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Ohio State football practices are literally swinging for the fences to prevent fumbles

Running back coach Tony Alford has a different way to make sure that pigskin doesn’t hit the ground.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Clemson Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

“During a footwork drill in which running backs maneuver around obstacles, Alford stands by with a taped-covered toy baseball bat, swiping at the ball like he is down by three in a home run derby.”

Nicholas Piotrowicz, The Blade

Ohio State football spring practices are already in full swing, and one of the themes the offense is working on is a simple one: don’t fumble the football.

To make sure of that, running back coach Tony Alford is swinging for the fences in his attempt to make sure his squad doesn’t put the rock on the turf, literally. On footwork drills, the running backs run through obstacles, which includes Alford swinging out the ball with a wiffle bat.

According to the article written by Nicholas Piotrowicz, there is a method to the madness; Alford isn’t swinging for the sake of swinging.

The act of swinging at the runners is to simulate defensive tacklers going after the football. No matter what happens, the lesson is that the defense will be going after the ball — and proper fundamentals need to be established to make sure a fumble doesn’t happen.

Last season, the Buckeyes put the pigskin on the turf 17 times, but only lost the possession on five of those, according to Piotrowicz. Against Clemson, star running back Mike Weber coughed the ball up twice, as the Tigers cruised to a 31-0 victory against the Scarlet and Gray.

We’ll see how the bat attack helps in the Buckeyes’ pursuit of keeping the ball in their possession.

“One of the challenges Weber is facing is coming back from the rough end of the 2016 season. In the final two games of the 2016 season, a 30-27 double-overtime win over Michigan and a 31-0 Fiesta Bowl loss to Clemson, he combined for 50 rushing yards on 16 carries with only one touchdown run.”

Colin Gay on Mike Weber’s path to becoming a leader for the Buckeyes in 2017, The Lantern

As you read above, Mike Weber had a rough game against Clemson. But, if you look back at Weber’s last two games (Michigan and Clemson), there is a lot to be desired for the stud running back this season.

Weber didn’t break the 100 total yard plateau in, arguably, the two biggest games of the season for the Bucks. Against Michigan, Weber was responsible for 26 yards; against Clemson, 24 yards. Earlier in the season, Weber torched the Oklahoma Sooners for 123 yards, Penn State for 71 yards and carried the Scarlet and Gray against Michigan State with 111 yards.

The experience (the highs and lows) have helped Weber become a leader.

In an article written by Colin Gay of The Lantern, running back coach Tony Alford talked about how Weber has carried himself. From keeping his body in shape, to learning what the wideouts and other offensive personnel are doing during plays, Alford says those things are the steps a player makes in becoming a premier player.

Becoming a leader is an important part of a team. Especially with the new talent coming in, having experienced members teach the right stuff to the new guys is paramount. Weber has already taken the steps to not only better himself on the gridiron, but better himself as a leader.

We’ll see the full scope of Weber’s transformation as the season draws nearer.

“He is leaning on Ward to be the leader. Though it's true that Ohio State lost both starting cornerbacks from last year's team, Coombs is quick to point out that Ward saw roughly as many plays as Lattimore and Conley, rotating in throughout each game.”

Tim May, Columbus Dispatch

You’ve read about leaders on the offensive, now, let’s look at what the defensive side of the ball has in terms of leadership. After another crop of Buckeyes have been plucked by the lure of the NFL, new guys get to step up and become leaders of the Silver Bullets.

Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore are the defensive backs departing for the draft, so that means Denzel Ward is now in the spotlight as the experienced man in the secondary. Filling the void shouldn’t be too hard for Ward, as he has seen ample playing time as a DB.

In an article by the the Columbus Dispatch’s Tim May, Ward said that he is blessed to have the coaches’ support in going out playing in the spotlight. Additionally, Ward said to May that he is ready to go out there and “help lead the team”.

Leadership in the land of DBs is going to be huge, as new players will fill in the spots. Having Ward, an experienced member, lead is instrumental — in the same way that Weber has been thrust into the leadership role on offense.

Strong leaders help make teams in championship contenders. With Ward and Weber in the mix to lend their hands in leading this year’s team in their respective positions, this should be another fun team to watch.

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