Ohio State held its first spring practice in shorts Tuesday inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and coach Urban Meyer warned the media afterward not to expect many insights from him with so little to go on.
But he lit up when he recalled one play in the workout — a bomb down the middle of the field from quarterback Braxton Miller that all-purpose back Jordan Hall plucked out of the air in traffic.
Hall has returned for a medical redshirt year after missing most of last season with injuries.
“Boy, was he great today. I thought he was great today,” Meyer raved. “I’ve got to be careful because I start to like players too much, but … we’re starting to get some guys that can make plays.”
Of the hook-up with Miller, Meyer said: “You may not get that chance the rest of the spring. You can’t script that, the quarterback running around and guys draped all over (Hall). To see him go up and make a play, I’m excited about his future.”
Meyer also is excited about Miller, the junior star from Wayne who spent part of the offseason working with noted quarterback guru George Whitfield, Jr. in California.
“I thought Braxton had a heckuva day, but that’s just one day,” Meyer said. “Fundamentally, his footwork was not very good at times last year. He was excellent today.”
Meyer was supportive of Miller seeking guidance outside the OSU staff.
“I liked it because the last time we were allowed to coach Braxton was the Friday before the rival game,” Meyer said, referring to the season finale with Michigan in November but refraining as always to call the school by name. “We were able to give him film (for the offseason).
“I don’t know (Whitfield). I hear good things. Braxton enjoyed it. But the guy we want working with Braxton is (OSU quarterbacks coach) Tom Herman, a guy who is paid to coach him.
“I’m glad Braxton did it. Instead of playing video games, he’s working on the fundamentals of quarterback play. I love it.”
The Buckeyes’ start to spring practice is their earliest on record. It’s a few days before OSU’s spring break, and Meyer did it to spread out the 15 allotted practices over a longer period. The NCAA allows coaches to work with players 20 hours per week in meetings and practice during their spring session.
The spring game is April 13.
“We’ve had four-hour meeting days. That’s significant,” Meyer said.
“It’s the first time I did it, and I loved it.”
On offense, the Buckeyes return everyone but right tackle Reid Fragel and a receiver with modest production, Jake Stoneburner. On defense, they return their four leading tacklers.
“The only thing I don’t feel great about is I look and I don’t see my leaders from last year … as good of human beings as I’ve ever been around,” Meyer said.
“On defense, there’s a lot of young puppies running around out there. But on offense, the carryover was very good.
“If we put together a good D-line and linebackers, I think we’ll have a good team. If not, we won’t. It’s as simple as that.”
Without a scholarship punter, there’s a possibility kicker Drew Basil may have to do double duty.
“Drew could have punted last year. The only thing he’s lacking is experience. Fundamentally, I thought he was our best punter,” Meyer said.
“I feel good with Drew. Obviously, we’re keeping our eyes and ears open.”
Looking for some unexpected players to shine, Meyer said the coaches constantly ask: “Who’s going to be our Fragel?”
“I call it a Fragel Award, someone who was a very below average football player (for three years) who turned out to be a very good player for Ohio State.”
We may know some candidates by the end of spring.
OHIO STATE SPRING GAME
When: 1 p.m. Saturday, April 13
Where: Paul Brown Stadium
Ticket info: Cost is $18 and $12, children (ages 2-6) $5. Available at Ticketmaster locations or by phone at 1-800-745-3000