Ohio State Practice Insider: Buckeyes’ Depth Chart Taking Shape?

COLUMBUS — Ohio State head coach Ryan Day allowed the media to watch the entirety of Wednesday’s football practice, which will likely be our last look at the Buckeyes on the field for a couple of weeks.

It was a bit of a lighter practice in that this was one of the 16 practices that did not feature full pads, and quarterback CJ Stroud was held back for most of the drills so that he could rest his arm and other quarterbacks could get some reps.

While practice was going on, Stroud took some reps here and there in positional drills, but watched for most of team drills. The murmurs then began from the reporters watching. After practice, Day spent a couple of minutes answering questions and before a single question came out he addressed the Stroud situation and said there was nothing to be concerned about.

The fact that they are managing his work load right now would seem to indicate a very high level of confidence in where Stroud is in his preparation.

Behind Stroud, freshman Kyle McCord got some work with the ones while redshirt freshman Jack Miller took snaps with the twos. Brand new quarterback Quinn Ewers was working as the fourth quarterback, but still got to throw to some in positional drills and team reps against the defense. His reps were limited, but not non-existent.

About That Depth Chart

One of the benefits of seeing all of practice is that there is enough time to put together some idea of what the depth chart looks like, and while that was still somewhat accomplished on Wednesday, the number of Buckeyes that were working with the ones also makes it kind of difficult.

This process was also made more difficult because key figures weren’t practicing today, including defensive end Zach Harrison, defensive tackle Jerron Cage, linebackers Tommy Eichenberg, Cody Simon, and Dallas Gant, cornerback Cameron Brown, and safety Marcus Williamson.

(Ryan Day indicated after practice that none of the issues were long-term concerns.)

Then when you’re taking note of who is actually practicing and you’re trying to put a two-deep together and you see Sevyn Banks working with the twos, you know there’s not much sense in taking everything you’re seeing as gospel.

This is just a big ‘ol defense still getting young guys reps and this week will shake some more stuff out.

The cornerback situation, for instance, is interesting to watch. At one point in the day redshirt sophomore Ryan Watts was the fifth cornerback taking reps, behind Sevyn Banks, Lejond Cavazos, Denzel Burke, and Demario McCall. Cam Brown, as mentioned above, was out. But there were also times when both Watts or Burke were with the ones.

Speaking of Denzel Burke

There may have been no defender who had his name mentioned over the loudspeaker more than true freshman cornerback Denzel Burke. Burke lost his black stripe recently and it was easy to see why on Wednesday.

During red zone drills he had consecutive wins over receivers and created incompletions.

He looks completely comfortable and is every bit the “natural” corner that defensive backs coach Matt Barnes talked about in the spring.

Later on in practice he was repping in front of Ryan Watts. Earlier, however, Watts was running with the ones.

So now you are hopefully understanding why giving you a depth chart isn’t so easy right now. Basically, the defense has about 25 starters. How many of them can be game-ready in two weeks is the real question.

Emptying the Notebook

+ Left tackle/left guard Thayer Munford continues to be held out of practice. He stood with his position group, but did so donning a baseball cap rather than a helmet. Ryan Day said Munford would be back to practice this week. This week is also likely to determine exactly what the Ohio State offensive line is going to look like.

+ Since he didn’t do much throwing, CJ Stroud spent much of his practice standing with Quinn Ewers and going over everything they were seeing. Senior defensive end Tyler Friday is out for a while yet and he could be seen helping the defensive line. At one point he pulled freshman defensive end JT Tuimioloau aside to give him some pointers.

+ Freshman wide receiver Marvin Harrison, Jr. continues to be outstanding. I’m still not sure if I’ve seen him drop a pass in practice. His catch radius reminds me of the way the Smurfs use the word “smurf,” it’s all encompassing. He had a couple of nice grabs against cornerback Demario McCall. The second featured a great jump by McCall on a short out route, but the ball was high and he couldn’t quite keep Harrison’s hands off the ball.

+ Speaking of Demario McCall, I’m going to keep saying this: if he wasn’t “sixth-year senior former running back Demario McCall” and was instead “North Carolina cornerback transfer Demario McCall,” fans would be thrilled about his play.

+ Running backs Miyan Williams, Master Teague, and TreVeyon Henderson all got reps with the ones. Even though there was no real tackling today and players were told to stay off the ground, Henderson is still like a lung capacity test because he forces you to hold your breath every time he gets the ball. He had one run between the tackles today that showcased just how quickly he can shift east-west without really losing north-south momentum. It’s very JK Dobbins-like, but without the jump. It’s a land-based cut rather than air-based. Both are better than sea-based.

+ Another way to describe TreVeyon Henderson … you remember those toy motorcycles that had the pull cord and once you pulled the cord and set the motorcycle down, it would take off? That’s TreVeyon Henderson after a juke. I think the cord gets pulled mid-juke, that way his back tire is going full blast as soon as he sets it down.

+ One last thing on TreVeyon Henderson, when the first-team kickoff return unit was called onto the field, it was once again Henderson back there to return. The No. 2 returner was freshman receiver Emeka Egbuka.

+ Defensive tackles Haskell Garrett and Taron Vincent got some work side-by-side when the first-team defense went against the second-team offense.

+ Ronnie Hickman seemed to be with the ones at Bullet and Craig Young was with the twos.

+ I have in my notebook simply “32 is good.” That could be for both offense and defense because of the aforementioned TreVeyon Henderson, or freshman cornerback Jakailin Johnson, who made some plays today. He had a nice PBU on an out route in team play.

+ Quarterback Jack Miller had a bit of an up-and-down day, but threw a beautiful back-shoulder pass to Emeka Egbuka for a completion with redshirt freshman Cam Martinez in coverage. There was another defender in the vicinity, but nobody could do anything with the pass except Egbuka.

+ The depth at cornerback is just so much better this year, and Demario McCall is part of the reason why. He gave up a catch to Garrett Wilson early on but he was right there on a little comeback route. At one point the cornerbacks were drilling in this order (no Cam Brown): Sevyn Banks, Demario McCall, Lejond Cavazos, Denzel Burke, Ryan Watts, Jordan Hancock, and Jakailin Johnson. That’s a lot of names, but it’s also a lot of talent.

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