Ohio State Buckeyes: Youngsters stake early claims to playing time

Ohio State has more than a few veterans back from a team that won the Big Ten and played for the national championship.

The first few days of preseason practice indicated plenty of newcomers are in position to pull in some playing time, though.

That is even true at receiver, where senior Chris Olave and junior Garrett Wilson are perhaps the top duo in the country.

They will get lots of snaps this fall, but coach Brian Hartline likes to spread them around.

True freshmen Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Jayden Ballard impressed in the spring, and it carried over to the beginning of August.

“I think all three of those guys are very impressive,” Day said. “Marvin had a very good summer. He looks great. Emeka Eguka — unbelievable. He had a really, really good spring and a really good summer, an excellent summer, and so has Jayden Ballard.

“I think all of them are different. They are different body types and styles. In a really talented group and room of receivers, I’m excited to see what they look like the next couple of weeks. I’ve been impressed and think they can have an impact early on.”

While those three are still likely to have to wait their turn for top billing, a redshirt freshman running back might just jump to the top of the depth chart at his position.

Miyan Williams has the least-impressive recruiting ranking in a suddenly crowded running backs room, but that is also the least important thing when it comes getting playing time.

The 5-8, 225-pounder from Cincinnati Winton Woods — where he was only a three-star prospect despite running for nearly 6,000 yards and scored 68 touchdowns — appeared to be the No. 1 back during windows of practice open to the media on days one and three despite the return of junior Master Teague III, who started most of last season.

“I think Miyan has worked very hard. If you look at his body now, it’s hard. He looks strong out there. He has worked really hard in the weight room. He had an opportunity last year and he did a good job, certainly he had the big run against Clemson.

“We’ll wait to see how it goes. I thought his pass protection in the spring was excellent. He has to keep building on that. He was a bit under the radar coming in, but he has made a big impact.”

As with receiver, multiple players will get meaningful snaps.

In both cases, the depth the youngsters provide should also lead to more productive practices.

“The more reps we can get for that running back room, the stronger they will get,” Day said.

“The good news is because we have 117 guys in camp because of the super senior situation, it’s the most we’ve ever had. We’re actually able to go three deep and get a lot more reps. Even after practice we were doing some extra work out there. We got about 13 reps with some of the younger guys.”

On the other side of the ball, multiple experienced players are available at both cornerback spots and both safety spots, but playing time could still be up for grabs after the unit struggled as a whole last season.

Defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs said he will play as many players as he can find who deserve it, and that could include using multiple packages based on matchups.

“The best 11 players to win that play are going to be on the field for the Buckeyes, and then the next play the best 11 players for Ohio State to win that play are going to play,” Coombs said. “We got a lot of good players here. We should have guys on the field that maximize their strengths to our defense to match up in the best possible way with our opponents.”

Day said he saw a new spirit from the secondary on the first day of practice after it was picked on much of last season and ridiculed throughout the offseason.

“I thought we looked a little bit sharper today,” Day said. “We drove to the ball harder and had a little bit better football position. I thought some guys flashed out there. Having more depth allows us to play more guys and be fresher and sharper.”

Linebacker could also see a youngster jump ahead of some older players.

Sophomore Cody Simon was seen with the No. 1 defense on the first day of camp.

“Cody had a very good spring,” Day said. “Where it goes, we’ll see. We will need a bunch of those guys. Last year, there were four of them and they were the ones who played.

“My guess is it will be a bit by committee. We’ll see how the next few weeks go.”

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