it's about having a sense of what the other's thinking.

"To be honest, it wasn't really anything that we said to each other," Sanzenbacher explained. "I think it's just kind of the chemistry that we have built through being with each other so much."

After Pryor left the game in the first quarter, the Scarlet team wouldn't find the end zone again until the 4:48 mark of the fourth, when Bo DeLande plunged a touchdown run in from four yards out, giving the men in red a 14-10 lead.

That's when the stars of Saturday's game — red-shirt freshman quarterback Kenny Guiton and senior wide receiver Taurian Washington — answered the call.

Guiton, selected in Wednesday's draft by the seniors to be the Gray team's starting quarterback, lived up to the big role with less than five minutes to play, as he led the Gray on an impressive 11-play, 89 yard drive — connecting on passes of 8, 15, 16 and 11 yards, before he inflicted the final dagger.

With 55 seconds remaining in the game, and facing a third-and-10 from the Scarlet 45, Guiton dropped back and launched a pass deep down the left sideline to Washington, who hauled it in for the game-winning touchdown, bringing the crowd of 65,000-plus out of their seats.

"Kenny threw a great, great pass over the top," Washington smiled. "I'm glad he made the decision to put the ball up there for me."

The play was the second scoring connection between the duo on the day — the other being on a 28-yard fade route in the end zone on the Gray's opening drive of the game.

Guiton, who finished 11-of-21 passing for 167 yards and two touchdowns, was happy that he lived up the seniors' selection to make him the starter.

"It was really cool since the seniors were the ones drafting the players," Guiton said. "It shows a lot of respect on their part and it means a lot to me."

GUITON HURT? ... With 23 seconds to play in the game, Guiton rolled his knee after Scarlet defensive end Keith Wells hit him in the end zone, just as he was delivering a pass. Guiton remained on the turf for several moments, before coming to his feet and walking off the field a little gingerly.

Guiton said after the game that everything is fine with his knee.

"I went to throw and Keith Wells' helmet went to my knee," Guiton said. "I feel fine now. I think it was more of the initial pain than anything else."

T. WASH DOES IT AGAIN ... It happens every spring!

Senior receiver, Taurian Washington, has made a name for himself every spring, scoring on big plays and snagging everything that is thrown his way. Saturday's game was much of the same, as he hauled in three receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns, helping lead his Gray team to a 17-14 win over the Scarlet.

Dane Sanzenbacher said the Spring Game has become the Taurian Washington Show.

"I knew it was going to happen," Sanzenbacher said of Washington's big performance Saturday. "T. Wash is a spring game legend around here. There's no denying that he was going to get into the end zone.

"Although I did lose, I'm happy for him."

A COUPLE FOR THE HIGHLIGHT REEL ... Junior free safety Chris Maxwell made a beautiful diving interception for the Scarlet team in the second quarter, on a deep pass from Gray backup quarterback, Justin Siems.

The other top highlight came in the waning seconds of the game, when sophomore cornerback Taylor Rice put the nail in the Scarlet's coffin, by stretching out and picking off a Joe Bauserman pass at the Gray 7 yard line.

EVAN TURNER HONORED SATURDAY

(Photo by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

Ohio State point guard Evan Turner — the 2010 National College Basketball Player of the Year — was honored on Saturday afternoon, during the annual Spring Game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

Turner, who will be skipping his senior season at Ohio State to enter this summer's NBA draft, received a huge standing ovation from the Buckeyes faithful on hand.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

PRYOR SELECTED FIRST BY SCARLET

Photo of Terrelle Pryor by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — The Ohio State senior football players gathered in the team room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Wednesday afternoon, to make their selections for the 2010 spring game, which will be played on Saturday at Ohio Stadium (1:30 p.m.).

The senior players, who were split into two sides (the Scarlet and the Gray) by head coach Jim Tressel, selected their squads one position at a time.

After winning the coin toss to make the first selection, the Scarlet team wasted no time drafting junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor with the No. 1 pick.

The Gray squad selected quarterback Kenny Guiton with the second pick, making the redshirt freshman the starter opposite of Pryor.

The first pick at each position in order of selection (team): quarterback Pryor (Scarlet); center Michael Brewster (Gray); defensive tackle John Simon (Scarlet); safety Nate Oliver (Gray); tight end Jake Stoneburner (Scarlet); wide receiver DeVier Posey (Gray); offensive tackle Mike Adams (Scarlet); defensive end Nathan Williams (Gray); cornerback Dominic Clarke (Scarlet); strongside linebacker Etienne Sabino (Gray); weakside linebacker Dorian Bell (Scarlet); fullback Zach Boren (Gray); middle linebacker Storm Klein (Scarlet); tailback Dan Herron (Gray); punter Ben Buchanan (Scarlet); kickoff Drew Basil (Gray).

The senior spokesmen for each team, cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (Gray) and wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher (Scarlet), both had a few words following the draft.

"We talked about it and we chose our team and we are really confident that we're going to win this game," Chekwa said of the Gray team. "We're ready to win."

Sanzenbacher took more of a passive aggressive approach.

"It's an exciting time for us," Sanzenbacher said of the Scarlet. "I think looking at the board we had a pretty good draft. We're excited to see what's going to happen. We can't guarantee victory, but ...

"The board speaks for itself."

All of the seniors on hand were decked out in the actual game jerseys they'll be wearing on Saturday afternoon. Each jersey had pink numbers, which are being worn to bring awareness to breast cancer.

All the jerseys will be auctioned on OhioStateBuckeyes.com following the game to benefit the Stefanine Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.

Below are the full rosters for Saturday's spring game ...

OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK
Scarlet: Terrelle Pryor, Joe Bauserman. Gray: Kenny Guiton, Justin Siems.

TAILBACK
Scarlet: Jordan Hall, Jermil Martin, Bo LeLande. Gray: Brandon Saine, Dan Herron, Carlos Hyde, Jaamal Berry.

FULLBACK
Scarlet: Adam Homan, James Georgiades. Gray: Zach Boren.

WIDE RECEIVER
Scarlet: Dane Sanzenbacher, Grant Schwartz, James Jackson, Garrett Hummel, Chris Fields, Tony Harlamert (OUT). Gray: DeVier Posey, Taurian Washington, Ricky Crawford, Chris Roark, Joe Cech.

TIGHT END
Scarlet: Jake Stoneburner, Spencer Smith, Bryan Cockery. Gray: Reid Fragel, Nic DiLillo.

TACKLE
Scarlet: Mike Adams, Marcus Hall, Josh Kerr. Gray: Andrew Miller, J.B. Shugarts, Sam Longo.

GUARD
Scarlet: Bryant Browning, Connor Smith. Gray: Justin Boren, Chris Malone (OUT).

CENTER
Scarlet: Corey Linsley, Scott Sika. Gray: Michael Brewster, Jack Mewhort.

DEFENSE
END
Scarlet: Cameron Heyward, Solomon Thomas, Keith Wells, William McCary. Gray: Nathan Williams, Melvin Fellows, Don Matheney, Stewart Smith, Green.

TACKLE
Scarlet: John Simon, Adam Bellamy, Jon Lorenz. Gray: Dexter Larimore, Garret Goebel, Evan Blankenship, Dalton Britt.

WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER
Scarlet: Ross Homan, Dorian Bell. Gray: Jim Hastings.

MIDDLE LINEBACKER
Scarlet: Storm Klein. Gray: Brian Rolle, Jordan Whiting.

STRONGSIDE LINEBACKER
Scarlet: Jon Newsome, Chris Maxwell, Andrew Sweat (OUT). Gray: Etienne Sabino, Tony Jackson, Dan Bain.

CORNERBACK
Scarlet: Devon Torrence, Dominic Clarke, Corey Brown, Drew Mathew. Gray: Chimdi Chekwa, Donnie Evege, Taylor Rice, Travis Howard (OUT).

SAFETY
Scarlet: Orhian Johnson, Tyler Moeller (OUT), Aaron Gant, C.J. Barnett, Nate Ebner. Gray: Jermale Hines, Nate Oliver, Zach Domicone, Jamie Wood, Vincent Petrella.

KICKER
Scarlet: Devin Barclay. Gray: Drew Basil.

PUNTER
Scarlet: Ben Buchanan. Gray: Derek Erwin.

LONG SNAPPER
Scarlet: Makridis. Gray: Jake McQuaide, Garrett Dornbrook.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2010 SCARLET AND GRAY MOCK DRAFT, REGARDLESS OF CLASS

Photo of Terrelle Pryor by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — Wednesday in the team room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, the Ohio State football seniors will hold their annual Scarlet and Gray (spring game) draft.

The seniors will be divided into two sides (Scarlet and Gray) by OSU head coach Jim Tressel and they will select their non-senior teammates for Saturday's spring game.

Except, they don't just pick the players out of the blue, they do it by position and choose back and forth until they are finished with said position. For example: say the Scarlet choose tailback Dan Herron. Then the Gray would draft a tailback like Jordan Hall. Then the Scarlet go with Jaamal Berry. And so on and so forth ...

Of course, that to me is fairly predictable. So, I am going to do a top 10 spring game mock draft (including seniors) as I feel it would go if the sides could just pick the best players regardless of position, class or injury status.

Here's how I see it going if that was the format they used:

1. Terrelle Pryor QB (6-6, 233, Jr.)
Why? Let's face it, you always want to begin a draft with a quarterback. When the face of your team, the leader of your team and the best athlete of your team are all the same guy, well ... you select him No. 1. Duh!

2. Cameron Heyward DE (6-5, 288, Sr.)
Why? When the quarterback is off the board, the next place you look is a defender who can get to the quarterback. Last season, Heyward led the Buckeyes in sacks (6.5) and was second in tackles for loss (10). This season, he is bigger, faster, stronger and another year more experienced. He is virtually unblockable. He's a no-brainer at No. 2 spot.

3. Michael Brewster C (6-5, 293, Jr.)
Why? You always want to get protection for your quarterback early in the draft. Sure, left tackle is usually where you look first, because he protects the right handed quarterback's blind side. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes don't have a tackle I would select this high in the draft. So, the next most important position on the offensive line is the center. He is the quarterback of the line, he reads the defense and makes all of the blocking calls. Brewster does that job to perfection. He is one of the best in the nation at the center position.

4. Brian Rolle MLB (5-11, 218, Sr.)
Why? When you wear No. 36 across your jersey at Ohio State (former OSU great Chris Spielman's number), you better be able to bring it. Rolle does, every single game he plays. The middle linebacker is perhaps the most important position to the Buckeyes defense and Rolle anchors down his role with high intensity and superb football instincts. He may be a little undersized at the position and many may not like taking him this high in the draft. However, I remember all those teams passing on former Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary for the very same reasons. He's now in the Hall of Fame.

5. John Simon DT (6-2, 270, So.)
Why? Some may think selecting Simon in the top five is a little bit of a reach. This is my "going on potential" pick. Simon has been unstoppable this spring, using his high motor and incredible strength to manhandle whomever is in front of him. I've had a feeling about Simon all spring (and off-season for that matter) and after watching him dominate last Saturday's jersey scrimmage with two sacks, two batted down passes and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, I have no problem taking the first-year starter this high in the draft.

Plus, he scares the hell out of me.

6. Justin Boren G (6-3, 320, Sr.)
Why? Please see the last line in the description of my No. 5 pick.

7. Devon Torrence CB (6-1, 200, Sr.)
Why? If there's a shutdown cornerback in the draft, you usually take him high. Now, I'm not saying that Torrence is a "shutdown cornerback" just yet, but I do see all of the attributes of one. Plus, when you select Torrence, you're getting a great athlete who can also return punts and kicks.

8. Ross Homan OLB (6-0, 227, Sr.)
Why? Homan is the "safe" pick of my top 10. The senior from Coldwater not only led the Buckeyes in tackles last season (108), but he also tied for the lead on the team in interceptions (5), as well. Homan is always around the football and he's one of the most steady forces, on one of the best defenses in the country.

9. Brandon Saine RB (6-1, 219, Sr.)
Why? Saine emerged late last season as the No. 1 tailback on the team because of his powerful running style and the ability to catch it downfield. Saine has the size and speed of a prototype NFL tailback. He will have a huge impact this season on the Buckeyes run to Glendale. Solid character guy as well.

10. DeVier Posey WR (6-2, 213, Jr.)
Why? It's always nice to snag a No. 1 type receiver in the top 10 and Posey definitely fills the bill. Posey has great size, good speed and excellent instincts out on the edges, giving Pryor a big play target, as well as a top flight possession guy. Posey would be higher on this list if his hands were a little more consistent. In fact, he has top five talent, and as soon as his hands get to the point where they're automatic (and I think he's getting there), he will be a top three player on the Buckeyes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

CLASS OF 2008 LEADING THE WAY

Class of 2008 recruits photo by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — When Terrelle Pryor signed with Ohio State back in March of 2008, many thought that the Buckeyes landed the gem of that season's recruiting class, citing that the big, athletic quarterback would lead the team to great things during his career in Columbus.

Well ... so far, so good.

Pryor is 19-3 overall (1-0 in BCS bowls) in his career as a starter and has the Buckeyes looking at a possible No. 2 ranking coming into his junior season — a year in which many experts have OSU finishing in the BCS Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona.

These are things that OSU head coach Jim Tressel, Buckeye fans and pretty much every expert in the nation expected when the western Pennsylvania signal caller put his John Hancock on the national letter of intent two years ago.

However, the high rankings, the big wins and the lofty expectations aren't just about the prized recruit of 2008, but more that year's class as a whole. Pryor wasn't the entire puzzle, as many thought. He was just the final piece.

Coming into the 2010 season, there are 10 players from the class of 2008 that are starting for the Buckeyes (six on offense) and another four in the two-deep.

The starters from that class include: wide receiver DeVier Posey, tight end Jake Stoneburner, left tackle Mike Adams, center Michael Brewster, right tackle J.B. Shugarts, defensive end Nathan Williams, linebacker Etienne Sabino, safety Orhian Johnson, punter Ben Buchanan, and of course, Pryor under center.

The two-deep players include: cornerback Travis Howard, safety Zach Domicone, linebacker Andrew Sweat and defensive tackle Garrett Goebel.

