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Buckeye Football Notebook: 'You've got five elite checkers right there'
By Tony Gerdeman

Each of the past few years the Buckeyes have opened winter workouts and spring football with certain slogans or sayings or mantras. They don't really have that this year, however. Instead, the focus is about getting from Point A to Point B.

Drawn on the white board in Ohio State's team meeting room, Point A and Point B are connected by a simple line, but in reality the journey for the Buckeyes will be anything but a straight line, and they need to be prepared for the twists and turns.

"We’re here and we want to get there," explained defensive end Tyquan Lewis. "It’s a journey. It’s a straight line on the board, but in reality, it’s up and down. Ups and downs of the year, and the thing is you’ve got to ride it out. You’ve got to ride through the storms. The ups and downs, all of that. That’s what makes it interesting. That’s the journey."

The journey this spring ended for two young linebackers as both Malik Harrison and Baron Browning are out for the rest of camp following shoulder surgeries. They'll be back just fine in the summer and both are expected to play this season. In fact, Meyer even said one of them would be competing for a starting spot.

"Malik Harrison is going to play," he said. "He’s done for the spring. He had shoulder surgery, he’ll be a lot like Barron Browning. They’re standing next to each other out there and they’re both going to play. Very athletic guys, and Malik was having a tremendous spring, he’s going to compete for a starting spot."

What do each of them bring to a defense?

"A lot of talent," linebackers coach Billy Davis said of the freshman Browning. "A lot of raw talent. He’s learning that it’s not high school. You can’t just throw your body in there and expect the best. So, he’s definitely learning. He’s got some learning curves, but he’s a raw athlete. Very raw athlete."

And the sophomore Harrison?

"Malik is a tall, good-looking athlete who has a huge upside also," Davis said. "Malik has a lot of work in front of him, but the raw, tall, long, physical, intelligent athlete is there."

This Saturday is Ohio State's annual Student Appreciation Day, where students are invited to attend the Buckeyes' Saturday practice before the spring game the following week.

The first year it was held, the festivities began outside, but rain moved everybody inside and Meyer found that he liked the atmosphere of so many people inside the WHAC. The energy from the crowd brought something extra to the practice. He is mindful about not wanting to lose that energy, which is why he was thinking about changing things up a bit.

"I’m worried that it gets old, that it’s old news, so we’re trying to maybe do it on Friday night," he said. "Our student body and our student organizations here on campus are elite. I hear about other schools worrying about their students coming to games, we don’t. That’s why we give them ownership in our program. We sent out an email to all the students inviting them. I wanted to do a Friday night just to change it up but they had some other stuff going on and it’s sibs weekend and we’re very conscientious of our most important group of people and that’s our students."

While spring practice is used for events like Student Appreciation Day, it is also used to try new things. With two new assistants on the offensive line and ever-improving talent, there can be a lot of interesting things to look at.

"Kevin (Wilson) has some great ideas, so does Ryan (Day)," Meyer said. "We’re not going to try them in September. We’re doing some things that we maybe have not done before and some of it looked good and some of it looked bad. We give the bad maybe one more opportunity and then it’s out. Those are the kind of things that are fun in spring, you get to try a lot of stuff and see how it works. Some of it has been really good."

What's something that Meyer would look to see work?

"We have five premier -- in my mind -- four defensive ends and Dre’Mont Jones, I’d like to see all five on the field at one time," he said. "Those are five elite. Coaches like to say 'How’s our checkers?' You’ve got five elite checkers right there. Play them all at once. Those are little things that we’re trying. That’s what you get to coach in spring."

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