Ohio State will soon begin spring practice and preparation for the Scarlet & Gray Spring Game that kicks off on April 13 at Paul Brown Stadium. It will be an event that many Buckeyes fans are excited for, as it officially begins the 2013 season and will be the ground work for a year that has high expectations in Urban Meyer's second season.
The Buckeyes ran the table a year ago and folks in Columbus are as pumped as ever for a new college football season that doesn't include any postseason sanctions.
But what are some of the storylines for spring practice and what should we be looking for once the practices begin?
Here are three things that should be high on the list for all Ohio State Buckeyes fans.
Further Development of Braxton Miller
Braxton Miller was an improved quarterback last season in his first year in the spread offense under head coach Urban Meyer. He completed a decent 58 percent of his passes, which was about a four percent difference from his freshman season and his 1,271 rushing yards was good for fourth in the Big Ten.
However, Miller is capable of much more and Buckeyes fans should expect more as well as he enters his junior year. If this offense is going to take the next step and Ohio State is truly going to be a national championship contender in 2013, Miller must complete above 60 percent of his passes. Sure, the running plays are great on highlight reels and are sexy to watch, but he has to become more of a consistent passer.
Because of this, Miller has spent time with quarterback coach George Whitfield, who told the Ohio State signal-caller, according to Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports, that all of his throws "can't be flat-line rocketshots." In other words, Miller must develop a little more touch on his throws and stop relying so much on pure arm strength to put the ball where it needs to be.
Whitfield has worked with guys such as Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow over the years. With his track record and success rate, it will be interesting to see the type of quarterback Miller will be with a few pointers provided by the quarterback guru.
Miller is the leader of the team and a key factor on where this team goes next year. This will certainly be worth watching.
Pecking Order and Health of RBs
While we are on the subject of the offense and what Miller has to do to improve as a player, it would be nice if the running back position can give this guy some help. Last season the starting quarterback was asked to do everything under the sun and that can't be the case again next season, especially if Ohio State wants to take that next step as a championship contender.
Carlos Hyde showed throughout the year that he has the ability to be a true No. 1 option and is more than capable of carrying the workload. Rushing for 970 yards and scoring 16 touchdowns on 185 carries is nothing to sneeze at. However, the depth at the position and overall health is where the offense begins to have issues.
Jordan Hall missed all but three games last season with an injured PCL and was lucky enough to receive a redshirt, allowing him to comeback for his fifth year. When on the field, he has been lightening in a bottle, averaging 5.5 yards per carry last season, but it remains up in the air if that elusiveness and quickness is still there after the injury.
Rod Smith is also a runner to pay attention to this spring, as he averaged 6.7 yards per carry, which was the most on the team for any Ohio State runner that had at least 30 touches. Although he received limited playing time, he made the most out of his carries and was really an offensive spark whenever he touched the football. If Smith can continue to build on last year’s momentum, Meyer may have that playmaker he is looking for.
When you add young running backs such as Warren Ball and Bri'onte Dunn to the mix, Ohio State has the talent and the bodies to have an effective running game. Now it is just a question of who decides to take their game to the next level and turns heads in the spring.
Young Guys on the Defensive Line
The biggest question mark and the area that all Buckeyes fans will be paying the most attention to this spring is the defensive line. With key defensive players like John Simon and Johnathan Hankins no longer on the roster, the Buckeyes have to replace all four defensive linemen from a year ago.
While that sounds like a daunting task, all is not lost for the defensive side of the ball. One of the first things Meyer did as head coach of Ohio State was recruit heavily up front. Picking up defensive linemen such as Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington, Se'Von Pittman and Tom Strobel from the 2012 class should pay off nicely.
Now the question comes down to how an entire unit of young players is going to look and who fits the mold to become that next great lineman who can rush the passer consistently?
Washington saw limited playing time last season, but finished the year with three sacks. His explosion off the ball and tremendous athletic ability makes him the top candidate to be that complete pass-rusher on the defensive line. On the other side, Noah finished last season with 12 tackles, which was the most of any Ohio State freshman, and his relentless pursuit has many in Columbus buzzing about his potential.
Panic would usually begin to settle in when a team has to replace an entire group of guys from a year ago, but Ohio State has more than enough talent to bridge the gap. The growing pains will be there, but this has the makings of a great line for years to come and will be fun to watch once the spring finally arrives.