Ohio State is just days away from its 2013 spring game, with a lot of excitement surrounding the program after a 12-0 finish a year ago.
The offense is expected to make strides this year in the second season under Meyer’s leadership and these are the three items that we will keep a watch on as the spring game kicks off on Saturday.
Progression from Jordan Hall
Jordan Hall has battled through a number of injuries in the past, and this spring has been no different. A nagging hamstring injury has haunted him this spring, as have academic issues (h/t The Lantern), but Urban Meyer expects things will work out.
Meyer told the media, “I think Jordan loves the game of football, but he’s got to take care of his business, too, and I trust he will.”
Hall has been pinned for the H-back or “Percy Harvin” role in the Meyer offense and is expected to thrive once he stays healthy. Last season he was on the way to becoming a star from the position until an injury ended his season.
As the Buckeyes look to improve the passing game this fall they need to have high-percentage throws that are built into every play. Hall will be that safety valve and should help Miller increase his proficiency this fall.
Hall has turned heads with his receiving ability this spring, even garnering praise from Urban Meyer after a masterful catch during practice (h/t ESPN). Meyer had this to say:
I didn't know he was going to be as good catching it. That was a tough catch down the middle of the field. We call it competitive excellence around here. I mean, he might go the rest of the spring and not have that shot again. You can't script that, say, 'OK, scramble, make a play with someone draped all over him.' To see him go up and go make a play, I'm real excited about his future.
Look for screen passes and intermediate throws to Hall to be highlighted this Saturday.
He will be a player to watch as the H-back role is a critical piece of the Meyer offense.
Growth in the Passing Game
Braxton Miller only completed 58.3 percent of his passes a year ago, and he only had four games with over 200 yards passing. Against Wisconsin he only threw for 97 yards.
In the spring game Miller needs to show a better proficiency with his throws. Last season he was able to push the Buckeyes forward with a backyard-style approach to the game, but he needs to become a pure quarterback for this team to challenge for national titles.
Teammate Bradley Roby said (h/t ESPN), "He's been working on his mechanics, and his arm looks way better. I already see him getting better, and we still have a whole summer. It's going to be scary once he gets it all down."
When a defender notices progression it is always a positive.
Urban Meyer had this to add about his quarterback:
"He's probably the best athlete I've ever coached at that position, which is a great thing but also a hindrance. He gets away with things lesser athletes don't, and it's gotten him out of so much trouble. That's great, and I don't want to lose that. We just have to coach him through it."
Expect to see a lot more dropback passing from Miller as he has the skills to excel as a pure quarterback. To stay in Heisman contention Miller has to show that he can be a complete player for the Buckeyes, and that starts on Saturday.
The Buckeyes struggled to move the ball through the air last fall, but not all of the woes fell on the quarterback. There were a lot of issues with receiver production in 2012, but this spring there has been a lot of growth at the position.
The move of Jordan Hall to H-back has helped, and it looks like the light has come on for rising sophomore Michael Thomas. Thomas is looking to have another strong spring game performance this Saturday. The hope is that it builds into solid production this fall.
Another player to watch is rising senior Philly Brown, who is returning as the Buckeyes' leading receiver for 2012.
With Hall healthy, Brown back in the mix and Thomas rising the ranks, the Ohio State air attack will take off this fall.
Braxton Miller may turn Saturday into a pitch-and-catch type day with these receivers hitting their stride.