Welcome to 2012 Ohio State Spring Football
March 23, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Head coach Urban Meyer and staff will take to the practice fields with their players for the first time Wednesday, March 28 at approximately 4 p.m. for the official start of the 2012 Ohio State football spring drills.
The 2012 spring drills - 15 practices, including the LiFE Sports Spring Game April 21 - kick off a couple of historic notes for the football program, which will play its 123rd season this fall:
The drills will also give the Buckeye players an opportunity to see, hear and feel football on the fields under their new coach, who knows how to win and who knows how to build championship teams. Meyer's .814 winning percentage is tenth-best in major college history all-time, and it is the second-best among current coaches, and he already has two national championships to his credit: the 2006 and 2008 national titles with the University of Florida.
"As intense as the off-season conditioning drills have been, the spring drills will be even more intense," senior fullback Zach Boren said. "There is no on-off switch. Everyone will be going full-go every play. It is going to be a physical spring with everyone putting everything on the line."
Returning senior and 2011 team captain John Simon is in agreement with Boren.
"It is going to be an intense spring drills," said Simon. "Everyone got bigger, faster and stronger in the off-season. The entire team is ready to go. We all want to prove ourselves in front of the new coaching staff. We're all excited to see what we can do in all phases: offense, defense and special teams."
Meyer has mentioned on several occasions how eager he is for March 28 to arrive and to be able to see what these players can do on the football field.
"I am excited to see our presents," Meyer has said, using the analogy of a gift about to be opened with a first look at his players on the field. "I don't really know what we have in terms of players, yet. I made a point not to look at film of last year because I wanted everyone to be able to start with a clean slate."
What Meyer will, or will not, see in terms of numbers when he assembles his 94 players on the practice fields this spring will be:
PRACTICE DATES, TICKETS & MORE
Practice Dates: The Buckeyes will practice on the following dates: March 28, 30 and 31, and April 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18 and 20.
Spring Game: The 2012 LiFE Sports Spring Game will be played April 21 at 1:30 p.m. in Ohio Stadium.
Spring Game Radio: Sports Radio 97.1 (FM) The Fan will broadcast the game across the 65-station Ohio State IMG Sports Network. Venerable play-by-play announcer Paul Keels will be on the call with color commentary by Jim Lachey and sideline reporting from Marty Bannister.
Spring Game Tickets: Tickets for the double header in Ohio Stadium April 21 - the Ohio State men's lacrosse team hosts the Showdown in the Shoe vs. Air Force at 11 a.m. followed by the 2012 Ohio State LiFE Sports Spring Game - are $7 each in advance and $15 on game day (cash only). Tickets are available online through OhioStateBuckeyes.com, charge by phone at 1-800-745-3000, in person at the Athletics Ticket Office in the Schottenstein Center, at any Ticketmaster location or at central Ohio Donato's restaurants. Ohio State students (with BuckID) and children 6 and under will be admitted free of charge.
About LiFE Sports: Learning and Fitness & Education through Sports (LiFE Sports) is a youth development initiative run by the Ohio State Department of Athletics and the Ohio State College of Social Work. The program is designed to offer economically disadvantaged children and adolescents, ages 9-17, sport and education instruction in a safe and nurturing environment during the summer months. Visit http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com/camps/life-sports.html to learn more about the program. It's a good thing!
2012 Team Info
Head Coach: Urban Meyer
Letterwinners Returning: 48
Letterwinners Lost: 24
Starters Returning: 18
QUOTING COACH Urban Meyer
Winter conditioning: "We take great pride in our off-season program. In our very strong opinion, championships are won in the off-season. I would grade ourselves as a plus. We had a very good off-season. The team looks a lot different to me, especially the offensive line. I was very disappointed in some body types that were here, and a lot of those bodies have changed."
Surprising position: "Probably the position I'm most excited about right now is the tight ends. We have three good-looking guys. We'd go out and recruit those guys any day of the week. We're not known as a fullback/tight end offense but you are going to see some formations [with these players involved]. We have to get our best 11 on the field and if they are our best 11, than there are creative ways we can get those guys involved."
Spring priorities: "I made it clear to the players that by the time we hit training camp [in the fall] spots are done. It's game over. We're trying to beat Miami of Ohio. Sure, some things will happen to the depth chart, but the two-deep will be set after spring practice. This is development time now. Once you get to August, we're all about trying to find a way to win a game."
Key traits of a first-teamer: "The competitive nature of a guy ... the guy that refuses to lose ... the fighter ... the tough guy ... the John Simon type kid. That's why we do so many win or lose days. I want to see that distaste in someone's face when they lose. If they don't share that same distaste that a lot of our coaches have then I don't really want to see them play. I don't care how fast or how high they jump or how much they bench press. If I don't see that competitive nature in them ... that's the number one thing I look for."
