The faces and the techniuqes were clearly different when the Buckeyes took the field for the first time this spring.
Ohio State's new co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash instructs defensive back Tyvis Powell during their Spring NCAA college football practice Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete / AP Photo
By Marcus Hartman
The new Ohio State secondary passed the eye test on day one of spring football practice in Columbus.
OK, sure, it was only day one. And it was only spring practice, And they were not wearing pads. We'll concede all that.
When any area lets a team down the way the pass defense did the Buckeyes last season, beggars can't be choosers in a search for positives.
The head coach seemed to agree, at least based on what he said he was looking for from the 'D' at this point.
"As a coach, it used to be based on effort and I want to go back to that, so that's what I'm telling them," Urban Meyer said Tuesday.
He will have three new starters in a secondary that gave up 268 yards per game last season, 11th in the Big Ten, 110th nationally and second worst in school history behind the 273.1 yielded in 1981 (when the secondary coach was a young Kent State grad named Nick Saban).
Sophomores Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell were the first-teamers at safety on day one while junior Armani Reeves joined senior Doran Grant at cornerback. Grant is the only returning starter, and he earned an early stamp of approval from Meyer.
"I think Doran Grant is a different player than he was a year ago," Meyer said."I've seen much more aggressive play by him."
Grant was not the only one. Every defensive back looked to be playing with more of an edge, and that is certainly no accident. Sure, there's always a certain excitement to the first day back on the football field, but Meyer insisted on finding a way to have his defensive players, for lack of a better term, get after it this year.
The man he brought in to make that happen, new safeties coach and co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, was also visible on the field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Tuesday teaching his new players to read and react quickly, to battle receivers at the line of scrimmage and attack the ball when it was in the air.
"I liked our safeties," Meyer said. "We only have three of them now. Four would be Ron Tanner but Ron just lacks some physical skills. Great tough kid. I like Vonn, Tyvis and Cam Burrows with the quick-twitch, trigger guys back there."
They certainly did that, conceding nothing. During one-on-one drills, seven-on-seven and full team work, the Buckeye DBs got their hands on numerous passes. There were a few interceptions as a result, and plenty of hooting and hollering, too.
There were also more than a couple of long bombs that were completed and receivers running open because of missed coverages or miscommunications.
The head coach will live with that for now, though.
"If you see big plays right now, I don't care," Meyer said. "I just want to see guys trigger and go. It's been that way since day one in 2001 (when he began as head coach at Bowling Green). I don't want a team that's scared to make mistakes. I don't want a team that's thinking. I want a team that goes four to six seconds."