If the Buckeyes win their sixth straight Big Ten title and another BCS Championship — two goals that they have set for 2010 — a huge reason will be the way the 2008 class leads the way.

Posey, who has become Pryor's No. 1 target in the passing game, said that it's strange how quickly they have went from young up-and-comers, to the leaders of the team.

"I was talking to Brewster about that earlier today," Posey said, about the class coming into their third season and being looked to as leaders. "It's weird that we're growing up, our priorities are different. Aside from being talented youngsters, we're being expected to be seasoned veterans.

"It's crazy how your role just flips within a winter. I don't know, it's a different transition. But it's a good transition and we do want to be the leaders of this team."

Posey, who hauled in eight receptions for 101 yards and the game-clinching touchdown during last January's Rose Bowl win over Oregon, stated that the coaches trust them more now that they are older, more experienced and big-game tested.

"I definitely see that," Posey said, about the coaches trusting the class more. "They're giving us a lot more ability to make our own things. There's a lot more coaching conversation with the players and I think that comes with losing your youth, getting older and them being able to trust you.

"It's all about the trust factor. If the coaches can trust that you're getting your job done, I think it's a good thing."

Pryor said that he and his other 2008 classmates have spoken about doing something special together ever since their high school days. He said that time to do "something special" is now.

"Just from talking to Brewster — and I just talked to DeVier earlier — we were just talking about the (U.S. Army) All-American game and how they were trying to recruit me to come here, because they had already committed," Pryor smiled. "We were just talking about how this is the opportunity we wanted. It's our time.

"It's amazing, man, growing up. Just playing here for two years already, it goes by very fast. You just have to enjoy it.

"I've enjoyed our first two years and I'm going to enjoy this year coming up."

OSU RECRUIT SHOT ON FRIDAY NIGHT ... Ohio State class of 2010 recruit, Jamel Turner, was shot twice on Friday night in an apparent drive-by shooting in Youngstown.

Turner, a defensive end/outside linebacker from Youngstown Ursuline and Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, was shot in the ankle and hip.

His injuries aren't considered to be serious and no arrests have been made.

SPRING GAME DRAFT ... The Ohio State spring game draft will be held on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. inside the team room at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

The Buckeye Times will be on hand for complete coverage.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

SIMON LEADS DEFENSE TO 'LOPSIDED' VICTORY IN JERSEY SCRIMMAGE

COLUMBUS — Prior to Saturday's jersey scrimmage at Ohio Stadium, former Ohio State and current St. Louis Rams linebacker, James Laurinaitis, gave the Buckeyes defense a little bit of a pep talk.

Laurinaitis' words took hold, as the defense destroyed the offense during the scrimmage, 78-24, retaining the "scarlet" jerseys for the third straight time, during a sunny, yet chilly morning in Columbus.

"James Laurinatis gave the pregame jersey scrimmage pep talk and it turned out to be the most lopsided defensive jersey win ever." Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel laughed.

The victorious defense was led by sophomore defensive tackle, John Simon, who recorded two sacks during the scrimmage, batted down two passes at the line of scrimmage and added a fumble recovery for the day's only touchdown.

The 6-foot-2, 270 pounder from Youngstown was simply unblockable Saturday, and that's saying a whole lot when you take into account the great interior offensive line which Ohio State possesses.

"I think John Simon's going to be a really good player," Tressel said. "In fact, if you watched us last year by the end of the year, he was on a very deep defensive front and he was earning some reps, which tells you a little something."

The offense struggled for most of the scrimmage, as poor blocking, bad exchanges, inefficient passing and a rash of turnovers plagued the offensive unit, which only managed a handful of plays over 10 yards.

Tressel said that he isn't too worried about his offense, even after such an unattractive outing.

"You know I don't get upset about things," Tressel smiled. "They are what they are. We have to watch them and evaluate them and come up with a rationale, you know, 'why they got that way?' Then, 'what do we have to do to fix it?'

"Until you get into a game where everything is game-like, then you can evaluate things play-by-play."

Quarterback Terrelle Pryor, like the other Buckeye signal callers on Saturday, struggled passing the football.

Pryor finished just 5-of-16 for 47 yards (unofficially) on the day, including a muffed snap in the end zone, which was recovered by Simon for a touchdown.

Of course, Pryor wasn't being helped out by his receivers, either, as they dropped three of his passes on the day, including one by junior DeVier Posey on a deep throw in the end zone which would've been a touchdown if he had hauled it in.

Tressel stated, though, that he's not too concerned with Pryor's numbers in a scrimmage game.

"I don't (worry about him)," Tressel said of Pryor's performance. "I don't worry about it, just like I don't go out and celebrate if was 12-of-15. You know, you go and look at every snap and whys and the wherefores. It's little bit difficult getting into the flow as a quarterback, when half the time the whistle is blown earlier than the played would've ended normally.

"But again, we can learn from it."

One player who did stand out on the offensive end was redshirt freshman tailback, Jaamal Berry.

Berry, who ended up getting more reps than usual — with starter Brandon Saine and third stringer Jordan Hall sidelined by injury — showed those dazzling running skills that made him an All-American tailback in high school. The Florida-native carried the football 16 times for close to 80 yards, giving the coaches more reasons to get him on the field this fall.

"I thought he looked pretty good today," Tressel said of Berry. "It looked to me like he's got a little bit of an ability to burst. He rolled his ankle a little there at the end, which I hope doesn't effect him missing some practice here at the end of the (spring) stretch.

"But yeah, that was really the first time he got to get in and really get the flow of everything. It just looks to me like he's got a little burst. It's good to see him out there."

Other players who stood out on Saturday were defensive ends Melvin Fellows and Nathan Williams, who each tallied two sacks in the win for the Buckeyes defense.

Friday, April 16, 2010

PRYOR IS MORE COMFORTABLE THIS SPRING ... IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE

Photo of Terrelle Pryor by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — One thing has been very noticeable this spring on the Ohio State practice field.

Terrelle Pryor has progressed into one fine collegiate quarterback.

Not saying that he wasn't before, I mean, Pryor is 19-3 as a starter at Ohio State, including 1-0 in BCS bowl games, so he has been a winner during his first two seasons in Columbus.

But it's the way Pryor's running the offense now that's getting attention. He's much better with his reads. His footwork is more smooth and effortless. His passes are very crisp and accurate. The 6-foot-6, 240-pounder looks like a totally different quarterback. A more comfortable player if you will.

"It's all about decision making," Pryor explained, Friday after practice in Columbus. "I'm making a lot better decisions and the game has really, really slowed down. When you first get here you are kind of thinking like, 'is this ever going to slow down? Is this ever going to get easy like high school?' But, finally, it has really slowed for me."

Coming into your third season as a starter can help slow the game down just from an experience standpoint. But when you add in the fact that it's the first time since 2006 that the Buckeyes have come into the spring not being haunted by season-ending disappointment, it can put a little more bounce in your step and give you a more clearer picture when putting in your work.

"It has become much more clearer for me," Pryor said. "I finally understand why Coach Sis (Nick Siciliano) wants me to do this stuff. You know, keep my chin down, open my hip while I'm dropping, I mean, you can see the whole field. Using the snap count to your advantage, bringing the defensive line off to help the offensive line.

"All that stuff you start understanding and the game just slows down ... It's so much clearer to me now."

