More Springtime Observations, Opinions

My mother always told me that you can learn a lot by keeping your mouth shut and your ears open. She proved to be right yet again as I watched Thursday’s version of Ohio State spring practice.

Standing alongside former All-American Jim Lachey, I got a crash course on what the OSU offensive lineman are doing right and what they are doing wrong this spring.

“It’s all about footwork,” Lachey said. “Where my feet are dictates where I’m going to be able to move. If you keep your feet square to your opponent, you can go wherever he goes. But if you drop that back foot, he’ll abuse you. Worse yet, he’ll abuse your quarterback.”

Lachey knows what he’s talking about. After all, he was a first-team All-American for the Buckeyes in 1984, a first-round NFL draft choice and a three-time Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro.

So who does Lachey like this spring?

“Justin Boren,” he said. “Look at the guy. He looks like he wants to eat defensive linemen for breakfast. He’s got good technique and a mean steak. That’s a pretty good combination.”

Lachey also likes what he has seen so far from Bryant Browning and Andrew Miller.

Browning has evidently found a home at right guard after struggling last season at right tackle. “That’s not too hard to figure out,” Lachey said. “As a guard, you’ve only got about a 4-foot box to worry about. When you’re a tackle, your responsibility is all the way to the edge.”

As for Miller, Lachey said, “There’s a lot to like there. A lot of raw talent and he looks like he’s taken to heart what the coaches are trying to tell him. He’s still young and still learning but he looks like he’s making progress.”

Miller spent most of Thursday afternoon’s practice as the left tackle on the first-string offense. That meant Mike Adams – the source of much consternation after Tuesday’s practice – spent his day as the second-team left tackle and third-team right tackle. According to Lachey, the struggles Adams has had so far this spring can be traced to two main things.

“First and foremost, it’s his footwork,” Lachey said. “He’s turning his (back) foot out, and whenever you do that, it’s almost impossible to keep the other guy in front of you. I used to do a drill where I walked around my house backward, concentrating on keeping my feet parallel to one another. The good thing is that (Adams) has plenty of time to work on his feet.”

Lachey’s second criticism of Adams was that “he plays too tall and he needs to show a little more fire. He needs to bend his knees more and fire off the line and he needs to be a little meaner. I saw him play in high school, so I know he’s got the talent. His head is probably a little full of everything they’re trying to teach him and he’s a little overwhelmed. I think when the game begins to slow down for him – and it will – he’ll be fine.”

Here are some more observations and opinions from Thursday’s practice sessions:

** Brandon Saine had a much better afternoon than the mistake-filled one he spent on Tuesday. He appeared to run with much more authority, perhaps due to the fact the Buckeyes were outside rather than inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. One on particular play, Saine had an excellent run off-tackle to his left, breaking two tackles near the line of scrimmage.

** I’m getting more and more impressed with Boom Herron. I still don’t know if he can be an every-down back in the Big Ten, but there is no questioning his talent. Herron is rapidly proving that he can run between the tackles, and he also has one of the qualities that separate the great backs from the merely good ones. Herron appears to have excellent vision and reads his blocking very well. He seems patient enough to allow his blockers to run interference rather than running up their backs or outrunning his interference.

** Freshman linebacker Storm Klein continues to catch the eye of the coaching staff despite toiling (for now) with the third-team unit. He still makes rookie mistakes, but Klein always makes his share of plays. Also, no one seems more eager.

** Jake Stoneburner appears to have the ability to catch anything in his area. On Tuesday, he made a couple of nice grabs in traffic while yesterday he leapt high to snag a pass out of the air. Best of all, he wasn’t simply satisfied to make the catch. You know how some Ohio State receivers in recent years have made a reception and then fallen to the turf? Stoneburner looks like one of those guys who like to pile up the YAC – yards after catch. Hopefully, the Buckeyes will utilize his pass-catching skills and not be content to use him only as a blocking tight end.

** If you read my blog entry about Tuesday’s practice, you will remember what I said about the long, slow delivery of walk-on quarterback Justin Siems. That deliberate windup came back to bite Siems yesterday as he tried to flip a medium-range pass into the boundary. Freshman cornerback C.J. Barnett jumped the route and made an easy interception, returning the pick for what would have been a touchdown.

** That turnover was one of several created by the OSU defensive units as they turned up the heat a notch. In addition to Oliver’s pick, linebacker Brian Rolle took advantage of a botched snap between Michael Brewster and Terrelle Pryor, scooping up the loose football and heading for the opposite end zone. Saine, however, chased Rolle down from behind before the defender could cross the goal line.

** Another miscue came late in the practice session during a field goal attempt. Jake McQuaide’s high snap went through the hands of holder Jon Thoma, and backup defensive back Rocco Pentello took the fumble to the house. An additional problem with the bad snap – an exposed Thoma was absolutely blown by a hard-charging defender, and although he escaped injury, the Buckeyes can ill-afford to lose their No. 1 punter because of that kind of mistake.

** Speaking of Thoma, it seems he is ready if the Buckeyes ever want to call for a fake punt. At one juncture of the afternoon, he rolled to his right and heaved an on-target pass about 40 yards.

** The battle to replace A.J. Trapasso at punter is between Thoma and redshirt freshman Ben Buchanan, but you may want to remember this name: Derek Erwin. During Thursday’s drills when the punters were off to themselves on the auxiliary practice field, it appeared to me that Erwin, a walk-on from Buckeye Central in New Washington, Ohio, was the most consistent punter on the field.

