Jeremiah Smith Ohio State Buckeyes Wide Receiver Denzel Burke Caleb Downs

Ohio State Football Notebook: ‘He’s going to play a lot of football’

Give Me Five

One of the items on head coach Ryan Day’s to-do list this spring is to leave camp with a pretty good idea of what his starting offensive line is going to look like. That shouldn’t be too difficult given the fact that four starters return and another possible starter was brought in from Alabama.

Left tackle Josh Simmons, All-Big Ten left guard Donovan Jackson, center Carson Hinzman, and All-Big Ten right tackle Josh Fryar are all back, and Alabama transfer center Seth McLaughlin is transitioning well to life at Ohio State.

Right guard Matt Jones is the only departure from last season. Sophomore Luke Montgomery has been with the ones for much of spring practice so far. Redshirt sophomore Tegra Tshabola has been vying for a larger role as well.

Overall, how are things going?

“Yeah, I think we’ve done a nice job in certain areas,” Day said this weekend. “I think that we’re still trying to figure out who the best five is and where they are. So we’ve done a little bit of moving around, especially on the right side in particular.”

How so?

“Josh Fryar’s played a little guard. Tegra’s moved in there. We’ve had Luke Montgomery there,” Day expounded. “So I think that’s really what we’ve got to figure out. I think Carson and Seth both have done a nice job at center so far. And even [redshirt freshman center] Josh Padilla has done nice. Had some nice snaps in there as well.”

It’s still early and there is time to figure things out, but that hasn’t stopped Day and offensive line coach Justin Frye from pushing them in the spring.

“We’ve tried to mix those guys in against our one defensive line to see what that looks like,” Day said. “So I think there’s been really good progress made, but we got to figure out who those five are, and then as we head into the preseason, get that chemistry down.”

Impact Newcomers

With a packed house of onlookers at Saturday’s practice in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, folks were excited to get their first good look at two of Ohio State’s brightest newcomers — Alabama safety transfer Caleb Downs and freshman wide receiver Jeremiah Smith.

Ryan Day, meanwhile, has seen them both through eight spring practices, and even he still gets excited about what he’s seeing.

“I think anytime you have somebody who’s as talented as both of those guys are, you get excited about them,” Day said. “Certainly in the recruiting process, but then when you have guys who have discipline, and then skill like they do, that’s when you have a chance to have a great player.”

The on-field talent is clear. Downs’ freshman season was as productive as you could ever hope — leading Alabama with 107 tackles last year. Smith, meanwhile, has been making plays every single practice this spring. Both are ridiculously talented, but it takes more than talent to do what they’re doing.

“I think both of them have discipline in their life,” Day said. “I think both of them have built up a skill package. Caleb already has a year of college football that was built at a high level. So he’s further along that way, but Jeremiah has really stepped in. He got his black stripe off real quick. He’s got a great approach. I’m gonna be careful what I say, but he’s been certainly a pleasure to watch and we’re all very excited about his future.”

From the early returns this spring, it is clear that Jeremiah Smith is going to play this year. But there is also speculation that he could be a day-one starter.

What does Day say to that?

“If he continues on the path that he’s on, he’s going to play a lot of football and certainly will have a chance to start as well,” he said.

Picking Up Speed

Buckeye fans have been waiting for two years now to see linebacker CJ Hicks in Ohio State’s regular rotation. This spring, Hicks has been running with the first team at Will linebacker. In Saturday’s spring practice, Hicks was effective blitzing up the middle, giving both the first-team and second-team offensive lines issues.

What has Ryan Day seen from Hicks this spring?

“Yeah, I think we’re seeing CJ play fast,” Day said. “He really likes blitzing. You can tell, he’s quick in there. He’s doing a nice job timing up the blitzes. And another year under his belt in experience. Being in a room with Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers, watching how they did it, now he’s doing it.”

Linebacker is the one position on this Ohio State defense that lost the most starters, but they also return players like Cody Simon and Sonny Styles who have double-digit starts to their credit. Redshirt sophomore Gabe Powers and true sophomore Arvell Reese have also been making plays so far at middle linebacker.

Overall, Day likes the options he is seeing so far for defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and linebackers coach James Laurinaitis.

“I think you’re seeing the speed and the athleticism and the length between Cody, Arvell, Sonny, CJ. Those guys are athletic. Gabe Powers. All these guys are guys who can blitz, they can cover, they can check defenses,” Day said. “I think they’ve done a good job with that. James and Jim have both done a really good job of training them that way.”

There is still work to do, however. It is only April 1, after all.

“Excited about that group. Their versatility,” Day said. “They’re not where they need to be yet. I’m glad we’re not playing tomorrow. But you can see the potential.”

Go to discussion...