Leadership: "We're looking for leadership by doing ... by work ethic ... by leading. I'm not interested in a bunch of group hugs or team meetings. I really want to see guys lead by not losing. You want to be a great leader? Go win!"
Position in need: "No question offensive skill. I don't know who is going to catch a pass. There's no track record. I don't know who is going to carry the ball. Who is going to touch the ball? I don't know. I can't tell you who is going to touch it."
Coach Mike Vrabel
Fourteen-year NFL veteran and decorated Buckeye - two-time All-American and twice named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year - Mike Vrabel takes over coaching his collegiate position after mentoring the team's linebackers in 2011. His unit returns four starters from 2011, including 2011 third-team Associated Press All-American John Simon, and Johnathan Hankins. As formidable as any duo along the line, they combined for 27 tackles for loss (for minus-83 yards) and 10 sacks last year. Simon, a 26-game starter, is a senior and Hankins, fourth on the team with 67 tackles in 2011, a junior.
Senior Garrett Goebel and junior Adam Bellamy, a couple of first-year starters in 2011, also return after making 13 and 10 starts, respectively, last season. Two more linemen - sophomores J.T. Moore and Michael Bennett - joined the starters by logging line play in all 13 games last season while Steve Miller also lettered with significant special teams play. Two freshmen who redshirted last season - Chase Farris and Kenny Hayes - will be in the spring mix.
Also returning, but not competing this spring while continue to recover from knee surgery last fall, is Nathan Williams. Expected to be a leader on the line last year, Williams played in only the first game of the season and ended up red-shirting the season.
Coach Luke Fickell
Luke Fickell, defensive coordinator after serving as co-coordinator for six years before his elevation to head coach for the 2011 season, is back in charge of the team's linebacker corps. The 2012 season will be his eighth leading the linebackers.
This year's linebacker group has some experience at the top - seniors Storm Klein and Etienne Sabino and sophomore Ryan Shazier each have multiple starts - but overall the unit is limited in terms of numbers. Sophomore Curtis Grant is the only other linebacker available this spring who has game experience, and his experience was mostly as a special teamer last year. Class of 2012 recruit Josh Perry has been on campus since Jan. 2.
Sabino has played in 38 games and made five starts last season. He was fifth on the team in tackles with 62. Klein started 10 times last year and had 45 tackles. He, too, has 38 games under his belt. Shazier was most impressive as a true freshman, with 57 tackles including a team-season high 15 in his first career start, vs. Penn State.
Coach Everett Withers (Safeties)
Coach Kerry Coombs (Cornerbacks)
The two secondary positions, like defensive line, return plenty of starters and plenty of experience, something co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Everett Withers and cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs will certainly appreciate as they enter their first spring drills as Buckeye coaches.
Both starting cornerbacks - senior Travis Howard and sophomore Bradley Roby - are back, as is talented sophomore Doran Grant. Howard and Roby had five interceptions between them last year. Howard has 30 games, 11 starts and four interceptions to his credit. Roby started 12 games last year and led all Buckeyes with nine total passes defensed (six pass break-ups in addition to three interceptions), a total that was just two off the Big Ten lead. Grant played in all 13 games, including time in the secondary.
Three veteran safeties with a combined 39 starts among them also return. Junior C.J. Barnett has started in 15 consecutive games and he led the team with 75 tackles last season while also intercepting two passes and breaking up six more. Hard-hitting, nine-game starter Christian Bryant was third in '11 with 68 tackles and his eight pass break-ups were third-most in the Big Ten. And senior Orhian Johnson tied Roby for the team lead with three interceptions last season and he also had 32 tackles and played in all 13 games. Johnson, like Barnett, has started 15 times as a Buckeye.
Coach Tom Herman
Tom Herman, already with seven years behind him as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for three programs, including record-setting offenses at Rice University, will oversee the development of the QBs in Coach Urban Meyer's Ohio State spread offense.
Big Ten Freshman of the Year and College Football Performance Award's National Freshman of the Year Braxton Miller headlines the position. A 10-game starter last year, he is a dual threat quarterback who threw for 1,159 yards with a freshman school-record 13 touchdowns. He completed 54.1 percent of his passes (85 of 157) with just four interceptions. Miller also led the Buckeyes in rushing with 715 yards and seven touchdowns.
Fourth-year junior Kenny Guiton is the only other quarterback with any game experience - albeit limited - on the roster. He's attempted just two passes and has gained 21 yards rushing, including a 15-yard touchdown run in 2010 vs. Eastern Michigan. True freshman Cardale Jones and a couple seniors, Justin Siems and Ross Oltorik, are also on board.
