Ohio State had a short 12-period football practice on Friday morning before its scrimmage on Saturday. It was the second — and last — practice reporters were scheduled to watch this summer, and though it didn’t provide much clarity on the quarterback battle, there were some interesting takeaways to get into.
Offensive line changes
On Wednesday, Day said the competition on the offensive line has evolved a bit.
The four tackles fighting for the starting spots he mentioned were Josh Fryar, Josh Simmons, Tegra Tshabola and freshman Luke Montgomery. On Friday, the first-team line consisted of Donovan Jackson, Matt Jones and Carson Hinzman on the interior, with Simmons at left tackle and Fryar at right tackle.
That’s a change from the spring when Fryar worked exclusively at left tackle. That means Simmons, the San Diego State transfer who arrived after spring ball, has come in and made an immediate impression on the coaching staff and likely looks better at left tackle than right. That moved Fryar back to right tackle, where he was last season.
As of now, that looks like the best bet to be Ohio State’s starting offensive line. Still, as camp unfolds, the Buckeyes are going to keep moving the tackles around to see who is best at each position, Day said on Wednesday.
The other combination was Tshabola at left tackle and Montgomery at right tackle with the second team. It seems Ohio State is down to these four players for the two tackle jobs and is likely inching closer to naming a starter at each position, pushing Zen Michalski a bit down the depth chart.
As for the center position, Jakob James doesn’t seem to be in the hunt for the starting spot after returning from injury. Hinzman still has the lead, and Day said UL Monroe transfer Victor Cutler Jr. has had a good camp thus far.
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Quarterbacks still neck and neck
Day has been telling anybody who will listen that the quarterback battle is close, and nothing seemed to change on Friday.
It was a relaxed practice, as the Buckeyes didn’t give a lot away in front of the media and seemed to play it safe before Saturday’s scrimmage. Still, it didn’t seem like either Kyle McCord or Devin Brown stood out above the other.
I thought each of them looked rather clean, but each had some bad throws as well and were affected by some tough drops.
One of the memorable throws of the day was a deep post route when Jayden Ballard beat Ryan Turner for a catch on a well-thrown ball by Brown. Another was a strike from McCord to freshman receiver Brandon Inniss for a touchdown during the 7-on-7 period.
Again, not to echo what Day has said, but this battle remains very close. Brown hasn’t done enough to jump out and show that he’s good enough to earn the job over the more experienced McCord. And McCord hasn’t done enough to show he’s decisively the guy to win the job over the younger Brown.
A lot may be decided on Saturday when the team scrimmages for the first time in camp. Though a starter is unlikely to be named next week, that scrimmage will go a long way toward determining who the starter will be when the Buckeyes make the trip to Indiana for the season opener.
Safeties coach Perry Eliano said he wants to go at least six-deep with safeties who are capable of seeing significant snaps. That’s not to say Ohio State is going to regularly play six safeties, but it gives it depth, a solid second rotation and a group that can get more reps in practice.
Cameron Martinez had a nice day Friday and made back-to-back pass breakups in the ninth period of practice. He wasn’t with what I believe is the starting trio of Lathan Ransom, Ja’Had Carter and Sonny Styles, but he should see a lot of the field this year. He looked good in the spring and again on Friday.
Cornerback Denzel Burke’s name was called plenty of times on Saturday, and the highlight of the day was his pass breakup on a deep ball from McCord to Julian Fleming. It looked like Burke got beat off the line, but he recovered to break up what would have been a big play for the offense.
I hate to keep beating this drum, but I really think Burke is due for a big season. I also think the secondary as a whole is going to be much improved because of the talent at corner. I know it’s a major worry for fans, but nothing I’ve seen in practice or heard around the football facility leads me to believe Ohio State is worried about its corners. Now, playing a game is different than camp, I get that, but they look really good right now. We’ll see if it can translate to fall Saturdays.
Lastly, defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr. was a terror in the sixth period. He had a sack and then a tackle for a loss. He ended up in the backfield a lot, before a lower leg injury had him slow to get up. He was looked at by the athletic trainers and then returned to drills.
(Photo of Josh Fryar: Frank Jansky / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)