COLUMBUS, Ohio — It didn’t take long Monday to figure out that Ohio State hadn’t practiced well that morning.
Urban Meyer’s press conference featured some terse exchanges, which given their rarity is usually a dead giveaway as to how the team performed. But those who prefer hearing direct statements instead of making inferences also got the message.
“I think with the whole team I thought we’d be further ahead right now than where we are,” Meyer said Monday. “I saw some young guys that should be doing better than they did, but that’s part of spring.”
The good news for Ohio State fans is that poor practices from the Buckeyes in spring aren’t a harbinger of a rough season in the fall. Spring is a time when the staff can experiment with personnel, giving young players more reps and sitting out older players. At one point in the practice on Monday, the first-team offensive line featured Josh Alabi at left tackle, Malcolm Pridgeon at left guard, Brady Taylor at center, Demetrius Knox at right guard and Thayer Munford at right tackle. Starting left tackle Isaiah Prince is getting fewer reps this spring to rest up, and starting guards Michael Jordan and Branden Bowen are out as they continue to rehab injuries.
As common sense would suggest — and as Meyer pointed out — practices don’t look as pretty when the best players aren’t on the field.
“It wasn’t a great day in any phase,” Meyer said. “When you see a bunch of good players standing on the sideline, that’s not — you know, we have that saying around here, guys that have played, one- or two-year starters, you know — two-year starters you kind of back off of them a little bit, and we’ve done that. So it’s a little sloppy when young players are in there that aren’t ready yet.”
The upside, though, is that those players are getting better. Ohio State uses spring practice in part as a way to force younger players through growing pains so they’re ready by the time they’re needed. Holding their feet to the fire almost never produces positive results from the outset, but their development is how a program such as Ohio State builds the depth required to win a dozen games virtually every year.
As disappointing as the execution might have been, Meyer was encouraged by the effort.
“I don’t see us with guys that can’t play,” he said. “I see guys that are all going to be swinging for an opportunity, and they’re talented enough to play. But today wasn’t a very good day to say how are they doing because it wasn’t a very good day.”