Will Howard Ohio State Buckeyes Quarterback

Ohio State Football Notebook: ‘That’s something that is difficult to teach’

Standing Tall

Ohio State’s spring camp wrapped up one week ago with the spring game, ending 15 practices over the previous five-plus weeks. It was head coach Ryan Day’s first real opportunity to evaluate transfer quarterback Will Howard in person.

Sure, Day had four years of Kansas State film to go over, but it’s something else to be able stand behind a quarterback in practice, see what he sees, and get direct feedback in the moment on why Howard threw where he did — or didn’t.

It’s the kind of coach’s eye view that provides a ton of real-time information. But there is also plenty of film review afterward. You can’t see everything in real time, so the studying is ongoing.

Over the course of 15 practices, however, Day saw growth in the fifth-year senior.

“Yeah, I think the pocket presence is something that was there early on when he got into the spring practice. We were able to see that that,” Day said after last Saturday’s spring game. “That’s something that is difficult to teach, that your eyes are downfield but you’re feeling the rush. It does help when you’re north of 6-4. But he stands in there, you can see that. And so I just think that over the spring, the timing is increasing, it’s getting better over and over again.”

Enough To Be Dangerous

The Buckeyes are replacing three full-time starters from last year’s defense, and one of those possible replacements is junior Will linebacker CJ Hicks. Hicks spent the spring repping with the first team as fellow junior Sonny Styles backed him up after making the move from safety.

The two will continue to compete for the starting spot in fall camp, though both are expected to be involved in the Buckeyes’ defense one way or another.

Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles wanted to get a very long look at Hicks this spring, which he did. What did he see?

“I mean, I think CJ has shown that he has talent, and I think it’s my job to put him in the best situations for him because he can be a force,” Knowles said. “You know, he’s much better when he’s blitzing, or he’s directed, because he’s able to use his athletic ability. But he has certainly shown that he’s going to be able to help this defense.”

Finding ways to make that happen while also keeping Styles — who started 12 games last season — involved is what the coaches like to call “a good problem to have.”

The Difficulty Of Evaluation

Even before he ever took part in an Ohio State practice, new Buckeyes offensive coordinator Chip Kelly was asked how he was going to improve the OSU running game. His answer at the time was that it depends on what the offensive line can do.

Following 15 spring practices, the topic was revisited. And even though Kelly had a much better idea of the kind of offensive line he was dealing with, his players weren’t exactly being given an open-book test.

“It’s interesting because the one thing that I think sometimes makes it tough from an evaluation is what a good front we went against,” Kelly explained. “So for 15 practices those guys on the other side of the ball were a pain. You know, Jack [Sawyer], and JT [Tuimoloau] and Tyleik [Williams], and those guys.”

But while it may make the evaluation more difficult, the benefits will outweigh the negatives.

“I know come fall, there’s not gonna be anybody more happy that we have those guys on the defensive side of the ball because of what they can do,” Kelly said. “So I still think we’ll have to really evaluate what we’re good at, what we’re not, what we’ve got to get better on, what we’ve got to work on. But I think the work we got against such a quality defense was really key for us.”

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