Ohio State Buckeyes spring football preview: offense

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Time to break down the Ohio State Buckeyes spring college football prospects in 2012. In this installment, we go position by position on offense. In such detail…


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.

Offensive Line

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.


Running Backs

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.

Fullbacks/Tight Ends

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.

Wide Receivers

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.

Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports

A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.

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