Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, August 24, 2015
The 12th stop on our annual summer BTN bus tour across the Big Ten brought us to Columbus, Ohio, where we watched the Buckeyes practice Monday night.
Here are five things I learned at Ohio State practice.
1. The receivers look good. This was one unit that suffered some significant attrition with Devin Smith and Evan Spencer gone. But the Buckeyes have a legit star/No. 1 in junior Michael Thomas, one of the nation?s most underrated wideouts. There also is sophomore Noah Brown, sophomore Terry McLaurin and freshman Johnnie Dixon. And H-backs Jalin Marshall, a sophomore, and Dontre Wilson, a junior, also are pass-catching threats in the space. Brown is having a good camp and made some nice grabs at the practice we watched. He is a big, physical target. McLaurin is a speedster. Sophomore James Clark had his moments, and senior Jeff Greene was active. Oh, and don?t forget about that Braxton Miller guy, the ex-stud quarterback who now plays on the edge. It will be fun to see how the staff uses him this season. Miller did little work at the practice we watched, wearing a quarterback?s black No. 1 jersey.
I can see why OSU coaches have been raving about Noah Brown - he is going to be a really tough match-up for an average sized CB. Big & fast— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 25, 2015
2. The offensive line is outstanding. I still will give a slight edge to Michigan State?s front. But, the Buckeye offensive line is right there, too. Senior left tackle Taylor Decker is an All-American talent on the edge. Sophomore left guard Billy Price is a former d-lineman who is one of the strongest players on the squad. Junior Pat Elflein is a bellwether on the interior. The new starter is senior Chase Farris at right tackle. And, he is playing like a seasoned vet, drawing raves from Urban Meyer in camp. The ex-d-lineman won the job in the spring and hasn?t let up.
BTN Bus Tour #Buckeyes Some very impressive young O Lineman Feder Prince Bowen Burrell— Gerry DiNardo (@gerrydinardo) August 25, 2015
3. There is no apparent leader at QB. Take your pick. It likely won?t matter which signal-caller Ohio State opts to use: junior Cardale Jones or sophomore J.T. Barrett. Both can run the offense. Barrett ran with the first team in the practice we watched, but Jones just had his turn with the No. 1 unit in the last workout. It?s hard to make a determination as to who has an edge. This will be interesting. Barrett shows no ill-effects from an ankle injury that ended his 2014 season vs. Michigan. The guy moves well and is a sharp thrower. Jones' cannon right arm is fun to watch. He plays with a care-free style and new-found swagger that fits him well. When we visited Columbus this time last year, Jones was a third-stringer. Amazing. Barrett is the one more apt to run and Jones has a bigger arm, but other than that there isn?t a big difference in their styles. I would go with Barrett. I believe he?s a better overall QB and makes those around him better. And, that?s the ultimate compliment a signal-caller can be paid.
4. This team is hungry even though it sits on the throne of college football. The day we watched practice, it was all business. No way Urban Meyer will let this team rest on its laurel of last year?s national title. There even is a banner hanging in the indoor facility that simply says: ?The grind.? There is another that says: ?The chase.? And, that?s what it?s about in Columbus for this team. Strength coach Mickey Marotti plays a big role, too. A tone is set by the head coach-and all aspects of the program are pulling in the same direction. It?s all about feeding the beast in Columbus and staying hungry for more. Complacency won?t be tolerated. And that was apparent by watching the intensity of this practice. This was one of the most highly organized practices I have seen on the tour. Little to no wasted motion-and lots of teaching was going on.
Practice stop #12 - these guys are coming off a successful season pic.twitter.com/MZDcfqOOIx— Dave Revsine (@BTNDaveRevsine) August 24, 2015
5. Darron Lee is ready to be a star. The sophomore linebacker was a prep quarterback. But he is emerging as a big-time defender. His combination of size and speed makes him a special player. And he mixes in a work ethic that is unmatched. Lee could one-day be a first-round draft choice, as he?s the anchor of a good-looking group of linebackers that includes sophomore Raekwon McMillan and senior Joshua Perry. Keep an eye on McMillan. He could be really good.
BTN Bus Tour #Buckeyes Have not seen any team as physically impressive at LB and Safety like OSU— Gerry DiNardo (@gerrydinardo) August 25, 2015
|About Tom Dienhart
|BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.