Pryor is coming off a career performance in the Rose Bowl, where he put up 338 total yards and two touchdown passes, en route to being named the game's Most Valuable Player. OSU head coach Jim Tressel decided to unleash his young quarterback in that 26-17 win over Oregon and it paid off huge dividends for the Buckeyes.

Pryor said to look for more of that style this season, but with a few added ingredients — most notably tight end Jake Stoneburner.

"Man, we've got Jake stepping in. Jake's a whole other dimension," Pryor said. "I think he is going to be a big time play maker. He's been great this spring."

Of course, Pryor said that Stoneburner isn't the only offensive player to be excited about this season. The return of receivers DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, as well as a stable of running backs led by senior Brandon Saine, junior Dan Herron, sophomore Jordan Hall and redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry, give Buckeye fans much to look forward to in 2010.

"With DeVier and Dane and a lot of backs running the ball, I'm very excited," Pryor smiled. "If you are a Buckeye fan, you should be excited, too. I feel the coaches got us mapped. We're finally growing up.

"We just have to keep on working together and just come together as a team and have that chemistry."

DEALING WITH THE HYPE ... Pryor has had more pressure laid on his shoulders than any player that has ever put on an Ohio State football uniform.

The hype that has surrounded the Buckeyes quarterback ever since coming out of high school in 2008, has been very Lebron-esque.

Perfect example was on Friday, following practice inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, when hordes of reporters — most of which haven't even showed up to one practice this spring — gathered in full force knowing that Pryor would be speaking with the media.

Boy, and we can't understand how some athletes and celebrities become prima donnas? Pryor, just like he has done against opposing defenses during his collegiate career, has found a way to elude being a cocky superstar.

"No, I'm not cocky, I feel like I'm more of a people person," Pryor laughed. "I just feel like I have had a lot released off my chest. I'm just happy all of the time."

Pryor admitted that he's had problems in the past dealing with his super stardom, but he's used to it all now that he's been around it for the past three years.

"I had a little problem last year, you know, you get hyped and everybody starts jumping on you, it's a big thing," Pryor said. "You're young and you start hearing all of this stuff and you're like 'wow.'

"But now, man, it's nothing."

Pryor is definitely the Buckeyes cover boy, in fact, with Florida's Tim Tebow now gone, he may be on the front of every college football magazine in the nation.

The Buckeyes signal caller says that he has no problems handling it.

"I'm okay with being on magazines and stuff like that," Pryor said. "It's stuff we've got to handle. It's the type of things that happen. But, you also have to let your team know that you're all for them. Without them, I would be nothing. Period.

"I'm a team player, that stuff doesn't mean anything to me. I wish I could put all 100 (Buckeyes) on there."

PRYOR IS WORKING THE FILMS ... When asked about his incredible game-clinching touchdown pass to Posey in January's Rose Bowl — where he connected with the receiver on his back shoulder — Pryor said that he learned how to do it by watching film of some of the NFL's best passers, like Peyton Manning.

"I watch a lot of Peyton film and a lot of Mark Sanchez," Pryor said. "I'm addicted to watching Sanchez and Peyton. That's where I learned that back shoulder pass. They're my role models.

"I did that twice to DeVier in the Rose Bowl, that back shoulder pass. It's a very hard thing to stop. Very hard."

JERSEY SCRIMMAGE ... Friday's practice was light and short, as players were basically doing prep work for Saturday's jersey scrimmage, perhaps the biggest measuring stick of the spring.

The scrimmage will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Ohio Stadium. It is closed to the public.

BUCKEYES' MOST IMPROVED PLAYER THIS SPRING? JUNIOR DONNIE EVEGE

Photo of Donnie Evege by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — If there is an award for most improved Ohio State football player this spring, junior defensive back Donnie Evege would win in a bigger landslide than Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale in the 1984 Presidential election.

Not only has the Huber Heights (Oh.) product caught this writer's eye this spring with his ball skills at cornerback — while filling in for injured starter Chimdi Chekwa — but Evege is also receiving the same attention from his teammates in the locker room.

A week ago, starting middle linebacker Brian Rolle said, "Donnie Evege, he's a guy who's been opening some eyes. He's had a couple interceptions thus far in the spring. I'm like man ... somebody better step their game up because Donnie's going to be a guy to be reckoned with this fall."

More of the same was uttered Thursday by a couple more defensive leaders.

"If I had to say someone has stood out, I'd say Donnie Evege," OSU senior free safety Jermale Hines said Thursday, following practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. "The guy's a player. He's explosive, he's been able to run since he's gotten here. Before this spring he just hadn't put it all together.

"But you can see that he's really been in his notebooks studying. (Watching) extra film in here, extra long hours, it's paying off."

Evege, who played mostly on special teams last season — and excelled by recording 14 tackles — is beginning to hone his skills as a cornerback for the Buckeyes. He's always had the speed and athleticism to play the position, but now he's learning how to play the ball and the receiver much more efficiently. And in turn, his confidence is beginning to soar.

Ohio State senior cornerback, Devon Torrence, has taken notice of his much improved teammate.

"Oh man, Donnie, that's my dude," Torrence said Thursday. "He's just getting a lot of good breaks on the ball this year. I think he's finally getting confident in his self and his game.

"People really don't understand cornerback, there's really an art to the position. To just really understand all of the details, you know, it kind of takes a long time to do that. Those ones that get on the field are the ones that pick it up early.

"He has finally started to pick it up and he's understanding the position a lot better."

Saturday's jersey scrimmage, where there will be more than 100 live plays, will be a huge litmus test for Evege and his progression as a cornerback.

If he passes that test, it's going to be very difficult to keep the spring's most improved player off the field this fall.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BUCKEYES HAVE CORNERED THE MARKET WITH TORRENCE, CHEKWA

Photo of Devon Torrence by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — Ohio State senior cornerback Devon Torrence has National Football League written all over him.

The second-year starter from Canton possesses all the attributes of a pure shutdown cornerback; great size (6-1, 200), strength, speed, quickness, instincts and unreal athleticism (He actually played two seasons of minor league baseball in the Houston Astros organization, for crying out loud.)

Terming a cornerback as "shutdown," though, is a ton of pressure to put on a player, but the ultra confident Torrence is ready for the challenge.

"I have very high expectations for myself, man," Torrence said Thursday, following practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. "I've been working at the left corner, that's the side that a lot of the top receivers go to, where they put their primary guy. Hopefully, I'll shut down that side of football field.

"I'm expecting myself this year to breakup a lot more passes and hopefully have a lot more interceptions, and just be a leader for our defense this year."

The scary thing about it is, Torrence's partner-in-crime on the other side at cornerback, Chimdi Chekwa, is just as talented. In fact, everything that's been said about Torrence can be used as a description of Chekwa, as well.

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior from Clermont, Florida, may just be the fastest player on the entire Buckeyes team. He is actually the anchor for the OSU men's 4x100 relay team, so you know the kid can chop.

OSU cornerbacks coach, Taver Johnson, said that Chekwa uses his wheels to his advantage, too.

"He's always right there to make those plays," Johnson said of Chekwa. "He's gets himself in position and I think now he can do some things because of his speed. There's a lot of things that he can get away with that some of the other guys can't because he's so fast."

