August 18, 2012

Coaches, players talk position battles

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With Ohio State's season opener against Miami (OH) two weeks away, the Buckeyes find themselves currently in the process of wrapping up their first fall camp under first-year head coach Urban Meyer. On Friday- Ohio State's last day of two-a-days- members of the Buckeyes' roster and coaching staff met with the media to discuss the team's progress after two weeks of fall camp.

Make or break

At Ohio State's media day last Sunday, Meyer described the upcoming week of alternating two-a-day practices as one that would make or break his team. Buckeyes cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said that he's encouraged by the way that the team responded to Meyer's challenge.

"The kids are surviving and I think that that's an awesome thing. I've coached for a long time, and I've never seen a training camp that is this tough, this hard, this physical," Coombs said. "It's just demanding and it's very exciting to watch our kids respond. We have great kids. I don't think you can break them."

As someone who spent 14 seasons in grueling training camps over the course of his NFL career, Ohio State defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said that he sees plenty of similarities between Meyer's camp and the ones that he endured during his days as a pro.

"We're going to try to treat these kids like professionals," Vrabel said. "I didn't say professional football players, but professionals. When you do the right things, and you work hard at something, you get rewarded."

Battle at tackle

The Buckeyes entered training camp with ongoing battles at multiple positions, and with two weeks left until the start of the season, they are now coming down to the wire. One of those battles is for the right to start at Ohio State's right tackle position, where senior Reid Fragel and freshman Taylor Decker are currently competing for playing time.

"I don't where the coaches exactly stand and they don't tell us a whole lot," Fragel said. "They just tell us to compete and that's what I do every day and go out there and try to be the best I can be."

A converted tight end, Fragel said that he feels as though he's finally playing his natural position at Ohio State and that he's made great strides as a blocker in both phases of the game.

"I've always felt like I was a blocker at heart and moving from tight end to tackle, the foot work and pass protection was probably my biggest concern," Fragel said. "Once I've started to get that down a little more each day, I feel like it's more and more comfortable."

No battle necessary

While the right tackle battle appears to be a neck and neck battle, Coombs insists that the competition between cornerbacks Travis Howard and Doran Grant to start opposite Bradley Roby is anything but a battle for playing time.

"I don't see any of it as a battle. I hope you guys can appreciate the fact that if you're going to play at the highest level, you're going to have to have more than two corners," Coombs said. "Corners can't play 75 snaps a game. You really need four. They've got to be able to be out there and be fresh and be rested and ready to go."

Who will be that fourth corner that Coombs is coveting remains to be seen, but the Buckeyes' cornerbacks coach provided some insight as to who the current candidates are.

"There's five other kids in the room, so they're all in the mix to be that guy. It's Adam Griffin, he got a little shoulder ding, that's a little bit of a setback. It's Armani Reeves. It's Najee Murray, It's Tyvis Powell, and it's Nik Sarac," Coombs said. "Those freshmen kids, that's a big, fast, growing process to go play corner in the Big Ten. We're trying to get them ready as fast as we can."

Rotating situation?

Although the Buckeyes' defensive backs are almost certain to follow a certain rotation according to Coombs, that may not not be the case for the Ohio State defensive line. Once again referencing his NFL playing days, Vrabel said that if his players aren't getting tired, there's no reason for them to rest.

"We're gonna play the best players. I think I've got four really good guys, and if they don't get tired, they'll play the whole game," Vrabel said. "That's what I'm used to. In the game that I came from, the best players play. And if you don't get tired, you can play the whole game. If we have guys that get tired, we'll rest guys, and we'll play. But the best guys will be out there."

The Buckeyes' linebackers coach a season ago, Vrabel claims he's made a smooth transition to coaching the defensive line and that his new job hasn't had many differences from his old one.

"It's been great. We've tried to play physical, square and play with violent hands, that's really what we're teaching every day," Vrabel said. "It's a simple principle. You've got to know obviously what to do, but that's going to be how we do it."

Running back update

Another situation that remains in flux for the Buckeyes is their running back position. Despite Jordan Hall being expected to miss at least the Buckeyes' first two games, running backs coach Stan Drayton said that he'll reclaim his starting spot as soon as he's healthy.

"Jordan really proved himself in the spring, we're just trying to get him back," Drayton said. There wasn't a whole lot that he needed to come out here and prove. He's going to be an integral part to this offense."

But in Hall's absence, there has been at least one player who's caught Drayton's eye.

"Carlos Hyde is the one who's really stepped his game up. He's answered the bell, he's trying to become a leader of that group with Jordan out, he's really brought a physical component to his game right now that we all enjoy," Drayton said. "He's really set the bar for some of these younger backs like a Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball."


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