Ohio State football: Ash-Fickell partnership working well, Meyer says

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Ohio State had its sixth of 15 spring football practices today, and the 2014 Buckeyes are starting to take shape.

There are still more questions than answers at many spots as head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman addressed the media after practice. One change that appears to be working smoothly is the partnership of co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell.

“It’s completely meshed together very well,” Meyer said.

Meyer hired Ash away from Arkansas and put him in charge of fixing the Buckeyes’ porous pass defense.

“It’s completely revamping the entire back end of how we do our business,” Meyer said. “So far it’s been pretty good. The Vonn Bell injury set us back a little bit. Cam Burrows is in there, and those three safeties we feel good about, but obvious (it’s) not enough.”

Bell, a prized recruit last year, tore a medial collateral knee ligament early in spring practice. He is expected back for preseason camp. Tyvis Powell is the third safety Meyer was referring to, and he was the lone defensive player to earn “champion” commendation in this past Saturday’s scrimmage.

Tight end Nick Vannett and right guard Pat Elflein also earned champion status for their performance. Meyer said Elflein, who played well when pressed into service late last year, has already done enough to have earned the starting job.

Other highlights from today’s media session:

-- Meyer said that sophomore Dontre Wilson is the starter at the hybrid position filled primarily by Corey “Philly” Brown in 2013.

-- Meyer said that sophomore outside linebacker Joshua Perry is “without question one of our top five improved players. He’s a wonderful guy to coach.”

-- Meyer said that Devin Smith is atop the pecking order at wide receiver, followed by Michael Thomas, Corey Smith and Johnnie Dixon. Herman said that Smith has a chance to become OSU’s best receiver. The pecking order doesn’t include Evan Spencer, who is sidelined by injury this spring.

-- Herman said that sophomore Ezekiel Elliott has been inconsistent and that senior Rod Smith had a good practice today. Warren Ball and Bri’onte Dunn remain very much in the mix, he said.

-- Herman said that with Braxton Miller sidelined after shoulder surgery, Cardale Jones has maintained a slight lead on J.T. Barrett in the battle to become the backup quarterback.

-- Herman said that while the offensive line is not on the level of last year’s experienced one, it is ahead of where the line was at this point in 2012.

“I’d be a lot more concerned if I didn’t believe the talent was there, or if I didn’t believe in (offensive line coach) Ed Warinner,” Herman said.

Herman said the battle at center between Jacoby Boren and Billy Price remains close.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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