Ohio State Spring Practice Insider: Defense Taking Shape For Buckeyes

COLUMBUS — The Ohio State Buckeyes were on the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for practice No. 6 on Tuesday. The morning session featured a 30-minute open window for credentialed media to watch and film.

Check out Tom Orr’s photo gallery from Practice No. 6.

To this point, there appear to have been no major depth chart moves, which isn’t unexpected. Spring practice is about a third of the permitted practices until game one for the Buckeyes, and they just hit the 40% check point of spring ball.

In other words, there’s a long way to go. If there are any position moves — or positions where the battle ramps up to a more even fight — that will occur over the last five or so practices. Right now the young players are still following the leader, but some will only follow for so long.

Some of the young players making noise on the second team are freshman receiver Carnell Tate, sophomore cornerback Davison Igbinosun, and redshirt freshman linebacker Gabe Powers.

The first two players mentioned had their black stripes removed following Saturday’s practice. When offensive coordinator Brian Hartline was asked what went into Tate having his stripe removed, he said the freshman has just done everything right — including posting straight A’s in the class room.

Igbinosun continues to make plays with his length, which has impressed the coaches on a daily basis. Powers, meanwhile, is making the most of starting middle linebacker Tommy Eichenberg’s absence by playing very well as the No. 2 Mike behind Cody Simon.

Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said that Powers continues to improve and has earned the respect and trust of his teammates.

The Talk Of The Town

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jayden Ballard was a popular topic of conversation with offensive coordinator/receivers coach Brian Hartline. Ballard is a more complete receiver now than he was a year ago, which he showed during Saturday’s practice to a gaggle of media onlookers.

Everybody knows about Ballard’s deep speed, but it’s going to be the rest of the route tree and every other assignment and detail that will get him on the field more than he’s been in the past.

Not having starters Julian Fleming and Emeka Egbuka available this spring has allowed for more reps for all of the receivers, and Ballard may have put them to better use than anybody else.

Sonny Sized Up

We’ll get into this more with a full story, but sophomore Sonny Styles is currently working with the twos at strong safety. He is behind Lathan Ransom, who started last year and is expected to start this year as well. But that’s not the only place you’ll find Styles in 2023. As Jim Knowles said on Tuesday, “we’re gonna get him in,” they just need to figure out where and how to do it best.

One thing Knowles was clear on, however, is that spring isn’t enough time to figure out everything that Styles can — or could — do for this defense.

And as they add more and more of the defense, there will be more consideration as to how Styles could factor in.

Sights And Sounds

Emptying The Notebook

  • Redshirt freshman wide receiver Caleb Burton could be seen jogging around the practice field. This is indicative of a player dealing with a non-major injury. A couple of weeks ago, redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Brown mentioned that Burton had been injured, but there had been no follow-ups since. Overall, it didn’t appear that serious.
  • Redshirt freshman receiver Kyion Grayes was also jogging along with Caleb Burton. Grayes didn’t take part in practice Saturday either as he works his way back from something that isn’t believed to be serious.
  • Jim Knowles provided hints of a depth chart at Jack, saying fourth-year junior Mitchell Melton and sophomore CJ Hicks are your top two. The Jack isn’t being used this spring because Melton is still recovering from an ACL tear in last year’s spring game. Hicks is also currently the No. 2 Will linebacker behind Steele Chambers.
  • According to Jim Knowles, however, for any second-team defender to factor into the regular defense, they need to “kick ass” on the second team. Meaning, their play has to demand that they get involved with the ones. It’s not just a matter of a player being given an opportunity. The players need to make their opportunities happen.
  • Knowles also said they are looking at the possibility of playing more looks with three cornerbacks, with one of the three playing the nickel.
  • Knowles said the defense is moving faster this year. He’s also seeing more PBUs in the back end from the secondary. Experience has that effect.

Go to discussion...