COLUMBUS, Ohio – No one outside the program is seeing much of No. 2 Ohio State’s training camp, but plenty of people are anxious to hear how it’s going and who’s standing out. Based on what coaches and players have said, here’s what we think is happening and a list of who, apparently, is making a strong impression as the Buckeyes zero in on their Aug. 31 season opener vs. Buffalo.
Cornerback Doran Grant
One week into camp, cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said Grant might have been the most impressive player not just in his position group but in the entire camp. Senior safety C.J. Barnett sounded similar when he said, “In my mind, Doran is having the best camp so far of anybody. He practices like a pro and has been great at everything he does. You notice him on special teams, too. He’s projected as a starter but he’s out there working the hardest on special teams.” Grant will be a first-time starter at cornerback but has game experience and all the tools to play like a veteran. If he keeps ascending, the Buckeyes could end up having one of the best secondaries anywhere in college football.
Tight ends Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman
They’re not the same guy, but Urban Meyer has been hinting since the spring that both have been good enough to play major roles — and to force the coaching staff to find ways to get them on the field together. Both have size, speed and raw talent. They don’t have the reception numbers yet, but there’s reason to believe at least one will get them this season. On Monday, offensive coordinator Tom Herman said he can’t imagine a team in the country with a better tight end duo. Sounds like a challenge, and soon we’ll see if Vannett and Heuerman are up to it.
Offensive lineman Marcus Hall
Meyer said Hall entered camp probably a step behind the Buckeyes three other returning starters on the offensive line but has “accelerated” during this camp. Herman took it a step further, saying Hall last season “physically had a lot of talent, but he was good for about two plays and then became a very average player when he got tired. Now he’s sprinting everywhere, he’s playing full-speed, 100 percent on every single snap. The kid started 12 games last year and I donít think his job was in jeopardy by any stretch of the imagination — but he came into this training camp and he has been a shining example of how to play with great effort and great intensity.”
Defensive end Noah Spence
Another former blue-chip recruit on the defensive side playing a whole new role, Spence doesn’t say much. But the coaching staff says he’s steadily improved and is ready for a breakout season. Meyer paid him a very high compliment when he said that he sends his coaching staff out on the road during recruiting season and tells them to find guys like Spence.
Running back Jordan Hall
Hall was a medical redshirt last year and came back into a very crowded situation at running back, both with returning veterans and promising freshmen. It appeared the team played it safe with Hall through the spring and now with suspensions and questions, the Buckeyes need him more than ever. Meyer said Hall has used this camp to show the staff for which he’s hardly played that “he is what we thought he’d be” and that he’ll be a contributor. Whether that’s as a tailback, in the slot, in the return game or in some combination of the three remains to be seen.
Running back Dontre Wilson
You’ve probably heard by now that the freshman from DeSoto, Texas, is really, really fast. And he is. On paper, he’s probably Hall’s backup at the H/slot position and in the return game. But with running backs Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith both suspended for the opener, maybe both Hall and Wilson will play. And from the little of Wilson that we’ve seen, he might turn a few touches into a few touchdowns — and a bunch more playing time. One question: With the word already out, will teams even kick to Wilson?
Defensive back Tyvis Powell
After a redshirt last season, Powell’s size, speed and natural talent were obvious during the spring — and he’s carried his strong spring practice peformance into this month’s camp. On Monday, Coombs said Powell is the first-teamer at the “star” position with the nickel defense and could also play cornerback if necessary. The Buckeyes tallest cornerback at 6’3, Powell is hard to miss. With so much young talent in the Buckeyes secondary, he’s obviously been good thus far in claiming his spot and will have to better to keep it.