The Ohio State Buckeyes didn’t break any records this year with their spring game attendance. They were only able to sell a little over 80,000 tickets because of some renovations happening in the Horseshoe. It was still pretty filled, and that made Urban Meyer happy because he likes to see how his young recruits will perform in a loud environment. The big push in the off season has been to focus on improving the vertical passing game after the poor performance on the offensive side of the ball in the College Football Playoff against Clemson. They also brought in Kevin Wilson to be their new offensive coordinator and Ryan Day to coach the quarterbacks. The expectations will be high going into the season, and we were able to get a look at the progress so far.
Upon tuning in to watch the action on Saturday, I was a little disappointed to see that they were playing two-hand touch instead of tackle. When watching on TV, it’s kind of difficult to tell whether a guy has been touched down or not and where the play is blown dead.It also makes running plays very anti-climactic because there is no chance of yards after contact or anyone breaking tackles. It’s also hard to follow the line play because the defense isn’t really going all out to reach the quarterback, so we weren’t able to get a good look at the defensive line that is supposed to be of the best in college football this season.
I guess it all worked out because the spring game is about evaluating the young talent, and we got a good look at the backup quarterbacks and the new defensive backfield in this glorified 7-on-7 drill. We saw a lot of Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins as they continued their battle for the upper-hand on who will be behind JT Barrett on the depth chart. Neither of them really pulled away because they both looked pretty good. Last year’s backup, Joe Burrow, threw for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Dwayne Haskins threw for 293 yards and three touchdowns. This battle is too close to call at this point, and there is no timetable for Meyer to make the decision. We were also able to get a little taste of prized recruit Tate Martell who had a rushing score. This will be even more intriguing next year when they’re battling for the starting spot.
The most scrutinized position of the offseason has probably been wide receiver. Meyer has brought in some highly-rated recruits the past few years, but many of them have not yet shown much on the field. The group lost Noah Brown, Dontre Wilson, and Curtis Samuel who were there three most notable pass-catchers. Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin both had two touchdown grabs each and showed some great athletic ability in the game, and Demario McCall flashed some of the versatility that has many people predicting he will take over for Samuel at the H-back spot.
The other position of note this offseason has been the defensive backfield. For the second straight year, this group has lost three of four starters to the NFL draft, and they could all go in the first round. Meyer has probably been the best at recruiting the top defensive backs in the country the last few years, and he has just been sending them right to the pros. There are a lot of young, highly-ranked guys like Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade, Isaiah Pryor, and Marcus Williamson. They were put in some rough positions with a lot of one-on-one coverage down the field and not much pressure being put on the quarterbacks, and they struggled early. However, they looked like they were starting to settle in a little as the game went on. They definitely have more work to do, but I think Kerry Coombs will have them ready to go by the end of the summer.
Overall, we normally don’t get a lot out of the spring game as fans, but it is nice to see some of the young talent get acclimated to college and watch some guys fight for starting and backup spots. There is a lot of time and a lot more work to be done between now and the start of the season. The Buckeyes are bringing back a lot more starters than they did a season ago and will have a very experienced quarterback and loaded defensive line returning. They will probably be the favorites to win the Big Ten again this year and will look to have a more respectable showing if they can return to the College Football Playoff.