Ohio State football: Ryan Day’s take on the first 5 practices of spring

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Buckeyes are one third of the way through spring practice

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

One third of the way into the spring football season at Ohio State, lots of questions remain to be answered.

Ryan Day is mostly happy with the progress he is seeing from the Buckeyes, though.

Here are five takeaways from his second meeting of the spring with reporters:

1. The quarterbacks are coming along

Although Justin Fields has gotten the lion’s share of reps with the first team during parts of practice that have been open to the media, Day said Matthew Baldwin is in the mix and getting his own opportunities.

"We're in that mold of finding a new quarterback," Day said. "In a short period of time, they're taking their reps serious.

"We’re still in the install mode. Sometimes they’re running plays for the first and second time ever. Sometimes they’re hearing plays for the first time. But I think they’ve had some poise out there. They’ve moved the football. They’re throwing the ball. That defense they go against every day is a good defense. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a good start.”

2. Two of the teams top four linebackers were sidelined. 

Tuf Borland is a two-year starter at middle linebacker, while Barron Browning was part of the nickel defense for much of last season.

Neither was able to go Saturday as Borland was nursing a knee injury and Browning is day-to-day with a hamstring issue.

Sophomore Teradja Mitchell moved into the middle in their absence, and classmate Dallas Gant received some praise for his work early on.

3. Branden Bowen is showing even more versatility. 

The senior practice at left tackle Saturday after appearing at right tackle earlier March. This time around he was filling in for Josh Alabi, who missed practice with an illness. Ohio State also continues to be without Thayer Munford, last year’s starting left tackle who is out for the spring after having an unidentified surgery in the offseason.

Nicholas Petit-Frere, a highly touted redshirt freshman, moved up to No. 1 right tackle Saturday while the interior consisted of guard Wyatt Davis and Gavin Cupp surrounding center Josh Myers.

Day likes what he has seen from Cupp, a 2016 signee who appeared to fall behind 2017 recruits Myers and Davis last season.

“He put in a great offseason with (strength coach Mickey Marotti), so he’s kind of been thrust into that role,” Day said. “This is a guy who’s been around a while. He’s paid his dues. He’s a tough guy, kind of a workmanlike attitude every day. He’s getting better, and the more reps he gets the more he will improve.”

4. It’s time for the 2018 class to step up. 

Mitchell, Gant and Petit-Frere are three members of a highly regarded group of second-year players Day is counting on to step up this spring and fall.

“They’re not freshmen anymore: It’s time to go,” Day said. “If we’re going to be good, those guys all have to step up and either become starters or been the two deep. If they’re not, there’s something wrong. Not everybody evolves at the same pace, but you need to start feeling that class. It needs to be felt this spring and in the preseason.”

5. Receiver roles are being defined. 

The same day he confirmed Wayne graduate Blue Smith has decided to leave the team, Day laid out how things look at receiver.

At the ballyhooed H position, senior K.J. Hill is No. 1 followed by Jaelen Gill and C.J. Saunders while tight end Jeremy Ruckert has worked there when the team uses two tight ends.

Binjimin Victor is working at the X receiver (split end) along with juniors Jaylen Harris and Garyn Prater.

On the other side, sophomores Chris Olave and Ellijah Gardiner are working at the Z receiver (flanker) along with true freshman Garrett Wilson.

Senior Austin Mack has spent time at both outside receiver spots in an effort to increase his versatility and make it easier for the coaches to put their best players on the field at the same time.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Five-star receiver hoping to get on the field ASAP

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

So far Wilson, a five-star early enrollee from Texas, has lived up to expectations from a physical standpoint.

“Tremendous ball skills downfield,” Day said. “He’s still learning. He’ll get knocked off the ball at the line of scrimmage so he’s trying to figure that out. He’s flashed. He’s still got a long way to go. He’s put on 15 pounds since he’s been here.

“There’s a lot of competition at the receiver competition. Probably six, seven, eight guys who will vie for playing time.”

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