The Bobcats had all the pads at their disposal, but didn’t alter from their general approach during practice No. 5 of fall camp on Tuesday morning at Peden Stadium.
The workout was the first of camp for Ohio in ‘full pads.’ Still, there was no live tackling.
It’s an approach that head coach Frank Solich and the rest of the coaching staff have adapted more and more over the last half-dozen years. Full-contact periods are relatively rare in camp nowadays, as the need to prevent injury has out-weighed the perceived benefit of creating a physical mindset or ‘toughening’ up players for the season ahead.
There was plenty of thudding, however, along the line of scrimmage. There was a noticeable uptick in contact on the line of scrimmage as offensive and defensive linemen — and to a degree linebackers and tight ends — engaged in blocking (and shedding those blocks) techniques.
The focus of the practice was the running game, several option elements, and a couple concepts that build off both. Passes in the team segment of practices were limited.
It was a step forward for Ohio in camp, but there will be more physically demanding practice days on the horizon.
Rest of the week
Ohio’s players will have an off day, of sorts, on Wednesday. No practice is scheduled, but there will be meetings, training room sessions, and photo/video obligations to address.
Practice will resume on Thursday morning with what is expected to be a fully-padded affair. Another practice will follow on Friday.
Ohio is scheduled to host its first full-contact scrimmage of camp on Saturday morning. A full off day will follow on Sunday.
Out of action
CB Jamal Hudson, RB Julian Ross and WR Shane Hooks remained dressed for practice, but were limited in their participation — same as on Monday.
CB Justin Birchette was out for a second straight day, and has been fitted with a walking boot.
WR Tyler Tupa, who ran with the first team on Monday, was held out on Tuesday.
DE Will Evans did not dress for practice, and DE Amir Miller — who had knee injuries in each the last two seasons — also received the morning off.
RB Walter Wilbon III remained out as well, and again watched from the bleachers.
Backup kicker/punter Corey Hare was no present, and walk-on WR Anthony Whitney was in practice for the first time in camp. It seems like a sign that Hare has left the active roster — at least temporarily — and Whitney was called in as a replacement.
Ohio has not issued any kind of statement or updates about the players listed above. I’m hoping to get some information on those players, and others, at the media day function (with the coaching staff) on Wednesday morning.
Odds and ends
— With Tupa out, it was sophomore Isiah Cox who joined Cam Odom and Jerome Buckner on the first team offense at wide receiver. KJ Minter, who had an excellent catch for a TD on a fade during one team segment, and Keevon Harris appear to be the closest to joining Odom, Buckner, Cox, Tupa, D.L. Knock and Hooks at the top end of the rotation.
— The tight end group had a transformative summer. Juniors Ryan and Adam Luehrman (both Athens HS grads) are at the top of the depth chart and even a casual glance shows the duo have added good weight to their 6-foot-5 frames. I’d venture at least a 10-pound jump for both. In addition, redshirt freshman Alec Burton looks like a different player early in camp. He’s bigger, thicker and more muscled than a year ago, and is poised to be the third TE available. He’s far heavier than the 228 pounds he’s listed at on the roster.
— Ohio is thin in the backfield. The Bobcats have just three quarterbacks in for the start of camp, and — with both Ross and Wilbon sidelined — Ohio has been leaning on five RBs. It hasn’t hurt just yet, but could be a factor.
— Redshirt freshman O’Shaan Allison is the leader at RB with five practices in the books. He admits most view him as a “bowling ball” and his frame is conducive to that (5-9, 205 pounds) but he wants to show more vision and explosive ability in camp.
— Junior college transfer De’Montre Tuggle (5-9, 185) is the tentative backup at RB for now. He had a couple so-so days catching the ball, but was much better on Tuesday.
— Behind Allison and Tuggle are a trio of walk-ons in junior Ja’Vahri Portis (6-0, 200), sophomore Jake Neatherton (5-9, 202) and sophomore Jonathan Barna (5-9, 185). None of the five has shown the kind of power that made A.J. Ouellette and Maleek Irons a potent 1-2 punch a year ago, but again, the real contact has yet to start.
— In the backup QB battle, it appears freshman Kurtis Rourke is leading redshirt freshman Joe Mischler. Kurtis Rourke is the tallest QB on the roster, has shown the best overall arm strength, and would appear to have plenty of upside. Kurtis Rourke was the first QB up with the 2s on Tuesday.
— Starter Nathan Rourke had the vast majority of reps on Tuesday as Ohio continues to install new facets to the playbook on a daily basis.
— Ohio appears to have set the top two lines of the depth chart (for now anyway) on the offensive line. OL coach Allen Rudolph has worked four different five-man groups with little interchanging so far.
The first group was fairly set coming out of the spring with LT Austen Pleasants, LG Brett Kitrell, C Stephen Hayes, RG Hagen Meservy and RT Marques Grimes.
The second group has featured LT Samson Jackson, LG Kurt Danneker, C Nick Sink, RG Brody Rodgers, and RT Felipe Fernandez.
The 20 total offensive linemen available — only Joe Oakes has yet to be slotted in — represent an unusually high number for the Bobcats to working with in camp.
— Ohio has continued its habit of allocating the last two periods of practice to exclusive reps for the third/fourth teams. It was a practice Ohio used last season and it’s one they believe helped some first or second-year contributors step forward in the latter stages of 2018.
— I’ve seen two pro scouts this week in camp. One from Kansas City, and on Tuesday a rep from the Carolina Panthers was on the sidelines.