COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State football has finished its second week of preseason practice and has less than three weeks to go before its season opener.
Here are the key takeaways from interviews with players and coaches over the past week:
Position battle updates
The key positions with no set starter are still wide open, and many could be that way for at least a couple more weeks.
We detailed the positions in depth in a story Saturday, but here’s a quick rundown of where Ohio State is at.
- Right guard: Malcolm Pridgeon, Matthew Burrell, Demetrius Knox and Branden Bowen are all in contention. Based on what we’ve seen at practice, Pridgeon and Burrell are the two likeliest winners.
- Cornerback: Damon Arnette has spent all camp practicing with the first team and is the favorite to start opposite Denzel Ward.
- Safety: Erick Smith and Jordan Fuller are back and forth in the fight to start next to Damon Webb.
Johnnie Dixon, starter?
The wide receivers will rotate at least six players, so being a starter isn’t as important a distinction as it is at other spots. Still, it had to be encouraging to hear Ohio State coach Urban Meyer say Johnnie Dixon is close to earning that title.
Dixon has battled injuries throughout his career, but has been healthy this entire offseason. He shined in spring practice, took over the spring game and continued that good play this fall.
“We make a big deal around here about calling the family [when players are named starters],” Meyer said, “and he’s within probably a week of getting that phone call. It’s really cool to see.”
It’s the biggest sign yet that he’ll finally get a chance to show what he can do.
Replacing Michael Hill
Defensive tackle Michael Hill will be suspended for an undetermined amount of games, Meyer said Monday. While that’s obviously not great news, it’s not as big of a problem as it would have been in the past couple years.
Left tackle Jamarco Jones said the depth at that spot is great, citing Dre’Mont Jones, Tracy Sprinkle, Robert Landers, Davon Hamilton and Haskell Garrett as standout performers.
“It’s crazy to think about how many defensive tackles I just named, and that’s not even including the ends,” Jones said. “Our defensive line group is deep right now.”
Black stripe removals
Two players lost their black stripes over the past week after running back J.K. Dobbins became the first freshman to do so.
Rashod Berry rising
Look no further than tight end Rashod Berry as someone who could surprise this season. Berry has moved back and forth from tight end to defensive end early in his career, and is back with the offense because of the lack of depth at that position.
He looked good during the two practices media members were allowed to see, and he could move up the depth chart if he keeps progressing. His incredible athleticism gives him something few at that position can offer, and that’s a good way to get on the field.
“He’s done a very nice job maturing,” Meyer said. “His family should be proud of him academically, just the professionalism. I would anticipate he’s going to play for us at tight end.”
For all the concern about the numbers crunch, Ohio State ended up having extra scholarships by the time summer ended.
Meyer didn’t let them go to waste, announcing Saturday that senior walk-ons Elijaah Goins and Zach Turnure will be on scholarship this season.
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