Ohio State Football 2012: Winners and Losers of the Spring Game
On a fall-like day in Columbus, Urban Meyer swash-buckled his way into the 'Shoe and gave the public a first look at what kind of feast is being concocted on the banks of the Olentangy.
The scarlet offense moved the ball up and down the field by way of air-miles cashed in by the connections of Braxton Miller and Michael Thomas. The gray, buoyed by the efficient play of running back Brionte Dunn and quarterback Kenny Guiton hung in for a while and made a game of it.
In the end, though, the scarlet simply had too much punch on offense in a somewhat odd defensive score that had a lot of offensive fireworks. They prevailed, 20-14, and the crowd went home chilly, yet content.
Here's a look at your winners and losers of the Ohio State spring game for 2012.
Winner: Freshman WR, Michael Thomas
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This is such a surprise that finding a photo of Thomas has proved to be as hard as covering the talented wideout. We'll have to tap out and display a photo of his target practice cohort, Braxton Miller.
Where did this all come from anyway? Everyone assumed that one of the returning receivers from last year would be the one to jump up and become the guy to add the flash and dash to the spread attack. Hardly anyone had Michael Thomas pegged.
Clearly, though, with his output in the spring game and the confidence that Braxton Miller showed in him by throwing his way time after time, Thomas is in the team picture of one of those playmakers that the coaching staff is on an expedition to find.
When the rubber pellets settled, Thomas finished the game with 12 catches for 131 yards. If a player of the game were handed out, he would have been the choice hands down.
Now he'll need to keep improving all the way through fall camp.
Loser: The Secondary
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The secondary knew that it would be challenged this afternoon. The prevailing thought was that the coaching staff would likely want to get a look at the quarterbacks and receivers in order to see who would step up as a key cog in the offense.
The coaching staff did not disappoint.
Miller alone accounted for 31 pass attempts by the scarlet, completing 24 of them. And although the defenses came up with a couple of interceptions, they were clearly outmatched against the short and quick pitch-and-catch game played by both offenses.
There wasn't a lot of scoring in the game but that's only because of a couple of picks and lost opportunities. A silver bullet was dodged in the game by the secondary, but you can bet that it won't be when the game film is turned on.
Hopefully, this was just a case of the defense also adjusting to the faster-paced spread outfit, but the inability of the secondary to stop Thomas and gang has got to be corrected in the fall.
Winner: Rod Smith
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To say that Rod Smith was in the doghouse last year would be an understatement. He was closer to being in the dog pound. He had gotten buried on the depth chart once Jordan Hall returned from suspension, and he didn't even bother to show up for the Gator Bowl.
Talk about thumbing your nose up at a situation.
Now it looks as though he was perhaps saved by the coaching hire of Urban Meyer. Meyer has given everyone a clean-slate, and Rod Smith looks to have taken that slate and begun to draw a chalk outline of his own potential.
Today is proof of that.
Though he didn't have tons of yards, Smith certainly looked the part of a dangerous weapon. He finished with 46 rushing yards on eight carries (5.8 yards per carry), and had what would amount to the winning touchdown.
He showed an aggressive running style, good pad level and sneaky vision and footwork.
You have to remember to look at this with a bit of a slant because of the absence of Jordan Hall, but the offense could do a whole lot worse than handing the pigskin to Rod Smith in the fall.
Loser: Jake Stoneburner
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Stoneburner led the team last year in touchdown receptions—tallying seven. He also matched the team high in receptions all year long at 14 total. Yes, I said 14.
While those numbers don't scream out at you, it would seem to lead to a probable conclusion that he'll be a big part of the offense this fall. And while that may still be the case, he got a little lost amongst all of the other aerial options today.
You can hardly hang your hat on too much coming out of a spring game, and it's quite possible that the coaching staff might have designed a game plan to see who else could kick down the door of smoldering offense. But that being said, I had to remind myself what team Stoneburner was on.
Oh yes, there he is on the gray squad.
It's all a bit concerning. Last year, once teams realized that the senior-to-be was the only real threat through the air, he was easily erased by game plans. It at least appears on the surface that the case was the same coming out of this one as well.
Time will tell, but you'd expect the tight end—especially one with the talent and experience of Stoneburner—to be a more integral part of the aggressive play-calling of the offensive coaches. Maybe with the continued development of Mike Thomas and Corey Brown to go along with passes coming from Miller will help.
Maybe too, the insertion of Jordan Hall into the weapon stockpile will also assist.
It bears watching, though.
Winner: LB Ryan Shazier
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Shazier burst onto the scene last year as the season progressed—and it could be argued that he was the best linebacker on the Buckeye defense at the end of last year.
In a game where passes were being thrown from sideline to sideline, it was hard to get a real good look at anyone on the defense (aside from the secondary getting burnt to a crisp). But Shazier did not disappoint.
At one point, during the live blog, I made mention of somebody needing to step up on defense. Just then Shazier—obviously following the blog from his smart phone on the sidelines—made a couple of tackles and halted a promising drive by the gray team by taking down freshman running back Brionte Dunn. Dunn was in space and had Shazier on an island with pay-dirt on his mind.
Not so; Shazier made the open-field tackle on a fourth down, and likely saved the day.
Throughout the game, the sophomore showed the same motor and playmaking ability that he did to get him on the field last year and was clearly the defensive star with seven tackles—many of them in key situations.
In a game where there weren't a bushel of standout plays on defense, Shazier shined.
It's not a stretch to state that he'll be the best defender on the field in the fall, but he'll need a Curtis Grant, or an Etienne Sabino, to come along side and solidify the linebacking corps. Especially if the secondary continues to struggle.
Good job in this one and now we turn our attentions to the fall.