Ohio State Football: Winners and Losers of the 2013 Scarlet and Gray Game
The annual Ohio State football spring game went down in Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium Saturday afternoon, where quarterback Braxton Miller led the Scarlet team to a 31-14 victory over the Gray team.
Urban Meyer and the coaching staff split Ohio State's roster in two Friday morning, and the Scarlet team featured much of the first-team offense while the Gray team received most of the defensive starters.
Miller and the Scarlet team carved up the Gray team through the air, as the trio of Devin Smith, Evan Spencer and Bri'onte Dunn hauled in a combined 13 passes for 213 yards.
The Gray team, led by Kenny Guiton for much of the first half and Cardale Jones for most of the second, struggled to move the ball against what amounted to Ohio State's second-team defense.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from the 2013 Ohio State Scarlet and Gray game.
Winner: Braxton Miller
Despite a swirling wind and the limitations imposed by his black no-contact jersey, Braxton Miller was sensational throwing the football Saturday afternoon.
The soon-to-be junior quarterback completed 16 of 25 passes for 217 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).
Miller spent time with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. during the offseason to improve his mechanics and footwork, and that was on full display during the spring game.
One of Miller's biggest issues last year was a lack of touch on his short-to-intermediate throws, but he looked much better in that area on Saturday. Miller also led his receivers on several passes, throwing to a specific spot on the field and letting them go make the play.
Because Miller wasn't "live," the playbook was very much slanted toward the passing game for the quarterbacks, with practically no designed runs called. That worked out just fine for Miller, who showcased legitimate improvement in the passing game.
Loser: The Rushing Attack
Both Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith—Ohio State's top two running backs—were sidelined for Saturday's action. Hyde sat out as a precaution, while Smith was held out because of a concussion he suffered earlier this week.
That gave Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball—the two running backs battling for the third spot on Ohio State's depth chart—a chance to showcase their abilities to the coaching staff.
Unfortunately for those two, the game featured more passing than rushing.
Winner: Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington
One thing Meyer was worried about at the start of spring practice was his defensive line, which needs to replace all four starters from last year's team.
A pair of standout linemen from his first recruiting class in Columbus are making that transition easier.
Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington seemed untouchable on Saturday, registering a combined seven sacks on the day (Washington with four, Spence with three). Granted, many of those were "touch" sacks due to Miller and Guiton's no-contact status.
According to Brandon Castel of The-Ozone.net, the two roommates frequently talk about dominating offensive lines together. That was certainly the case on Saturday, and if Spence and Washington can carry that over to the fall, they could be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
Loser: The Scarlet Team's Offensive Line
With starting left tackle Jack Mewhort and center Corey Linsley sitting out as a precaution, the Scarlet team's offensive line had a lot of trouble protecting its quarterback.
To the O-line's credit, it's easier to rush the passer when you know the offense is throwing the ball with the kind of frequency displayed on Saturday. It's also a lot harder to keep your quarterback protected when any kind of contact made on the passer ends the play.
Still, Taylor Decker and Chase Farris were consistently abused by the Spence-Washington tandem. Both players are battling for the open right tackle position, and that situation is no clearer after Saturday's action. Meyer typically likes to have his depth chart for the upcoming season set by the end of spring, but he admitted that he doesn't have an answer at the right tackle position, according to Ben Axelrod of Rivals.com.
Winner: The Wide Receivers
Devin Smith and Corey Brown were the only two consistent receivers for the Buckeyes in 2012, and Meyer is hoping more reliable targets can arise for Miller in 2013.
If the spring game is any indication, Ohio State is starting to load up on the perimeter. Michael Thomas, Evan Spencer and Smith all eclipsed 70 yards receiving, and Chris Fields capped a good spring with a four-catch performance on Saturday.
Again, the receivers benefited greatly from the pass-heavy play-calling, but it was still encouraging to see Ohio State spread the ball around quite a bit.
Both Fields and Thomas were in a battle for the third wide receiver spot behind Smith and Brown, but Meyer said Fields earned the position because of his consistency this spring, according to Jeff Rapp of SportsRappUp.com.
Loser: Drew Basil
Drew Basil will be Ohio State's do-everything kicker this year and will likely be expected to handle both punting and field-goal-kicking duties.
Basil had an erratic day in Cincinnati, missing a 28-yard field-goal try while drilling one from 25 yards out. As Meyer did last year, he pushed Basil's limits by making him attempt multiple field goals of 50 yards or longer. Unfortunately, Basil missed three straight from 54 yards out.
As previously mentioned, the winds were pushing heavy from side to side in Paul Brown Stadium, so it's hard to fault Basil too much.
Winner: Curtis Grant
Curtis Grant needed a big spring to regain the starting middle linebacker spot he lost to converted senior fullback Zach Boren last year, and after 15 spring practices, it's safe to say he's secured his spot on Ohio State's defense.
The former 5-star recruit looked impressive on Saturday, showing good awareness in pass coverage and aggressiveness when attacking the line of scrimmage. That helped him tally a game-high eight total tackles (six solo), which included one sack against Braxton Miller.
Meyer and the Buckeyes will benefit greatly from Grant if he has truly put things together after a rough start to his career, but it does appear that he has turned the corner.
Loser: Cardale Jones
Ohio State's third-string quarterback got off to a rough start when he finally saw the field in the second half, fumbling on back-to-back drives on his first two possessions.
The turnovers turned what was a close game into a comfortable lead for the Scarlet team, something Jones will certainly hear about a time or two this summer.
Jones bounced back, though, leading a nice touchdown drive for the Gray team. The long-striding quarterback reminded some of a young Terrelle Pryor, and he did manage a game-high 45 yards rushing. Passing is where Jones struggled, as he completed just seven of 16 passes for 65 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Winner: Eli Apple
Eli Apple, one of Ohio State's prized 2013 recruits, has benefited greatly from enrolling early, and that was evident on Saturday afternoon.
The young cornerback struggled early as Thomas got the better of him on the first two drives. Apple fell into a comfort zone afterwards, though, and made a number of very impressive plays in pass coverage.
Apple's best play of the day came on a blitz in the second half, where he blindsided Jones for a sack that forced a fumble, which he then fell on for the first turnover of the day.
Ohio State already has its top two corners in Bradley Roby and Doran Grant, but if Apple can continue to improve his play, it'll be impossible to keep him off the field in nickel or dime situations this fall.
Loser: The Gray Team
This might seem redundant, but the Gray team lost more than just a football scrimmage this Saturday.
Meyer makes everything in his football program a competition—winners are rewarded handsomely, while the losers are punished.
The spring game is no different. After last year's game, the winning team received steak dinners while the losers received hot dogs. The losing team was also tasked with cleaning up Buckeye Grove, where trees are planted in honor of Ohio State's All-American football players.
A similar punishment is in line for the Gray team this year.