Chekwa has been sidelined this spring due to a hamstring injury, but he's expected to be back at full strength this fall.

Torrence and Chekwa will carry a huge responsibility for the entire Ohio State secondary, as the Buckeyes break in two new starters at safety — senior Jermale Hines and sophomore Orhian Johnson — after the departure of longtime veterans, Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell.

"If those guys (Torrence and Chekwa) are good, you can do a lot more things on the inside," OSU safeties coach Paul Haynes said. "Having those two guys with a lot of experience, takes the pressure off the guys in the middle."

Torrence said that the corners know that there is a lot of responsibility for themselves on the edges, but they're not too worried about it.

"Yeah of course, we know that we have a huge responsibility," Torrence said. "But we expect (the safeties) to step up. They know that. So, we're not too concerned about it. Yeah, they're young, but they know in order for them to be out there on Saturdays, they have to make plays."

SPEAKING OF THE SAFETIES ... Although Hines was used mostly as a nickelback (the "star" position) at the end of last season, he does have some experience on the back end, starting eight games as a junior at free safety.

The 6-foot-1, 216-pound senior from Cleveland showed great skill at the position last season, finishing fourth on the team in tackles with 57, as well as recording two interceptions, including one for a touchdown.

"I don't look at it as a big adjustment," Hines said Thursday, about being the absolute No. 1 starter at free safety this season. "I played several snaps at safety last year, so I'm pretty accustomed to it. Played it in practice everyday last year. So, it's really not that big of an adjustment."

The only adjustment will be his newly found leadership role.

Haynes doesn't think that will be a problem with Hines.

"I think Jermale is very respected by our players," Haynes said. "He's got a lot of experience and he's made big plays. I think that's what a lot of times gains leadership with guys."

Where the real inexperience comes in at the safety position for the Buckeyes will be on the strong side, as sophomore Orhian Johnson takes over for three-year starter Kurt Coleman.

Johnson saw action in 11 games last season, but not a lot of playing time, recording just 10 tackles on the year.

However, Johnson has been impressive this spring using his rangy size (6-3, 205) and good quickness to make plays on the back end. He definitely has the skills that could make him a very valuable asset for the Buckeyes secondary.

"He's doing a good job," Haynes said of Johnson. "He's doing a good job communicating. He's doing a good job flying around, trying to be that quarterback out there (in the secondary). So far he's done a good job. But we'll see on Saturday how good he's done."

Saturday, as Haynes is referring to, is the team's jersey scrimmage.

WHO'S THE STAR? ... Right now, there is a huge battle going on at the "star" position, between junior Nate Oliver, redshirt freshman Jamie Wood and senior Tyler Moeller (once he is cleared medically).

Oliver and Wood have played the majority of snaps this spring at the position.

"We're just trying to move some guys around," Haynes said. "We've never really had a starter there (at the star), we've usually had a backup or a third guy work those spots. So this spring, we really just wanted to find some guys who could do it.

"We don't want to just throw a guy in there in the fall, and say he can be a star."

PLAY(S) OF THE DAY ... Actually there were two standout plays during live scrimmage drills on Thursday. The first was a 20-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry up the middle. The other was an interception in the end zone by Jamie Wood, on a Terrelle Pryor pass intended for Dane Sanzenbacher.

HALL SHAKEN UP ... During scrimmage drills on Thursday, sophomore tailback Jordan Hall went down with a left shoulder injury. He sported ice on the injured shoulder for much of the practice, before returning with a no contact yellow jersey. The injury doesn't seem serious.

CARTER AT PRACTICE ... No, not sophomore wideout Duron Carter, but his future hall of fame father, Cris.

Cris Carter observed practice Thursday and even broke out his coaching hat, giving Chekwa a few pointers on how to cover the great receivers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

POSEY DOESN'T WANT TO ACCEPT ANYTHING LESS THAN PERFECTION

Photo of DeVier Posey by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — Ohio State has had its share of great collegiate wide receivers since Darrell Hazell became the position coach back in 2004.

Hazell has mentored three NFL first round draft picks in Santonio Holmes (2006), Ted Ginn Jr. (2007) and Anthony Gonzalez (2007) and has also coached Brian Robiskie, who was selected in the second round last year by the Cleveland Browns.

The Buckeyes assistant head coach knows a thing or two about what it takes to play wide receiver at the highest level. So, when Hazell claims that junior receiver DeVier Posey is one of the best players he has ever coached at the position, one needs to take serious notice.

"He's an exceptional receiver, one of the best we've had since I've been here," Hazell said Tuesday, following practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. "He's got a lot of the characteristics of a lot of different guys. He's got the explosiveness of Santonio Holmes. He's almost got the top end speed of Teddy (Ginn). He's got wiggle like Gonzo (Gonzalez) has in the slot. He has a lot of different characteristics of those guys.

"He's fun to watch."

Posey, who led the Buckeyes in receiving last season as a sophomore with 60 receptions for 828 yards and eight touchdowns, doesn't want to settle on just being good.

He wants to be perfect.

"I want to go from being a good receiver to being a great receiver," Posey said Tuesday. "Those are my expectations for myself. I like to set the bar high, I don't like settling for anything less than that.

"Everyday I'm out here I'm hard on myself. I want to be perfect everyday. I don't want to miss any of my assignments, no dropped balls. That's how I feel I have to be to get better and become the player that I want to be."

Hazell stated though, that it's the "I want to be perfect" attitude which holds Posey back sometimes.

"Right now he's his biggest enemy," Hazell said of Posey. "Because he looks for perfection in everything he does. When he makes a mistake, it kind of looms on him for awhile. He's got to learn to get over that because he's going to make a mistake."

Posey agrees with his coach's assessment.

"Yeah, I get mad at myself," Posey said. "I'm not afraid to admit that. I really can't do that once the season rolls around. I'm learning. I talk to Coach Hazell about that all the time, about being mature and being poised in those situations where you mess up and being able to come back from it."

Posey has showed that he can be the go-to guy when the spotlight is the brightest.

In last January's Rose Bowl game against No. 7 Oregon, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver hauled in eight receptions for 101 yards, including the game-clinching touchdown on a 17-yard pitch and catch from quarterback Terrelle Pryor, giving the Buckeyes a 26-17 win — the team's first bowl victory since the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.

Posey said making such a big play in such a huge game, still hasn't completely sunken in, quite yet.

"I'm still kind of numb from that," Posey laughed, when speaking about his touchdown against Oregon. "I probably won't realize what happened until about 10 years later. I feel like it was a pretty big play for Ohio State and for me, but that's in the past. We've reached that plateau as a group. Now we want to reach an even higher plateau. We're going to need bigger plays from me, bigger plays from the offense and we'll see where it takes us."

As an observer, it appears that the Buckeyes have a lot of strengths on the offensive side of the football going into the 2010 season.

"I have to disagree, I see a lot of weakness," Posey said. "Actually not weaknesses, just areas we need to get better. We have a lot of room for improvement in the receiver's room. I'm pretty sure the running backs feel the same way, (so too does) the offensive line and the quarterbacks. Don't get me wrong, we know we can be good, but we don't want to settle with being good.