Coach Ed Warinner
Ed Warinner, a finalist this past season for FootballScoop Offensive Line Coach of the Year and a 2009 finalist for the AFCA's National Assistant Coach of the Year award, is in charge of the Buckeyes' offensive line while also serving as the team's co-offensive coordinator. A 28-year coaching veteran, Warinner was part of three Army teams that led the nation in rushing and, as offensive coordinator at Kansas, his three teams averaged 445.5 yards per game and 35.3 points.
Warinner takes over an offensive line that returns just two starters: fourth-year junior Jack Mewhort and true junior Andrew Norwell. Both players started all 13 games last year with Mewhort splitting his starts at left and right guard, respectively, and Norwell splitting his at left tackle and left guard, respectively.
Fourth-year junior guard Marcus Hall has made six career starts, including five in 2011, and has played in 20 games. Corey Linsley, who can play guard or center, has yet to start a game but he has 16 games played to his credit. And Antonio Underwood played in four games last year as a true freshman.
Reid Fragel, a 6-8, 280-pound blocking and catching tight end for the Buckeyes for three years, has switched positions and he'll enter spring drills as a 6-8, 298-pound offensive tackle. Darryl Baldwin, a 6-6, 292-pound former defensive lineman, is also making the conversion to the offensive line. The on-campus arrival of 6-8, 315-pound all-state tackle Taylor Decker this spring is eagerly anticipated.
Coach Stan Drayton
Stan Drayton takes over coaching the Ohio State running backs in his second season with the program. The three-time All-American running back at Allegheny College has coached running backs in 14 of his previous 18 seasons as a coach.
Drayton's corps of key players includes one senior, one junior, one sophomore and one freshman. Senior Jordan Hall is the most experienced returning running back with 817 career rushing yards, a 4.4 yards-per-carry average and five touchdowns. He also has 21 career receptions for 202 yards and four touchdowns. He rushed for 408 yards last year.
Junior Carlos Hyde has a nice 5.4 yards-per-carry average off 130 carries. His 707 career rushing yards includes 566 last year when he also scored six rushing touchdowns and had 100-yard games vs. Nebraska (105) and Indiana (104). He ranks second to Braxton Miller (11) among returning players with four rushes of 20-plus yards, including a 63-yard touchdown rush vs. Nebraska and a 47-yard rush vs. Indiana.
Rod Smith is the only other back on the roster with heat-of-the-game experience. He netted 116 yards off his 29 carries last year (4.0 average) and didn't lose a yard. Bri'onte Dunn, a 5,000-plus yard rusher in high school, enrolled in January and will be engaged in his first spring drills.
Coach Tim Hinton
Tim Hinton will coach both the Buckeye fullbacks and tight ends. This 30-year coaching veteran has the experience to handle both positions as he has coached either tight ends, running backs or receivers in 11 of his previous 16 seasons coaching in the collegiate ranks.
Hinton, Coach Meyer and Co. will have two outstanding seniors leading the way in tight end Jake Stoneburner and fullback Zach Boren. Stoneburner averaged a touchdown reception every other reception last year (seven TDs/14 catches) and his nine career touchdowns are just one off the school record for tight ends. He has 37 career receptions.
Boren has been blasting holes for three years in support of the Ohio State running backs and he'll continue to do so, but he is also a talented receiver out of the backfield. He has 20 career receptions - third-most among current Buckeyes - for 151 yards with a long of 25 yards.
Boren and Stoneburner have started 32 and 18 games, respectively, and there is talent behind them: Adam Homan is a senior fullback who has played in 34 games; and 6-6, 246-pound tight end Jeff Heuerman managed line-of-scrimmage action in 11 games last year as a true freshman. He had a 25-yard catch-and-run in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl against Florida. Nick Vannett, a 6-6, 248-pound redshirt freshman, gives coaches a third tight end target.
Coach Zach Smith
Zach Smith knows what Coach Urban Meyer wants out of a receivers coach and his receivers. Smith has five years coaching experience under Meyer already as a graduate assistant/intern at Florida, during which time Florida was sending receivers like Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy, Dallas Baker, Andre Caldwell and Riley Cooper into the National Football League.
Smith's first class of Ohio State receivers has 53 combined receptions to its credit and features two returning starter juniors: Corey Brown and Chris Fields. The group includes nearly a handful of sophomores who all experienced their first collegiate action in 2011: Verlon Reed, Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and Tyrone Williams.
Brown, who has played in 22 games and made 10 starts in his first two seasons, has 22 career receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns. He and Devin Smith tied for the team lead with 14 receptions last season. Smith's 294 receiving yards and four touchdowns led all receivers, and he averaged 21.0 yards per catch.
Reed, a starter in the first five games of 2011 when he had nine catches for 132 yards, was injured in the fifth game and missed the remainder of the season. Fields had eight catches for 114 yards and Williams and Spencer had five and three receptions, respectively.