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Ohio State’s open practice gives insight into multiple position battles

We all know the names Haskins, Bosa, Dobbins, etc., but who are the under-the-radar guys who could make a difference?

NCAA Football: Maryland at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

“These are guys that haven’t necessarily received all that much buzz during spring camp or the offseason but look like they might potentially wind up playing key roles for the defending Big Ten champs.”

-Austin Ward, Lettermen Row

We haven’t been able to see much of Ohio State’s football practices yet this fall, but with the partial opening of Tuesday’s workout, we got a glimpse at just how much work certain Buckeyes have put in since the end of spring ball back in April.

We all know the bigger names of Dwayne Haskins, Nick Bosa, J.K. Dobbins, and the like, but Ward has a good look at some under-the-radar Buckeyes who— based on the small sampling— could be looking at an increased role this fall.

The first player that Ward highlights is sophomore linebacker Pete Werner. Bill Davis’ corp from last year was clearly the weak link in the otherwise stout OSU defense. However, expectations seem to be higher this year with the idea that Tuf Borland should be back sooner, rather than later, and a group of young guys ready to compete.

However, Ward notes that Werner received more reps than anticipated on Tuesday, and has the versatility to move around enough to play either inside or outside, depending on what defensive coordinators Greg Schiano and Alex Grinch need from him.

Ward also mentions freshmen Jaelen Gill (H-back) and Amir Riep (safety) as players who could have an unexpected impact on the season. While both are insanely talented athletes, they each have an uphill climb over more experienced players in order to see the field consistently. However, if the Buckeyes are able to burst out to sizable leads early in the season, getting both some minutes when games are in hand, could allow them to prove themselves enough to have their numbers called more often as the season moves on; but I wouldn’t expect them to contribute significantly when games are close, especially early in the season.

With the OSU offense seemingly changing it’s philosophy with the new “throw-first, dual-threat” quarterback in Haskins, how the offensive line is constituted will likely have to change this season as well.

Yesterday, we told you that Michael Jordan— normally a guard— got quite a few snaps at center during the open practice (more on this later). However, Ward also thinks that fifth-year senior Malcolm Pridgeon could factor into the discussion at guard, especially if Jordan shifts inside. Pridgeon will have to compete with a healthy Branden Bowen, Demetrius Knox, and a young Wyatt Davis to crack the starting lineup. But, at 6-foot-7, 310 pounds, Ward thinks that with his ever-improving skills, he has a shot.


Which under-the-radar player will have the biggest impact on OSU’s season?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Pete Werner (LB)
    (218 votes)
  • 21%
    Jaelen Gill (H-back)
    (80 votes)
  • 9%
    Amir Riep (Safety)
    (35 votes)
  • 12%
    Malcolm Pridgeon (Guard)
    (46 votes)
379 votes total Vote Now

“What I was most interested in on Tuesday was how the coaches ran things with Urban Meyer still on paid administrative leave pending the university’s ongoing investigation of the OSU head coach. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day is acting head coach, and I wanted to see how he handled that.”

-Bill Landis,

Aside from what could be gleaned from a short, scripted practice, OSU’s beat reporters were also interested in seeing how practice would be run without Urban Meyer in charge. Landis notes that interim head coach Ryan Day spent most of the practice with the offense, specifically quarterbacks, while the position coaches oversaw their individual units. Schiano, who doesn’t oversee a specific position this season, wandered amongst the D.

Landis also pointed out that it was strength coach Mickey Marotti who gave the pre-practice speech, rather than Day. With all due respect to the acting head ball coach, if I’m looking for somebody to pump up the team before a practice, Mick is the guy.

In other practice news, Landis wrote that he felt like Brady Taylor was still the team’s No. 1 center, but that Jordan taking snaps certainly raised some eyebrows. He said that by moving Jordan to center, that would give the Buckeyes the most experienced line possible, with Jordan, Knox, Bowen, and Isaiah Prince all having starting experience. He doesn’t think that that is the most likely option at this point, but it is an intriguing possibility when it comes to putting the most experienced group in front of a quarterback starting for the first time.

Another interesting note is that Landis noted that freshman QB Matthew Baldwin seemed to be 100 percent coming off of an ACL injury in late 2017. I would imagine that, if healthy, the plan will be for him to see some sort of action in four games this season, in order to preserve his redshirt. However, he is far more like Haskins than Tate Martell is, so, if the starter goes down at any point this season, you have to wonder if it would be easier on the offense to slide in a more traditional pocket-passer than the smaller, run-first Martell, and therefore having to focus on a new part of the playbook.

Look, I understand that these trips are about practice, education, and team-bonding, but man does it look like the basketball Buckeyes are having one heck of a vacation in Spain. Yes, they are undefeated. Yes, they are playing respectable competition. Yada yada yada, but Joey Lane is conducting post-game interviews, and the team is cruising the Mediterranean on a catamaran (see below).

Now mind you, I’m not mad about this; I’m jealous! In all seriousness, I think this is exactly what this particular team needs. With the unusual mix of young and/or unheralded players who will be asked to take on leadership roles this season, this trip could be the difference between 2018-19 being a bridge to next season’s top-flight recruiting class, or another entertaining performance by Chris Holtmann’s scrappy underdogs.

Either way, I think that what Holtmann is building has been—and will continue to be—very special for Buckeye fans for years to come.

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