March 21, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State coach Urban Meyer practiced his team for a little over two hours Thursday afternoon on the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The players wore full pads for practice No. 4 of the spring season with a rather impressive collection of media on hand to watch despite many of their peers on assignment following the basketball Buckeyes at the NCAA tournament in Buffalo, N.Y.

Meyer was pleased with the pace of the workout, mentioning in passing to a reporter afterward that it was a really good practice by the team. The session ended after Darron Lee, the second-year linebacker from New Albany and a young player whose play has not gone unnoticed by Meyer, intercepted a pass to the delight of his spirited and enthusiastic teammates.

Regarding interceptions: red-shirt freshman cornerback Eli Apple had a pair of interceptions Thursday and senior Doran Grant, the only returning start in the secondary, and sophomore safety Tyvis Powell, each had one.

Defense young but talented
New co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash and running backs coach Stan Drayton met with the media after practice. Ash said that he was happy with the effort the players have given so far and that his safeties have “bought into what I am coaching and teaching.”

Ash also said the defensive coaches were utilizing a more simplified approach to defense this spring. He added “we’re young on defense, but very talented. Inexperience will only last so long, but we are very talented at some positions even though we are young.”

Healthy competition at running back
Running backs coach Stan Drayton and a quartet of his charges also met with the media after practice Thursday. Drayton was asked what it has been like with a stable of four running backs – fifth-year senior Rod Smith, third-year sophomores Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball, and true sophomore Ezekiel Elliott – all vying for the position manned the last two years by Carlos Hyde.

“It’s been extremely competitive,” Drayton said, “and I love the competition. It’s healthy and it’s fun to watch a bunch of guys get better.”

RB Career Rushing Stats:
Rod Smith – 83 carries for 448 yards with four touchdowns and a 5.4 yards per carry avg.
Ezekiel Elliott – 30 carries for 262 yards with two touchdowns and an 8.7 yards per carry avg.
Bri’onte Dunn – 25 carries for 133 yards with two touchdowns and a 5.3 yards per carry avg.
Warren Ball – 13 carries for 76 yards and a 5.8 yards per carry avg.

Big shoes to fill
The past two seasons Carlos Hyde, as the team’s No. 1 running back, gained 2,491 yards rushing and scored 31 rushing touchdonws. He averaged 118.6 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry.

“We have some big shoes to fill,” Rod Smith said after Thursday’s practice, referring to Carlos Hyde, “and one of us has got to fill them. My mindset is to just go out and compete for that No. 1 spot.”

Smith added that his overall goal was “for us to win games.”

No. 2 shoes, too!
Ohio State also loses its second-leading running back rusher from last season, Jordan Hall and his career rushing numbers of 305 carries for 1,568 yards and 14 touchdowns. Speaking of No. 2 running back stats: the No. 2 running back rusher on Urban Meyer’s 12 teams averages 80 carries per year, 448 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

Jalin Marshall out
Red-shirt freshman wide receiver Jalin Marshall will miss the remainder of the spring season after injuring his left lateral meniscus in practice on Tuesday. He had arthroscopic knee surgery Friday morning. He is doing well and is expected to resume conditioning work in May.