Ohio State Spring Practice Insider: A Through Z Takeaways From Saturday’s Scrimmage

Ohio State held their fifth practice of spring camp on Saturday. It also happened to be the first scrimmage of camp, which credentialed media were permitted to attend.

The practice consisted of 20 periods, with many of those periods involving 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 play from scrimmage.

Buckeye Huddle has a running thread on what we were able to see on Saturday, but what follows is a more formal view of my thoughts from Saturday’s practice.

And just for the heck of it, we’ll go alphabetical.

As I correctly predicted in this year’s Black Stripe Draft in this episode of the Buckeye Weekly Podcast, wide receiver Carnell Tate became the first freshman to have his black stripe removed. Also, pay no attention to the fact that Tate was actually my second pick in the third round of a snake draft. The important part is that I drafted him. On Saturday, Tate looked like he belonged. He made tough catches on the sidelines and also took one quick hitch for about 25 yards.

Bryson Rodgers also had a nice moment for the freshmen wide receivers catching a deep shot down the sideline while falling to the ground. His proud mom was standing next to me when it happened and she tried her best to contain herself.

Cameron Martinez had a good day running with the ones at nickel. He was Tanner McCalister’s backup last year, but looked every bit a starter on Saturday. He had a nice breakup in the end zone on a pass to Marvin Harrison. He also had Bryson Rodgers locked down on an incompletion later in 7-on-7.

Dallan Hayden and Chip Trayanum brought some physicality today. On one play, Hayden caught a pass in the flats just as transfer safety Ja’Had Carter was laying a big hit on him. Hayden absorbed the blow and bounced off Carter and kept going for a few more yards before other defenders brought him down. Trayanum and redshirt freshman middle linebacker Gabe Powers had a big collision on fourth-and-one that came down to a controversial measurement.

Every time I watched redshirt freshman defensive end Kenyatta Jackson, he was making waves. He had several sacks on the day — though you must keep in mind that simply touching a quarterback resulted in the whistle being blown. Still, he had some really good snaps on the day, and he didn’t look out of place when he had a few opportunities with the ones.

For much of Saturday’s practice, junior cornerback Jordan Hancock was outstanding. But he also gave up two long pass plays. It was a microcosm of last year’s defense — some really good stuff mixed with an explosive play. Hancock spent his day with the ones. He was also solid in tackling drills.

Gabe Powers was pretty good on the day, particularly in 7-on-7 in the red zone where he broke up three passes in coverage. They say two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water. The other third is covered by Gabe Powers. I’m not sure how he shook out against the run, but there were no really big runs. I don’t recall anything longer than 10 or so yards.

Having seen junior cornerback Denzel Burke for three springs now, he sure looks more confident than ever. The beginning of last season was a humbling experience, but like any great cornerback, you have to forget the past and move on. There were no bad moments for him on Saturday that I saw.

I was once again impressed by Ole Miss transfer corner Davison Igbinosun. He can catch up so quickly with a receiver. He can also knock a ball away from many different angles. Igbinosun lost his black stripe on Saturday. He’s the second-consecutive Ohio State transfer from the SEC to lose his black stripe on March 25th (Justin Fields).

Jack Sawyer had a couple of sacks today. He was as disruptive as you could hope for from a pass rusher.

Kyle McCord made some plays with his feet today. More than I expected him to. He is not a hesitant runner. He was able to complete passes for first downs and big plays while scrambling. McCord was also a willing runner when needed, though the QB running wasn’t exactly part of the script on Saturday.

Let me also say that redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Brown certainly didn’t look out of place as the Buckeyes’ quarterback. He and Kyle McCord shared time with the ones and twos. Brown showed a very strong arm, even to the point of having a couple of onlookers shake their heads at each other at the speed of one of his throws on an out route.

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Noah Rogers had a fantastic catch and run on a scramble play by Kyle McCord. The freshman receiver just looks natural in everything he does. I don’t expect his black stripe to be with him much longer.

Old guys like linebackers Steele Chambers and Cody Simon, along with safeties Lathan Ransom and Josh Proctor were all solid on the day. They did a good job of leading their units and keeping the offense limited where they were concerned.

Plenty of players were held out today, so if you didn’t read about them today, that may be why.

Questions arose in the offseason about why Josh Proctor decided to return to Ohio State for a sixth year and whether or not Lathan Ransom would move from strong safety to free safety to replace departed Ronnie Hickman. Based on what we saw on Saturday, both questions have been answered. Proctor was with the ones at free safety and Ransom was still at his customary strong safety position. Neither gave up any notable plays on the day.

Really impressed with Kye Stokes. The sophomore safety put his nose everywhere. He clearly just wants to be involved and really doesn’t care whether it’s 40 yards downfield or four yards into the backfield.

Sophomore safety Sonny Styles was working with the twos at strong safety, but also got some time with the ones early on in some other particular situations. He went 1-for-2 on deep routes against redshirt freshman slot receiver Kaleb Brown, but also broke up a third pass against Brown with a solid hit. Styles also locked up tight end Cade Stover on a pass down the seam. Styles was on Stover like commercials on a FOX college football broadcast.

Tyleik Williams and Mike Hall lining up next to each other just seems right. There were times when all four of the junior defensive linemen — Jack Sawyer, JT Tuimoloau, Mike Hall, and Tyleik Williams — were on the field together. It’s a lineup that has been pointed to for a couple of years now as the future of the defense. Add in Ty Hamilton on the inside as well, along with two or three second-year defensive ends, and there’s a lot to like about the defensive line rotation.

Usually freshman tight ends don’t look like Jelani Thurman, but at 6-foot-6 and 253 pounds (looking like he could add another 17 pretty easily), he stands out. He had a nice play in the red zone late in the game, nearly scoring a touchdown on a dump off in the flats. He still had a number of freshman moments during the day, but he got a ton of reps and will build on each one of them.

Victor Cutler was brought to Ohio State from Louisiana-Monroe to compete for the starting center job, but it’s going to be a challenge to unseat redshirt freshman Carson Hinzman. Hinzman has been with the ones throughout camp so far, which isn’t a surprise given the fact that Cutler is still learning the offense, and Jakob James — a fourth-year junior who could also play center — is out for the spring.

Wide receiver Jayden Ballard was outstanding today. He had a 50-yard touchdown catch in 11-on-11s, but more importantly he was moving the chains on shorter routes as well. He handled the physicality of the defense and held onto the ball. This is a big spring for him without Julian Fleming ahead of him, and so far he’s made the most of it. Including during Wednesday’s Pro Day where several NFL teams were asking who No. 9 was.

Xavier Johnson and Emeka Egbuka didn’t practice, but the slot was held down quite well by redshirt freshman Kaleb Brown. Brown was utilized over the middle quite a bit as a chain mover, but also ran several deep routes quite effectively. The quarterbacks had trouble connecting with the 5-foot-10 receiver in the red zone, but that’s something that will continue to be worked on.

Young players are always fun to watch in the spring, and the situation was no different on Saturday. It was good to finally see linebackers like Gabe Powers and CJ Hicks running around, as well as defensive ends Omari Abor and Kenyatta Jackson getting after the quarterback. The young offensive line had its moments as well. So did the young wide receivers. The young coaches didn’t look too bad either, getting after both their players and the refs at times.

Zen Michalski did pretty well at right tackle when I was watching. He spent the first half of the day with the ones, then gave way to redshirt freshman Tegra Tshabola. The two of them are definitely in a battle at right tackle, but Michalski has a year of experience on Tshabola and it showed a time or two on Saturday.

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