Spring Practice Update: Predictions of Offense Two Deep

The 2014 Ohio State offense could truly live up to the title of Dream ’14 if they sort through early spring injuries and youth. Replacing the best offensive line-running back tandem in the country from last year has been the biggest question mark surrounding spring practices. However, with those two areas of concern in the forefront it has brought some light on the area of the Buckeye offense that will have to carry them early in the season, the outside play-makers. Let’s take a look at a few of the battles that are being watched closely by the coaching staff.

Offensive Line
Three of the five spots along the line have been virtually locked up with Taylor Decker and Darryl Baldwin securing both tackle spots, and Pat Elflein being named as the starter at right guard. Left guard may be the most wide open position battle left to be decided until this fall. Incoming freshman Demetrius Knox will have the opportunity to compete for the job with Antonio Underwood (Jr.) and Joel Hale (Sr.), both of whom are currently fighting for the job. Since Knox did not enroll early he will have to wait until the fall to get in to the mix. Jacoby Boren is taking the majority of the reps with the ones at center and I imagine he will continue to get the nod as he has been bred for this position for the past two seasons behind Corey Linsley.

Prior to the 2012 season Ed Warinner and his unit faced several questions regarding the performance of his unit and its potential. As you all know, the 2012 offensive line unit turned in to one of the teams most consistent groups. I fully expect Warinner to provide similar results for this years unit.

Running Back
Entering the off-season, it was strongly believed that Ezekiel Elliott had the inside track to the starting running back role. However, Rod Smith has proven in practice that he too deserves reps as he has been running extremely violent in between the tackles, and has provided the punch that the Buckeye offense lost with Hyde’s departure. A name also surfacing in the running backs room has been Curtis Samuel. Samuel has been placed in the running backs room and could very well earn his share of touches. With the emergence of Samuel, running backs coach Stan Drayton will have the ability to pull from a variety of backs. Elliott is more of an all purpose back, Samuel can serve as a speed back, and Rod Smith can be the power back the offense needs for the inside zone read. Brionte Dunn and Warren Ball will be competing with Rod Smith for time in the power back role. At this point I expect Dunn and Ball to be on the outside looking in again.

At the end of spring practice, I’m expecting Elliott and Smith to split carries. Elliott has put on an extra 25 pounds this off-season, however adding weight and running with it are two different things. We will see how Elliott uses his new found bulk. If he can run violently and still maintain his shiftiness in space I would expect him to receive the bulk of the reps, as he could very easily be an every down back.

Wide Receiver
This may be the most intriguing battle on offense. The wide receiver group will be one of the youngest on the team, but arguably the unit with the most talent. Devin Smith and Evan Spencer are the returning starters on this unit, but Spencer has been held out of spring practice in order to recover from surgery. Incoming freshman Johnnie Dixon has left a considerable impression on all coaches. He possesses great hands, speed, and has done everything the coaches have asked. Michael Thomas, the spring game all-star, has surfaced as the starter opposite of Devin Smith due to Evan Spencer’s absence. Corey Smith has also had a very productive spring. He too also has phenomenal hands and could possibly be the best route runner in the bunch.

Devin Smith, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith, and Johnnie Dixon are the top four receivers right now and I do not expect that to change. James Clark and Jalin Marshall have had set backs due to injury this spring, and Jeff Greene is still battling to see more reps. Greene could get in on red zone situations due to his size, but currently he is pretty far down the pecking order. The spring game should prove to be a fun preview as to what to expect this fall from the more talented and competent receiving core.

Post Spring Practice Two Deep Prediction
QB- Braxton Miller
Cardale Jones

RB- Ezekiel Elliott
Rod Smith

WR(X)- Devin Smith
Johnnie Dixon

WR(Z)- Michael Thomas
Corey Smith or Evan Spencer

TE- Jeff Heuerman
Nick Vannett

LT- Taylor Decker
Evan Lisle

LG- Antonio Underwood
Joel Hale

C- Jacoby Boren
Billy Price

RG- Pat Elflein
Chase Farris

RT- Darryl Baldwin
Kyle Trout

Comments

  1. Brionte Dunn is #2 behind Elliot and nipping at his heels. Rod Smith is firmly planted in the doghouse.

    I won’t believe Michael Thomas will play until I actually see it on non spring game Saturdays. For two spring games in a row Thomas has played well….then…..nothing.

  2. Not sure what’s going on with Rod right now since he didn’t participate in last Saturday’s scrimmage. He’s been referenced as a leader in the RB room all spring so we’ll see how that develops. On Saturday’s scrimmage Zeke was the #1 back, followed by Curtis Samuel, and Brionte Dunn was the #3 back. Everything I’ve heard and read out of spring practice sounds like Rod Smith is the #2, but Zeke will get the majority of carries. Will be interested to see how that plays out on Saturday.

    Michael Thomas definitely has to transition from playing well in spring ball to the fall, but I think he has started to make the turn. Unfortunately for him Corey Smith has had an exceptional spring as well and took snaps with the ones last Saturday so that will be a very interesting battle to watch Saturday.

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