Friday, August 27, 2010

Ohio State Football: The Top Five Storylines of Fall Camp 2010

Tim Bielik—Featured Contributor / Storm the Field Founder

We are one week away from the joyous return of college football for the 2010 season.

And that means camps such as the one run by Jim Tressel at Ohio State are winding down to their final days.

With national championship expectations and QB Terrelle Pryor receiving plenty of Heisman hype entering his junior season, this camp has been looked at as one of the most competitive and entertaining camps in the last few seasons.

And in any camp, there are new players that break out, old ones that are reemerging, and sometimes the unexpected.

The Buckeyes will end camp soon before making final preparations for Ohio State's first home game of the season Thursday, September 2 against Marshall.

With camp coming to a close very soon, here is a look back at the top five storylines of 2010 camp in Columbus.

Number Five - The NCAA Clearinghouse vs. Roderick Smith

Of all the freshmen Ohio State brought in for the 2010 season, one notable absence has been Fort Wayne, IN product Roderick Smith.

Smith, who rushed for 6,620 yards in four seasons of high school, signed in February as possibly the most-hyped player of the recruiting class.

But questions about his grades surfaced, and he had to stay in Indiana to take summer classes.

And even after he seemed to gain eligibility, he was never given clearance to join his fellow teammates at fall practices.

At this point, whether or not Smith does come to Columbus this fall (which it seems like he will), it is all but a guarantee that the big freshman back will redshirt.

But odds were good that Smith would redshirt anyway, because of the depth at running back.

For whatever reason, the NCAA has not given a decision either way yet about Smith's eligibility, which is strange because it has been some time since Smith finished up summer classes and his grades should be out.

Hopefully, they can decide soon so the freshman back can learn whether or not he will get to practice with his future Buckeye teammates this season or wait another year to come to Columbus.

Number Four - Injuries, Transfers Leaving Sudden Question Marks

Keith Wells, Duron Carter, Jermil Martin: those are three of the players that have left the Buckeyes' program, although Wells and Carter could find their way back.

Wells and Carter were forced to leave due to academic issues, the latter of whom has had problems dating back to the Rose Bowl, where he was ruled ineligible because of poor grades after the fall quarter in 2009.

Martin has left the OSU program entirely due to the depth at the running back position and transferred to Ashland University.

Meanwhile, fall camp seems to have taken some of the starters from the OSU defense and put them on the sidelines due to injuries.

Most notable to miss time have been DE Nathan Williams, S Orhian Johnson, and both starting CBs Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence.

While all four should be able to play in the season opener against Marshall, the trend of injuries is more concerning when combined with the sudden loss of key depth players on the Buckeye roster.

Tressel has said a few times that if it were a game, these guys would be playing.

Number Three - Corey "Philly" Brown, Johnny Hankins Shining as True Freshmen

Every season, there are some freshmen that step right into fall camp and have an immediate impact.

For the Buckeyes, in a class that wasn't ranked very high by most recruiting services, mostly due to a low amount of commits, it seems that they have found a pair of talented freshmen, one on each side of the ball.

Corey "Philly" Brown has been a great find in the offense and can see immediate playing time in special packages.

The coaches have been impressed with Brown's speed and play-making ability in the open field. He has also caught the eye of Terrelle Pryor, who said that Brown may be the next DeSean Jackson.

Even though the talent at WR for the Buckeyes is pretty deep and Brown may only be fifth or sixth on the depth chart, he has the type of athleticism and speed that makes it almost impossible to keep him off the field.

Defensively, one player that has had quite a big—literally—impact may be DT Jonathan Hankins, who came into fall camp weighing over 300 lbs.

Even though Hankins is working out some conditioning issues, due to his size, he is a guy that can simply eat up blockers and has surprising quickness for his size.

He may not start right away, but there is a very good chance Buckeye fans will get to see Big Hank sooner rather than later.

Number Two - Incorporating the Tight End Into the Offense

In recent years, the idea of the tight end being involved in the Ohio State passing game has not manifested itself.

But this year, Jake Stoneburner, a converted wideout, is looking to change that.

Stoneburner, a junior from nearby Dublin, OH, has moved to the tight end position, and reports out of camp say that he has been very effective.

His combination of his height at 6'6", and speed, a mid-4.5 40-yard time, makes him a giant mismatch from either the WR or the TE position.

The goal for offensive coordinators Jim Bollman and Darrell Hazell will be to find a way to use Stoneburner as a weapon in the middle of the field.

So far, their efforts to incorporate Stoneburner have been positive, which could add a dimension that Ohio State has not had in a long time: an impact TE.

But don't expect Stoneburner to be used solely as a TE.

The coaches like his versatility and may line him up outside to take advantage of his athleticism.

With what Ohio State has lacked in offensive production, they need all the weapons they can get. And based on the reports, Stoneburner can be a guy that can make things happen.

Number One - The Maturation and Growth of Terrelle Pryor

Much has been made of Terrelle Pryor, as a Heisman candidate, and an improving passer. But what has changed has been his personality.

Pryor, although he will not be one of the six captains on the Buckeyes in 2010, has taken on much more of a leadership role.

But it seems as if the young QB from western Pennsylvania has matured and been humbled after his first two seasons.

The growth, which has been dramatic since the eye black incident during the Navy game back in September of 2009, has caught the attention of Pryor's teammates who felt he was arrogant when he came to OSU as a freshman.

When he had been told for two years that he was the best player in the country, it would be hard to blame him.

But two years with Jim Tressel, who has been credited with being a coach that has molded his players into high-character people, has certainly helped Pryor.

Whether or not this necessarily translates into more success on the field is anybody's guess.

But if there is any question as to whether or not Pryor will be a better leader, he hopefully will answer it starting next week.

A Few Other Noteworthy Buckeye Bits

After suffering a season-ending knee injury, junior LB Andrew Sweat has reportedly won the final starting OLB job from junior Etienne Sabino, as reported by Brandon Castel of The O-Zone.

Sweat and Sabino, both highly-recruited LBs out of high school and ranked in the top 10 by most recruiting services, were contending for the third starting job alongside seniors Ross Homan and Brian Rolle.

But losing the starting job doesn't necessarily mean we won't see No. 6 in the defense.

The coaches like his athleticism and have tried to implement him at the LEO, or small DE position, and even at the STAR, which is essentially a combination of DB/LB in the traditional 4-3 set.

For Buckeye fans that have been long awaiting the debut of highly-touted redshirt freshman back Jaamal Berry, they may not have to wait long.

The coaches believe that Berry will have the opportunity to get multiple carries during the Marshall game.

In the recent jersey scrimmage, Berry rushed for 64 yards on 17 carries and had one reception for 10 yards.

The six captains (all seniors) were announced earlier Wednesday.

The 2010 football captains are DE Cameron Heyward, OL Bryant Browning, RB Brandon Saine, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, and LBs Brian Rolle, and Ross Homan.

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