The East Squad practice is where I devoted most of my attention in the first day of practice since Demetrious Cox, Jordan Diamond and Camren Williams were all there. Not only are those three some of the hottest names left on the board for the Buckeyes, but they are some of the best rated prospects in this game.
Unlike at the West practice, the portion I saw of the East practice was much more toned down and focused on fundamentals. They did open with a group of Marines leading the warm-up, which had to be one of the most interesting few moments of any football practice ever (or should I say boot camp). Afterwards they focused on special teams and positional drills, before finally getting into some offensive-defensive sets. Let's take a look at how Cox, Diamond and Williams looked, and where things stand in their recruitment.
One of the first guys that caught my eye when I first showed up was Cox. He was one of the quickest guys in the speed drills and seems to run so effortlessly. He did look a little raw in coverage later in the practice though, and had coaches working with him several times. Some of that can be credited to shaking off some rust on the football field.
"It feels great to be out here," Cox said. "It's been awhile since I put my gear on, I'm in basketball right now. I feel good and I'm ready to get things cracking."
Cox is also getting used to playing exclusively on the defensive side of the ball, as his focus has been at quarterback over the last several years.
"It feels a little weird just playing safety. I can adjust to it, but I'm just used to having the ball in my hands."
"Pretty much I'm looking at who I will be playing with and where I will be at home," he said. "I'm focused on the coaches and the people I will be around."
Well, hopefully one of those "people" will be Camren Williams, who Cox seems to have a good relationship with. They chatted and hung out throughout practice and seemed to really get along.
Diamond was a very interesting character to watch throughout practice. During the warm-up and positional drills he seemed to be going through the motions just a bit, and didn't seem to be playing to the level of guys like J.J. Denman (Wisconsin commit), Camrhon Hughes (Texas commit) and Walker Williams (Wisconsin commit). Once they got into the contact drills and the offensive sets though, suddenly Diamond jumped out on almost every play. In fact, he might of had the most impressive play in practice as he pancaked defensive end Michael Moore (Virginia commit) in nasty fashion. Diamond also moved around a lot on the line, taking reps at ever spot except for center, a decision that was actually his choice.
"The coaches gave us the option, so I will be rotating myself in and out to different positions except for center," Diamond said. "I'm getting familiar with all the positions so I can be more dynamic in what I do."
Diamond definitely looked the most comfortable at left tackle, which is where he will likely find to be his home at the next level. The question is where that home will be. In recent weeks he's taken visits to both Ohio State and Auburn, and he walked away seeing both schools in a similar light.
"They both were pretty much even, and I had a good time at both spots. The coaches treated me well, the players treated me well, and both schools showed me a lot of love."
What was the big difference between the two?
"I have a lot of supporters at Ohio State, more than Auburn," he said. "But, it's pretty even."
Diamond said he still has visits to Michigan (1/13), Arkansas (1/20) and Wisconsin (1/27), and plans on announcing he decision around signing day on either February 1st or the 3rd. A lot can happen over the next month, but for right now Ohio State and Urban Meyer feel like the team to beat.
Williams definitely was my favorite player to watch of the three at practice on Friday. Williams is a smart, well spoken young man when you talk to him, and that intelligence shows up on the field. While there was no tackling in Friday's practice, just hitting, he always seemed to be in position. He really shined dropping back in pass coverage as well, and made some nice plays underneath guarding some of the quicker offensive players. A lot of those on hand for the practice were enamored with USC commit, Scott Starr, but I didn't see a more consistent linebacker on the field than Williams.
As it has been well documented, Williams is down to Ohio State and Penn State. The slow coaching search at Penn State hasn't exactly sped his decision up at all, and now like the other two guys, January will be a crucial month in his recruitment.
"I'm definitely going to make another visit to Ohio State and I'm going to take my official to Penn State," said Williams. "I'm going to let the coaches come down to my house. I'm going to let all of that play out and let the Penn State thing settle down, and then I will be able to make an educated decision on which school best fits me."
He too is hoping to make a decision around signing day. So what is Williams looking for in the end?
"A school that I feel wants me, and that I'm an important piece to their class," he said. "A school that has a family atmosphere, a good program, and one that has a good vision on their program during my tenure there."
So are the recent slew of defensive line commits in the 2012 class for the Buckeyes a deciding factor?
"Yes, it is always a plus to have great defensive lineman, it makes my job a lot easier. I trust that Penn State will have great players around me as well. I definitely think Se'Von Pittman, Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt playing in front of me, that's definitely going to help me out. That's definitely a deciding factor, but I trust Penn State will have good players."
Well, he knows their names. That can't be a bad thing for the Buckeyes down the stretch.