"We have high expectations for ourselves and that starts from the top to the bottom. We don't want to accept mediocrity."

There he goes again — expecting perfection.

OFFENSE SHOULD BE 'MORE WIDE OPEN' — Coach Hazell joked that he doesn't know what "more wide open" means, but he did say that there is a lot of depth and a new dimension to the offense.

"I tell you what's going to help us this year and that is (tight end) Jake Stoneburner," Hazell said. "He brings an added dimension of speed up the middle of the field and that can create a lot of problems for people. It keeps the safeties on the hash, it gets the wide outs open and if they don't cover him, he's going to run right by them and catch the ball."

Hazell said that when you add in the great depth at running back and receiver, as well as the maturation of Pryor, you have an offense that can do a lot of different things. Or, be "more wide open."

"We've got a ton of backs who can hurt you and then we've got enough wide outs right now that we can spread the ball around," Hazell said. "And then Terrelle (Pryor), he's definitely matured as a thrower, as a quarterback, as a leader. He's matured in a lot of different areas. It's exciting, it really is."

PLAY OF THE DAY — The best play of Tuesday's scrimmage drills came on offense, when senior receiver Dane Sanzenbacher made a beautiful one-handed catch from Pryor on a 45-yard pass down the right sideline, against starting senior cornerback Devon Torrence.

SAFETIES PASSING THE EYE TEST — So far this spring — and again on Tuesday — starting safeties, senior Jermale Hines and sophomore Orhian Johnson, have really caught my eye. Not only do they have NFL size and speed, but their instincts out on the field look extremely promising. The Buckeyes should have one of the most talented pair of back ends in the country.

Monday, April 12, 2010

OSU SPRING DEPTH CHART RELEASED

COLUMBUS — Ohio State released its 2010 spring football depth chart Monday.

There are a few surprises to note:

— Sophomore wide receiver Duron Carter is listed as the No. 2 receiver behind senior Dane Sanzenbacher, even though he isn't eligible academically. OSU head coach Jim Tressel even stated on the first day of spring camp that Carter would not being doing any football related activities this spring.

— The chart reads that senior Brandon Saine and junior Daniel Herron are co-starters at tailback. Not a big surprise there, but having redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry at No. 5 behind Jermil Martin is a bit of a head scratcher to this reporter, since Berry has performed quite well and Martin has yet to participate in drills this spring.

Listed below is the complete depth chart ... (All OSU player photos by The Buckeye Times' Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

OFFENSE
QUARTERBACK
1. Terrelle Pryor
2. Joe Bauserman
3. Kenny Guiton
4. Justin Siems
TAILBACK
1. Brandon Saine and Daniel Herron
3. Jordan Hall
4. Jermil Martin
5. Jaamal Berry
6. Carlos Hyde
7. Do DeLande
FULLBACK
1. Zach Boren
2. Adam Homan
3. James Georgiades
WIDE RECEIVER
1. Dane Sanzenbacher
2. Duron Carter
3. Chris Fields
4. James Jackson
5. Ricky Crawford
6. Chris Roark
WIDE RECEIVER
1. DeVier Posey
2. Taurian Washington
3. Grant Schwartz
4. Joe Cech
5. Garrett Hummel
6. Tony Harlamert
TIGHT END
1. Jake Stoneburner
2. Reid Fragel
3. Spencer Smith
4. Nic DiLillo
LEFT TACKLE
1. Mike Adams
2. Andrew Miller
3. Sam Longo
LEFT GUARD
1. Justin Boren
2. Connor Smith
3. Chris Malone
CENTER
1. Michael Brewster
2. Jack Mewhort
3. Corey Linsley
4. Scott Sika
RIGHT GUARD
1. Bryant Browning
2. Corey Linsley
3. Jack Mewhort
4. Evan Blankenship
RIGHT TACKLE
1. J.B. Shugarts
2. Marcus Hall
3. Josh Kerr
DEFENSE
DEFENSIVE END
1. Nathan Williams
2. Solomon Thomas
3. Stewart Smith
DEFENSIVE TACKLE
1. Dexter Larimore
2. Garrett Goebel
3. Jon Lorenz
4. Dalton Britt
DEFENSIVE TACKLE
1. John Simon
2. Adam Bellamy
3. Don Matheney
DEFENSIVE
END
1. Cameron Heyward
2. Melvin Fellows
3. Keith Wells
WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER
1. Ross Homan
2. Dorian Bell
3. Jim Hastings
MIDDLE LINEBACKER
1. Brian Rolle
2. Storm Klein
3. Jordan Whiting
STRONGSIDE LINEBACKER
1. Etienne Sabino
2. Andrew Sweat
3. Jon Newsome
4. Tony Jackson
CORNERBACK
1. Chimdi Chekwa
2. Travis Howard
3. Corey Brown
4. Taylor Rice
CORNERBACK
1. Devon Torrence
2. Donnie Evege
3. Dominic Clarke
FREE SAFETY
1. Jermale Hines
2. Zach Domicone
3. C.J. Barnett
4. Aaron Gant
5. Chris Maxwell
STRONG SAFETY
1. Orhian Johnson
2. Tyler Moeller
3. Nate Oliver
4. Jamie Wood
5. Nate Ebner
SPECIALISTS
PLACE KICKER
1. Devin Barclay
2. Ben Buchanan
3. Drew Basil
PUNTER
1. Ben Buchanan
2. Derek Erwin
3. Drew Basil
LONG SNAPPER
1. Jake McQuaide
2. Gar Chappelear
HOLDER
1. Dane Sanzenbacher
2. Joe Bauserman
3. Derek Erwin

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A FAMILIAR FACE ON OSU'S SIDELINE

OSU assistant coach Marcus Freeman, left, instructs linebacker Dorian Bell during Saturday's kick scrimmage at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. (Buckeye Times photo by Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — Not only will the Ohio State linebacking unit have two veteran leaders running the show this season in seniors Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, but they will also have a mentor on the sideline who knows a thing or two about what it takes to play the position — and play it well — as a Buckeye.

Former OSU linebacker Marcus Freeman has been assisting linebackers coach Luke Fickell this spring and will continue to do so this fall as a graduate assistant coach.

Homan, who played with Freeman during the 2008 season, said that it's strange that there's a coach on the sideline that he actually played with, but says that there is no person who knows the system better than his former teammate.

"It's kind of a weird feeling, I mean two years ago I was playing with him," Homan laughed. "He knows our system, through and through. It's another coach on the sideline that you come over and ask him, 'what did you see here, what did you see there?'"

"It's going to be a huge plus for our linebackers and our defense to have him coaching on our sideline."

After starting at linebacker for the Buckeyes for three seasons (2006-08), Freeman went on to be drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. After being released by the Bears after last preseason, Freeman had a few practice squad stints with the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans, and was about to sign with the Indianapolis Colts, before their medical staff noticed during tests that he had an enlarged heart valve.

Freeman, who has a bachelor's degree from Ohio State in sports management, knew that his playing days were finished after the diagnosis. So he did the next best thing, he decided to help others by being a coach at the university where he starred for so many years.

Freeman's basically doing what the late, great Woody Hayes instructed — he's "Paying it forward."

Homan said there isn't a better person to pattern yourself after than Freeman.

