COLUMBUS, Ohio — With less than three weeks until the first game of the season, Ohio State still has a few position battles left unsettled.
Here’s a look at where those competitions currently stand more than two weeks into preseason practice.
The position everyone is currently watching still feels far from unsettled. When Urban Meyer was asked about it Monday, he said it was still undecided between Malcolm Pridgeon, Matthew Burrell and Demetrius Knox. He also didn’t rule out backup tackle Branden Bowen sliding over.
Of those players, Pridgeon and Burrell seem best positioned to win the job. Pridgeon took the first-team reps during the media viewing portion of the Aug. 5 practice, but that was only three periods.
Everything offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said on Monday indicated that the battle could wage throughout camp, both because of how many people are involved and because the coaching staff believes the competition will make the eventual winner better.
Ohio State’s loaded class of 2017 cornerbacks are being kept at bay by Damon Arnette. Players like freshman Jeffrey Okudah and transfer Kendall Sheffield were popular picks to start alongside Denzel Ward, but instead it’s been sophomore Damon Arnette running with the first team in practice in that second spot.
He wasn’t gifted that spot by default, either. Wide receiver Austin Mack said Arnette earned those first-team reps with his play.
“Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette, those are the best two by far,” Mack said when asked which cornerbacks impressed him the most.
Still, cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano would prefer to rotate cornerbacks like they did last year. If there’s no dropoff between the first and second unit, then Okudah, Sheffield or both could end up on the field as much as the starters.
Returning starter Damon Webb is playing better than ever and has his spot locked down. Who will play next to him, though, remains to be seen.
Jordan Fuller and Erick Smith are the two most realistic options. Fuller was banged up early in camp and was withheld from parts of practice, but Schiano said it was a negligible amount.
Fuller and Smith have been rotating in practice, but it’s much more likely at this spot than cornerback that there will be one clear winner.
“At the end of the day, it really comes down to who steps on that field first is the one we think that can give you the best chance to win,” Schiano said.
This isn’t for a starting spot, but given the implications it has for the future, it feels foolish to leave this one out.
We’ll probably know more on Monday when the quarterbacks and position coach Ryan Day meet with the media, but right now there’s no clear-cut backup to J.T. Barrett. In practice periods viewed by the media, Joe Burrow took reps before Dwayne Haskins, but it’s probably not wise to assign too much meaning there.
Meyer would like to have a definitive backup before fall camp ends (as opposed to being content with rotating them), so this one bears monitoring.
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