Ohio State Football: 5 Things to Look for in Ohio State's Spring Football Game
Spring games are one of the biggest teases in the world. They offer extremely passionate fans the opportunity to watch their favorite players and teams play full speed, leaving us salivating for more.
Unfortunately, the next live football games we will get to see won't be for another three months, leaving us completely depressed.
Spring games offer us the excellent opportunity to evaluate teams. Whether it's position battles or new systems, everything is on full display in these popular scrimmages. I you know what to look for, you can know exactly where your favorite team stands.
How the Tight Ends Are Used
In recent years, the tight ends at Ohio State have been completely ignored. For the most part, tight ends at OSU were strictly used as extra offensive lineman that would occasionally go out for a quick pass.
The old coaching staff was just not interested in using their tight ends in the passing game, despite having talents like Jake Ballard and Jake Stoneburner on the roster.
On the other hand, Urban Meyer and Tom Herman are completely different. They are both extremely accustomed to utilizing the tight end, especially a versatile and athletic one like Stoneburner. The fifth-year senior always seemed like he should have a bigger impact in the offense but never really got the chance to contribute at a high level.
Stoneburner has the potential to be one of this year's biggest playmakers on offense. It will be very interesting to see how many times the tight ends are targeted throughout the spring game, and just how vital they will be to the offense's success.
Which Running Back Will Emerge as the Number One Option?
With the departure of Boom Herron, the running back position is wide open. During Herron's suspension, we got a good look at upcoming sophomore, Carlos Hyde, who was impressive for the most part.
Against Nebraska, he rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries. He's a bigger back but has great straightaway speed and could easily succeed in the new offense.
Another candidate for running back is Jordan Hall. The upcoming junior is a smaller back and rushed for 405 yards on 99 carries last season. However, Hall may be better suited as a utility weapon that can line up in the backfield, or in the slot as a receiver.
Also, Rod Smith and incoming freshman, Bri'onte Dunn have loads of potential and could surprise everyone this spring.
Whomever it is, rest assured that Meyer will put the ball in the hands of his most talented players regardless of age or style.
As of now, Hyde seems to be the front runner. Keep an eye on what type of carry each back gets, and what they do with their opportunity in this year's spring game.
Which Potential Starting Middle Linebacker Will Make a Statement?
Ohio State and Buckeye Nation take the utmost pride in fielding an elite linebacking corps year in and year out. Unfortunately, last year's group was a major dropoff from what we are used to seeing. But things are looking up in 2012.
Senior Etienne Sabino and impressive upcoming sophomore, Ryan Shazier, are returning and are expected to play at high levels next year.
The only position battle left among the linebackers is between Storm Klein and Curtis Grant for the middle linebacker position.
Klein saw very limited playing time in 2011. Although he's a solid tackler, he seems to lack the necessary speed and explosiveness to really dominate on the field.
In comparison, Curtis Grant was a highly touted recruit out of high school with loads of potential. So far he has struggled to grasp the defense and put it all together.
Meyer loves competitors and a live scrimmage is a perfect time for one of these candidates to make a statement. One of these inexperienced Buckeye's has to step up, and it will be very intriguing to see who will outshine the other in this year's spring game.
The Tempo of the Offense
Obviously, the new offense will look extremely different than in recent years. It will be really interesting to observe the tempo the offense will exercise under Meyer and Herman.
The new offense calls for an unrelenting tempo that stretches and wears out the defense to its limit. This approach is very different from last year's and it will be very engaging to see how the quarterbacks execute this type of tempo and how the defense reacts.
Take a special look at how Braxton Miller deals with the increased tempo because if anyone must grasp this new style, it's certainly him.
The State of the Offensive Line
There is no more important unit in football than the offensive line. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, this year's offensive line has the most questions surrounding it.
For starters, former tight end, Reid Fragel is making the transition to right tackle. It will be very interesting to see how the senior is adjusting to his new position and if he will be able to start this year.
Also, with the graduation of Mike Brewster, Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts, Meyer and offensive line coach, Ed Warriner have some serious shoes to fill along the offensive front.
Throughout the spring game, take a close look at the unheralded players and see who's stepping up and who's backing down.
Maybe more importantly, closely observe where these football mammoths are stepping up because for now, the offensive line is a great rendition of musical chairs. Their performances during spring will determine where these plus-size players will line up.