"Marcus is a great role model," Homan said. "He's the type you want to go after and be like. He's a great player, and a great person overall."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

SATURDAY'S KICK SCRIMMAGE NOTES

Ohio State sophomore tailback, Jordan Hall (7), scores on a pass from Kenny Guiton during the spring kick scrimmage on Saturday, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. (Buckeye Times photo by Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — Here's a few notes, quotes and observations from Saturday's spring kick scrimmage at Ohio Stadium in Columbus ...

NONE OF THE PLACE KICKERS SEPARATED THEMSELVES FROM THE PACK — Each kicker, Devin Barclay, Ben Buchanan and true freshman Drew Basil, were fairly inconsistent when kicking the football from beyond 40 yards.

Barclay and Buchanan missed wide right on numerous long attempts, while Basil — who didn't get as many reps as the others — pushed some kicks wide, as well.

However, Basil displayed the strongest leg of the group on Saturday, nailing a 50-yarder with plenty of room to spare, as well as a miss from 55 that had plenty of distance, but sailed wide.

Barclay and Buchanan were pretty accurate from 30-39 yards out. However, neither player jumped to the top of the depth chart.

"Anytime you're at a school like Ohio State there's going to be competition," Buchanan said following the scrimmage. "I think I need to improve on some things, everyone can say that who was out here today. But it was a lot of fun, I like to compete. Being out here in the 'Shoe doin' it."

Barclay said it will always be a competition, even in the fall.

"It's always a close competition," Barclay said. "Ben's a good kicker and so is Drew. Aaron (Pettrey) and I were always competing last year and Ryan (Pretorious) and Aaron had theirs. It's never just cut and dry. Kicking is really black and white. If one kickers doing it, he's doing it. If the other guy isn't, he's not. There's nothing more to it than that."

IF I HAD TO SAY WHO IS THE NO. 1 KICKER AS OF TODAY ... I would have to name Ben Buchanan.

The sophomore from Westerville had a very similar day as Barclay, but what I would say lifted Buchanan to No. 1, at least for now, was how he finished the scrimmage.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel called for a sudden death field goal match to decide which side would be victorious. The first team to miss from 39 yards out would lose the scrimmage.

Buchanan, who was the kicker for the Gray side, booted his attempt through the uprights with relative ease, putting all the pressure on the Scarlet team. The freshman Basil was called upon to kick for the Scarlet and missed wide left, giving the Gray the victory

"Oh, it's awesome," Buchanan said about the scrimmage-winning boot. "I've been coming to games here since I was five years old. Looking up at this stadium, having Coach Tressel behind me. I've got to give thanks to my snapper, my holder and the line ... they did a great job today. It's nice to come out on top like this."

BUCHANON IS THE TOP PUNTER — While Buchanan is locked in a three-way battle with Barclay and Basil for the place kicking duties, it would appear that he has the punting responsibilities completely wrapped up.

Buchanan, who is looking to take over for the graduated Jon Thoma, has displayed the best leg strength and hangtime of any of the punters, not only on Saturday, but all spring long. The other candidates include Derek Erwin and Elliott Pears.

HIT OF THE DAY? — Junior defensive back Donnie Evege has been turning heads all spring long and on Saturday during kickoff drills he made his presence felt once again, when he laid a crushing tackle on returner Devon Torrence. The hit lifted Torrence off his feet, drawing a huge celebration from his teammates on the Gray sideline.

The runner up for hit of the day was when linebacker Brian Rolle stonewalled tailback Daniel Herron at the 1-yard line, which prevented the offense from scoring.

NOTABLE SCORES ...

— After tailbacks Herron and Jordan Hall were unable to get it across the chalk in goal line drills, red shirt freshman, Jaamal Berry, blasted his way into the end zone from three yards out on his first carry.

— Herron and Hall would find their way into the end zone later in the drills. Herron scored on a reception from quarterback Terrelle Pryor, while Hall grabbed a TD catch from third string QB Kenny Guiton.

— Backup quarterback, Joe Bauserman, who had a few reps early with the first team, connected with junior DeVier Posey in the left side of the end zone.

Friday, April 9, 2010

ROLLE, HOMAN RUNNING THE SHOW AT LINEBACKER, SABINO EXCELLING

COLUMBUS — Ohio State senior linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan are the Buckeyes' version of "The Odd Couple."

Rolle — a smaller, more compact sized player at 5-foot-11 and 218 pounds — has a beaming personality, an outgoing nature and a motor that would make a Bugatti Veyron's look like a beaten down Chevette.

Homan — a more prototypical sized linebacker at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds — is quiet by nature. An even-tempered player who always remains cool, no matter how hot the situation gets.

Both men are as different as night and day, but when each player is on the football field together, they form a two-headed monster that would make even the toughest of men duck and run.

"Ross and Rolle feed off of each other," OSU linebackers coach Luke Fickell said, following Friday's spring practice session at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. "One's a real emotional kid and the other's not."

Fickell said that each may have a different type personality, but both are extreme competitors who never want to come off the field.

"Both those guys are doing such a great job. I wish this spring I could take them out a little more and get some more reps (for others), but it's hard to keep them off the field because they are competitors. They're not giving up their reps.

"That's a great thing to have when you've got guys who don't want to sit out. They're not comfortable with their situation. They want more."

Homan and Rolle combined for more than 200 tackles during Ohio State's Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship campaign last season, as each were first time starters after the Buckeyes lost long time stalwarts, James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, to graduation.

This season, Rolle and Homan are the veteran leaders that the young linebackers are looking up to and each love their newly found responsibility.

"I'm majoring in sociology to be a teacher, so I love to help people," Rolle said Friday. "Now that the coaches are giving me a role to kind of help guys more, I take it to heart. I feel like I can lead this team and help guys know what they need to do to get better and at the same time, get better myself."

Homan stated that he will take what he learned from Laurinaitis and Freeman and use it to help teach others.

"I've played with some great linebackers here, you know, Marcus (Freeman) and James (Laurinaitis)," Homan said Friday. "I learned a lot from them and I'll try to teach the young guys here the very same things."

Homan did state, though, that he can't try to mimic Laurinaitis and Freeman, but instead be the best leader he can be. That means he will have to do something that's not in his nature — become more vocal.

"You can't really put on someone else's leadership role," Homan said. "I try to make my own mark and not copy someone else's.

"I need to be more vocal. Being a senior, the coaches kind of expect it from you. So, I have to do it."

Fickell is one of the coaches expecting it.

"(Homan) is a great inspiration," Fickell said. "He's not a very vocal guy, you kind of have to push him to be a little bit different of a leader."

With both Rolle and Homan locked in as starters at the middle and weakside, respectively, a lot of the attention this spring has been on the opening strongside position, where the Buckeyes' lost last year's starter, Austin Spitler, to graduation.

As of right now, junior Etienne Sabino is the leading candidate for the strongside starting spot.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder out of south Florida has shown great improvement this spring, displaying the incredible athleticism which made him one of the top prep linebackers in the country back in 2008. But what is setting him apart on the strongside is his passion to learn.

"He's calling me to go watch film all the time," Rolle laughed. "I watch film for about an hour a day and he's calling me wanting me to watch some more. He's a guy who just wants to learn. He has great work ethic. He wants to be perfect."

