After ACL tear, Ohio State football's Mitchell Melton returns for start of spring practice
Defensive lineman Mitchell Melton has been medically cleared to participate in individual drills for Ohio State during spring practice.
But Melton, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in last year’s spring game and missed the season as a result, is expected to remain limited to individual work for at least a majority of the practices over the next five weeks.
“We've just got to be smart,” Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said, “and bring him back the right way.”
As seen by reporters during a half-hour viewing period as spring practice opened Tuesday, Melton went through a series of drills with the defensive linemen.
A versatile edge defender, Melton enrolled at Ohio State in 2020 as a linebacker before moving to the defensive line last year.
His all-around skillset made him a candidate to line up at the “Jack” position, the hybrid defensive end-linebacker role, before he went down last April.
“We’re hoping he can make an impact for us this year,” Day said. “Before the injury, we were excited about him and what he was doing. He’s got a really good pass-rush ability and good strength and play speed.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said he hopes Melton can regain the form that stood out a year ago.
“I want to see him back to where he was,” Knowles said. “He jumped out. He really did.”
Melton, who also sat out in 2021 due to injury, last appeared in a game for the Buckeyes as a freshman in 2020 when he lined up on kickoff coverage.
TreVeyon Henderson progresses in rehab
The stretching line of players included running back TreVeyon Henderson as he went through warmups and did some running.
But Henderson, who underwent surgery for a fracture and torn ligament in his left foot in December, would later go to a group of players rehabilitating injuries off to the side of the indoor field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Day still viewed the step as positive one for Henderson in his recovery.
“He’s had a really good offseason, especially in his rehab,” Day said. “We’re anxious to get him back on the field soon. I just don’t know if it’ll be this spring yet.”
Henderson made an immediate impact as a freshman in 2021 when he rushed for more than 1,000 yards, but was limited by his injured foot last fall.
His 571 rushing yards were not even half as many as he totaled in his breakout debut season.
Day said Henderson has been so eager to return that he tried participating in Mat drills during strength and conditioning workouts this winter before needing to be pulled away.
“His attitude’s been unbelievable,” Day said. “The guys appreciate his positiveness. When you get injured, you get down. It can wear on you a little bit. But you haven’t seen that with him. He’s been a positive influence to his teammates and to his unit.
Offensive tackle alignment
Josh Fryar is starting out at left tackle with Zen Michalski and Tegra Tshabola at right tackle.
Both tackle spots on the Buckeyes’ offensive line were vacated with Paris Johnson and Dawand Jones leaving for the NFL.
Fryar, a fourth-year junior, was the most heavily used backup last season and started against Indiana in place of an injured Jones at right tackle.
Day said Fryar’s experience had a role in position him at left tackle, which maintains a critical role in pass protection, preserving the quarterback’s blind side.
“He felt comfortable making that move,” Day said. “We’ll see how that goes as we start to put pads on. It’s hard with no pads, just the point of contact. But watching him move his feet, that was really good.”
Denzel Burke stands out
Knowles said cornerback Denzel Burke has stood out this offseason, recovering from a disappointing sophomore season.
“He just seems to be on point,” Knowles said.
Looking back on Tuesday’s practice, Knowles thought Burke might have gotten his hands on more balls than he did all of last spring practice.
Burke broke up only five passes last season after he totaled 12 pass breakups during a breakout freshman season in 2021.
In position drills, Burke led the rotation with Jordan Hancock, while Jyaire Brown and Davison Igbinosun, a transfer from Mississippi, followed in rotation.
“I think they’re all growing up,” Day said. “That’s an area we got to make sure we take a really big step in. It was a good first day,”
Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.