April 6, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State football team practiced in Buckeye gear – shorts and helmets – for about two hours Friday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The team will resume full pads contact Saturday morning with a 10 a.m. practice scheduled.

Spectacular blue skies, three American flags waving in the breeze, the ping of ball and bat from Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium, and cheering and music from Buckeye Field – home of the softball team – all combined for a delightful setting outside the Harmon Family Football Park, the spectacular, $5 million-plus practice home of the Buckeyes.

Inside the practice park, the session was, once again, fast-paced and intense as coaches – nearing the halfway point of these spring drills as this was the sixth of 15 practice days – coax, teach and drill the 94 players who suit up each day.

And afterward, co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel met with a group of media who typically cover the program to talk about their respective positions.

Here’s Coach Vrabel on:

What he wants to see from the defensive linemen: “We’re going to play physical, we’re going to play square, and we’re going to play with violent hands. If we do those three things we’ll be graded positively. If we are able to go from point A to point B as fast as we can, and find a way to compete for the length of the play, which we talk about as being four to six seconds around here, we’re going to have a good D line.”

John Simon: “We’d like to get a player like him in every class. I love being around him.”

Line numbers: “We’re just trying to get guys we are confident with. If it’s 10 guys…it might only be six guys…but we’d like to have a two-deep at defensive line.”

On competitiveness: “I think the sign of a truly great player is someone who goes out and competes every day. He doesn’t always win, but he always competes. We have guys that are competing on this team.”

And some thoughts from Coach Warinner on:

The offensive schemes: “”They are a lot different for our line. Between what we’re asking them to do and the variety of things, it’s different. But football is football. Sometimes they forget the fundamentals when they are thinking about the new concepts and new terms. It just takes time.”

The big picture: “When I watch what goes on during a play, I look at the big picture. I see what the running backs and tight ends and quarterbacks do and how that affects how the line performs. I have coached the line more than anything, but I played quarterback. I teach my linemen what the quarterback is doing and why. As a lineman, it gets frustrating when you don’t know why a quarterback is doing what he’s doing. I help them understand.”

The linemen
A total of six student-athletes also met with the media. Representing the offensive line was senior Reid Fragel and juniors Jack Mewhort and Corey Linsley. And defensively, reporters spoke with seniors John Simon and Garrett Goebel and junior Johnathan Hankins. Some of their thoughts from the day…

Simon on spring drills: “These practices have been more enthusiastic and with a really good tempo, which is how games are played. I think that is great for us.”

Fragel on the move to tackle from tight end: “Obviously, a transition like this will take some time. But every day I get more and more confident. I never had a doubt about switching. I was more confident as a blocking tight end than I was running corner routes.”

Mewhort on the offensive capabilities: “Coach Meyer makes it evident every day that he wants to score a lot of points every game.”

Hankins on Coach Vrabel: “He’s intense. He’s pretty young, so he is out there running with us and working with us. He keeps us fired up every day. He reminds us to use our hands and to be more physical. He knows all about football, which is great for our defensive line.”

Mewhort on Simon: “On the edge he has a nasty speed rush. As a tackle you have to stick to your technique or he can hurt you with his inside move.”

OL versus DL
The defensive line returns nine lettermen from last season who have combined for 78 starts and 202 games played. The offensive line returns seven lettermen who have combined for 33 starts and 86 games played.

Some defensive line notes
The defensive line’s 78 starts lead all of the Ohio State positions with the defensive backs second (62) … five players, led by John Simon’s 26 career starts, have started at least 10 games, including all four returning starters from last year (Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Garrett Goebel and Adam Bellamy) … Simon and Hankins, essentially called a couple of “disrupters” Tuesday by coach Urban Meyer, combined for 27 tackles-for-loss last year for minus-83 yards … all four of the returning starters recovered a fumble last year.

And some notes on the offensive line
Coach Ed Warinner said junior guard Marcus Hall has been the most pleasant surprise along the line this spring: “We knew he had the ability, but with the fresh start he has just been rolling along.” … Juniors Andrew Norwell and Jack Mewhort are the two returning starters along the line with each starting all 13 games in 2011 … Hall made five starts last season … Corey Linsley, called one of the toughest linemen on the team by Simon earlier this week, and Simon share the same hometown: Youngstown. Linsley attended Boardman and Simon attended Cardinal Mooney and they never played against each other as prepsters.

Former Buckeyes in attendance
A number of former Buckeyes watched practice today: Mike Brewster, Chad Cacchio, Jim Cordle, Michael Doss, Eric Gholston, Archie Griffin, Jesse Kline and Jerry Rudzinski.