Fickell said that he wants Sabino to become more instinctive on the field, though.

"He's become a little more of a reactor so far (this spring)," Fickell said of Sabino. "He's a very intelligent guy that when you study how he learns, he really wants information. So sometimes when you see that on some of your evaluations, a guy who wants more information, has to have more information, a processor, who always thinks things out, it can take another year or so (to develop).

"But, he's only 19 years old. I wish he would've been a red-shirted guy because not many guys play their freshman year at 17. He's still a really young guy, but he's becoming more of a reactor."

The biggest competition for Sabino on the strongside could come from junior Andrew Sweat.

Sweat, who played in seven games last season, has the skills and experience to give Sabino a run for his money at the starting spot. Unfortunately for Sweat, he is coming off a season-ending knee injury and has been unable to participate in drills this spring.

Rolle said that Sweat is a player who can get the job done anywhere on the field.

"The coaches have him playing everywhere," Rolle said of Sweat. "And he can do it, he's very versatile ... He's really been missed this spring."

EVEGE CONTINUES TO SHINE — Junior defensive back Donnie Evege is making the best of a great opportunity.

The Troy Polamalu look-a-like, who's been filling in at cornerback this spring for last season's starter, Chimdi Chekwa, has been all over the field, creating chaos for quarterbacks and receivers in scrimmage drills.

OSU senior linebacker Brian Rolle tells his teammates to take notice.

"Donnie Evege, he's a guy who's been opening some eyes," Rolle said. "He's had a couple interceptions thus far in the spring. I'm like man ... somebody better step their game up because Donnie's going to be a guy to be reckoned with this fall."

Evege, who has been slowed by injury during his first couple seasons in Columbus, made 14 tackles in 2009 as a special teamer. He has the size (5-11, 180) and speed to be an excellent cornerback or nickelback for the Buckeyes in 2010.

PRYOR TO STONEBURNER — Quarterback Terrelle Pryor looks to be forming a real nice connection with sophomore tight end, Jake Stoneburner. The two have hooked up quite a few times during the past few practices, including a touchdown in the back of the end zone on Friday from 10 yards out.

KICK SCRIMMAGE — The team will have a kick scrimmage on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. It is open to the media, but closed to the public.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

THERE'S A LOT OF COMPETITION GOING ON IN BUCKEYES BACKFIELD

Photo of Dan Herron, left, and Brandon Saine by Darla Dunkle-Hudnell

COLUMBUS — If the Ohio State backfield was under water, it would be deeper than the Mariana Trench.

As of right now, senior Brandon Saine and junior Daniel "Boom" Herron are clearly the top two candidates for the most playing time in the Buckeyes' backfield. But, when you add do-it-all sophomore Jordan Hall and super shifty redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry, the battle for carries may be more intense than four lions fighting over a gazelle.

"We really push each other," Saine said, following practice on Thursday in Columbus. "It's more than just me and Boom, we have a bunch of great tailbacks in the backfield. We really compete with one another, but it doesn't keep us from pushing each other to be the best we can be."

Herron reminisced about when he and Saine were the young bucks of the backfield, fighting for playing time just like Hall and Berry are doing now.

"It's very fun to see so many guys fighting hard for the position," Herron laughed. "It's a lot like when me and Brandon came in. We were hungry to get out there on the field and make some plays. But, it's definitely a good thing to see all those guys competing, too. It's good for the team."

Through five practices this spring, Hall and Berry have split carries with the second team offense. Both have displayed some incredible talents that will make it extremely hard for running backs coach, Dick Tressel, to keep these two dynamic players off the field.

Tressel — brother of head coach Jim Tressel — said that he doesn't see Hall or Berry backing down one bit from the competition.

"They have to embrace the competition. That's part of their personality or they wouldn't have signed on to be a Buckeye," Tressel said. "When you decide to be a Buckeye, you're saying 'hey, I want to compete with the best and against the best.'

"I think what you're seeing out of Jordan Hall is a really good football player," Tressel continued. "He's just a good football player, I mean, he's a ball player. He can return the kickoff, he can get the block, make the quick cut, make the tough play — which we saw last year already.

"What you're seeing out of Jaamal Berry right now is his ability to have a little burst, a little juice. But he's hasn't played. So he still has to go through a learning curve. You're seeing his talent, but you're seeing a guy progressing through a learning curve."

During last season's Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship campaign, both Saine and Herron nearly split the carries 50/50.

"I see it going about the same way this year as it did last year," Saine said. "Hopefully, though, we can get on the field at the same time, but we'll see."

Saine finished last season with 739 yards (5.1 per carry), while Herron added 600. With quarterback Terrelle Pryor — the team's leading rusher in 2009 with 779 yards — looking more and more comfortable as a passer, his carries will most likely be cut in half.

So, with more yards to be had in the backfield because of Pryor's progression as a drop back passer, can the duo of Saine and Herron each reach 1,000 yards rushing in 2010?

"It would be odd (to have two 1,000-yard rushers), but you never know." Saine smiled. "I've talked with Boom a lot and we just want to see the team do good. The yards will come, the carries will come and everything like that. Whatever happens, happens. But the wins are the biggest thing."

LET'S GO INSIDE — After the first four practices of the spring were played in mild temperatures, Thursday's session was cold and windy.

Midway through the session Thursday, the coaches moved the practice indoors where the competition got much more intense.

After running a few drills, the team lined up in a circle and played a little game which matched a defensive and offensive player against each other in what seemed to be a football version of sumo wrestling.

One of the most notable matchups was left guard Justin Boren against defensive tackle John Simon. Simon won the battle, drawing the largest roar from the Buckeye players standing by.

After it went back and forth between the offense and defense, Jim Tressel said that the winner would be decided in the final pairing between linebacker Brian Rolle and tailback Boom Herron. Each player clashed, gave it their all and the winner was ...

"Coach said that he'll have to watch the film," Herron laughed. "We were kind of going back and forth. I guess it wasn't really a finish, so he said he would watch the film and see who won."

STAR OF THURSDAY'S PRACTICE IS ... Junior cornerback Donnie Evege.

Evege, who has been filling in on the first team defense for the injured cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, has really come on this spring. Thursday, the speedy Evege was in top form, as he batted away several passes in scrimmage drills and even made the play of the day, when he stepped in front of a Terrelle Pryor pass — intended for DeVier Posey — and raced the distance for the touchdown.

Evege, who was a special teams star for the Buckeyes last season, may get some significant playing time this season as a corner or nickel back.

TOP RECRUIT IN THE HOUSE — Huber Heights Wayne quarterback Braxton Miller — the top recruiting prospect in the nation for 2011 — was at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Thursday, along with his father, Kevin Miller, Wayne head coach Jay Minton and Wayne assistant coach Pat Wood.

Miller, wearing Ohio State garb from head to toe, watched the entire practice from the sideline inside the facility.

Following the session, Miller, along with his coaches, were able to hang with Wayne alums Marcus Freeman — now an OSU assistant — and defensive back Donnie Evege. Miller also had an opportunity to chat with head coach Jim Tressel on the sideline for a few moments after practice, sharing a few laughs in the process.

Miller looked very comfortable in the OSU setting. He is definitely the Buckeyes No. 1 target for next year's class.