** Cornerback Andre Amos looked like he had a fumble recovery after the defense stripped tailback Marcus Williams of the ball after Williams was stacked up at the line of scrimmage. An official – yes, they have officials working spring ball – ruled, however, that Williams’ forward progress had been stopped. That raised the ire of the entire defense, including co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, who offered to exchange whistles with the official.

** Redshirt freshman Andrew Sweat probably had the big hit of the day, shooting a gap to blow up Williams in the backfield for what would have been a big loss. Second place would go to Austin Spitler, who stopped Ray Small in his tracks after a catch over the middle.

** A gusty crosswind played havoc with some of the passes although most drills concentrated on medium-range throws. Pryor did get off one heave intended for DeVier Posey that traveled 60 yards in the air. The attempt had too much air under it, though, and Devon Torrence was able to leap with Posey and break up the pass.

HAPPY! HAPPY!

Two former Buckeyes celebrate birthdays today: former OSU linebacker Eric Kumerow turns 44 while former tight end John Frank is 47.

Eric Palmer Kumerow was born April 17, 1965, in Chicago, and was a prep All-American quarterback at River Forest (Ill.) High School. A short time after arriving at Ohio State, the Buckeyes moved the 6-6, 250-pounder to defense and a star was born. He began a regular at outside linebacker midway through his freshman season in 1984 and earned All-Big Ten honors in 1986 and ’87. During his senior year in ’87, Kumerow led the Buckeyes with 15 tackles for loss, and he finished his career as the team’s all-time lead in sacks with 23. He still ranks fourth in that category behind Mike Vrabel (36, 1993-96), Jason Simmons (27½, 1990-93) and Matt Finkes (25, 1993-96). Miami made Kumerow the 16th overall pick in the first round of the 1988 NFL draft, and he played three seasons for the Dolphins mostly as a backup. He played in 42 games from 1988-90, registering five sacks and one interception. The Dolphins traded him to Chicago after the 1990 season but the Bears later released him. After his NFL career ended, Kumerow settled in his hometown and routinely refuses interview requests to reminisce about his playing days.

John E. Frank was born April 17, 1962, in Pittsburgh and became the finest pass-catching tight end in Ohio State history. Frank was a high school star at Mount Lebanon (Pa.) High School and flourished with the Buckeyes, catching 121 passes for 1,418 yards during his career from 1980 to ’83. Both totals are the highest in OSU history for a tight end, and the 121 career receptions still ranks ninth all-time while the yardage is 15th. Frank became the second-round selection of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1984 NFL draft, and played five seasons with the Niners, winning a Super Bowl ring in 1988. For his career, Frank played in 65 games and had 66 receptions for 662 yards and 10 TDs. He retired following the ’88 season and enrolled in medical school. Frank had a successful plastic surgery practice in California for several years and more recently has relocated the practice to New York. He is also a member of the Israeli national bobsled team.

Among the worldwide celebrities observing birthdays this 17th day of April: music impresario Don Kirshner is 75; Grammy winning composer Jan Hammer (“Theme from Miami Vice”) is 61; semi-retired pro wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (born Roderick George Toombs) is 55; former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback-turned-announcer Norman “Boomer” Esiason is 48; former MLB outfielder Marquis Grissom is 42; singer/songwriter Liz Phair is 42; former NFL offensive lineman-turned-announced Tony Boseli is 37; actress Jennifer Garner is 37; and singer/model/actress/serial pouter Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham is 35.

Also on this day in history: American icon Benjamin Franklin died in Philadelphia in 1790 at the age of 84; financier J.P. Morgan was born in Hartford, Conn., in 1837; Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and the Louis B. Mayer Co. merged in 1924 to become MGM Studios; Ford introduced the Mustang at the New York World’s Fair in 1964; and the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft returned safely to Earth in 1970.

AND FINALLY

** It’s less than five months until Ohio State kicks off its 2009 schedule against the U.S. Naval Academy. Everyone believes the Buckeyes will roll over the Midshipmen, but it’s worth noting that Navy did have the nation’s No. 1 running offense a year ago. (In fact, they’ve had the top running team in the nation four years in a row.) The Middies will be led by quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who ran for 224 yards and four TDs last season in a spot start against SMU.

** The simple fact that Rich Rodriguez would have serious discussions with a kid who hasn’t played quarterback since high school tells me that a Michigan resurrection is still a long way off.

** Which happens first: Charlie Weis leaves (or is asked to leave) Notre Dame or Rodriguez leaves (or is asked to leave) Michigan?

** Longtime NBC and ABC broadcaster Merle Harmon died Wednesday at the age of 82. During a career that began in the 1950s, Harmon called games for a number of NFL and Major League Baseball teams including the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers.

** Isiah Thomas won an NCAA championship at Indiana, an NBA championship in Detroit and had one of the most newsworthy stints (mostly for the wrong reason) of any head coach in New York Knicks history. Still, Thomas got something of a strange welcome Wednesday when he was named new head coach at Florida International. FIU athletic director Pete Garcia introduced him as Isiah “Thompson.”

** Disgraced NFL quarterback Michael Vick is reportedly shopping the idea of his own reality TV series. The show would begin July 20 – the day Vick is scheduled to be released from prison.

** When 46-year-old Philadelphia Phillies lefthander Jamie Moyer made his first start of the 2009 season April 7, he became the oldest lefty ever to start a game in major league history. Tommy John is the only other 46-year-old lefthander to start an MLB game, and he did that in May 1989. By the way, Moyer has no intention of retiring anytime soon. He signed a two-year contract extension in the offseason.

**Once again, thanks to all of you for your kindness during the recent passing of my mother. Your cards, letters, thoughts and prayers mean more to me than I can ever express.

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