Buckeyes eager to rid themselves of last season's bad taste
By MITCH STACY
Jul. 27, 2017
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State opened training camp Thursday morning eager to bury memories of the last time the team played a game.
That was New Year's Eve in Arizona, where the Buckeyes were humiliated by Clemson 31-0 in the College Football Playoff. The significant flaws in the Buckeyes' passing game and offensive play-calling were laid bare before 20 million people who were watching on TV before welcoming in 2017.
Questions will linger in camp about the quality of the aerial attack, whether the offensive line can protect quarterback J.T. Barrett, and whether Barrett can return to form under a new offensive coordinator and complete deep passes to mostly untested wide receivers.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, most recently the head coach at Indiana, has put new emphasis on the deep passing game and accuracy, charting every pass thrown during spring practice.
"There is constant conversation of things I like on the field, things I'm comfortable with, and then also, too, things that he likes," Barrett said after practice Thursday. "And it's just better going to help us attack the game plan, so that conversation is going to continue through our camp."
Departing All-American center Pat Elflein has been replaced with another potential All-American center, Billy Price, who slid over from the guard spot. The main competition on the offensive side is for that right guard spot. Demetrius Knox ran with the starters in spring practice, but he'll be pushed by other strong candidates.
Parris Campbell, the most seasoned of the crop of mostly untested receivers, is expected to slide into the hybrid H-back position that made a star out of Curtis Samuel last season. Terry McLaurin, Binjimen Victor, K.J. Hill, Austin Mack and Johnnie Dixon all will try to emerge as the deep threat the Buckeyes have been sorely missing.
The defense is loaded, with an embarrassment of riches on the line, an elite set of linebackers and a couple of terrific true freshmen who will help fill the holes left by the three starting members of last year's secondary who left for the NFL.
"We've got so much talent. Coach Meyer always says, we're not going to swing and miss this year," defensive end Sam Hubbard said. "We'd be ashamed to not give it our best shot. We really haven't even talked about last year. We're really focused on what we have this year and what we can accomplish."
The Buckeyes open on a Thursday night, Aug. 31, at Indiana and then come right back to face Oklahoma in the Sept. 9 home opener, a prime-time Saturday night matchup. Then they'll get Army and UNLV at home before embarking on a string of eight Big Ten games to finish the regular season.
The Oct. 28 game against Penn State will be a test of sturdiness. The Nittany Lions are going to be seasoned and talented, and remember, they dealt the Buckeyes that shocking loss at Happy Valley last year.
If it feels like camp rolled around early this year, that's because it did. New rules eliminated two-a-day practices but gave teams an extra week to work. The early opening game also moved up the schedule.
Ohio State will practice again on Friday before having the weekend off. Players put on the pads on Aug. 3.
"The positive of camp is that you get to bond with your teammates," defensive end Jalyn Holmes said. "When the season starts we get to bond as well, but everybody's got school and different types of stuff. At camp we're in here all day together suffering. It kind of makes it good."
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