Meyer impressed by tailbacks, freshman QB early in camp

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer talks to reporters on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer talks to reporters on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

Buckeyes held first scrimmage Saturday

The Ohio State Buckeyes can chart the progress of preseason practice by the growth of their head coach’s facial hair. Urban Meyer looks less like a three-time national championship coach and more like a guy who is hiking the Appalachian Trail every day.

Of course, the chances of Meyer’s beard and mustache surviving until the Aug. 31 season opener at Indiana are about as good as the Hoosiers’ chances of upsetting the Buckeyes — slim, in other words.

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On Monday, Ohio State held its first practice since reporting Sunday to the home for the rest of training camp, the Hyatt Place, south of campus. Meyer provided several updates and pieces of news:

Player suspended: Meyer announced fifth-year senior defensive tackle Michael Hill has been suspended for an indefinite amount of time for an unspecified reason.

“He won’t play in the opener,” Meyer said.

Injury update: Running back Mike Weber missed the early practices because of a hamstring injury but did practice Monday.

“He didn’t open it up yet today, but he’ll be ready for game one,” Meyer said. “We’re just being cautious. Hamstrings are really just something you’ve got to watch closely.”

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Position depth: The absence of Weber created opportunities for other running backs: Antonio Williams, J.K. Dobbins and Demario McCall, who has taken snaps as a hybrid back, as well.

“I kind of like where we’re at at tailback,” Meyer said. “Every one of them made really nice strides this summer, and they’re playing pretty well.”

Impressive freshman: Freshman quarterback Tate Martell would seem to be buried on the depth chart because of his youth. The offense belongs to J.T. Barrett, after all, and Joe Burrow looks like the obvious choice as a backup. Dwayne Haskins is another talented young quarterback.

However, Martell earned praise from several Buckeye defenders after a scrimmage on Saturday, and Meyer said Martell is in the fight for playing time.

“He did do very well in the scrimmage the other day,” Meyer said. “Guys like that have to fight for those reps, and the terms we use around here are game reps and mental reps, and he’s really matured. He was not very mature in the spring. He took some maturity pills or something, and he has grown up here in the last two months.”

Position battle: The Buckeyes are no closer to picking a starter at right guard. Malcolm Pridgeon, Matthew Burrell, Demetrius Knox and Brandon Bowen continue to compete for playing time.

Starting job: Ohio State coaches call the families of players who earn starting jobs. Wide receiver Johnnie Dixon's family is close to getting that call.

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“He’s within probably a week of getting that phone call,” Meyer said. “It’s really cool to see. He had a really good day today, by the way.”

Freshman milestone: Two freshmen have seen the black stripes removed from their helmets in the first eight practices: Dobbins and Isaiah Pryor. The black stripes stay on the helmets until a player proves himself to coaches.