Ohio State Football: 5 Things We Learned About the Buckeyes This Spring
On the heels of 15 spring practices that concluded with a 31-14 Scarlet team victory over the Gray team in Ohio State's annual spring game, there are a number of developments and storylines for us to look back on as we enter the longest stretch of the offseason.
With nine starters returning on offense and a number of playmakers back on defense, the Buckeyes will most certainly enter the 2013 season as a Top Five team.
That doesn't mean head coach Urban Meyer took it easy on his team this spring. Ohio State needs to replace seven starters on defense, and Meyer wants his already explosive offense to be even better in 2013.
Meyer pushed the Buckeyes to be better this spring, and the team we saw playing under a clear sky in Paul Brown Stadium last Saturday reflected that.
Here are five things we learned about Ohio State this spring.
1. Braxton Miller Really Did Improve as a Passer
We read all about Miller's offseason work with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., but seeing his improvement as a passer during the spring game brought that story to life.
Miller looked much more comfortable throwing in the pocket, and his mechanics—specifically his footwork—were much improved since the fall. Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman want Miller to be "the best fundamental quarterback in the country," and while he's still a ways off from that distinction, Miller is a bit closer as the team enters the offseason.
2. Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington Are Ready to Start
One of Meyer's biggest challenges entering the spring was finding a way to replace all four starters along Ohio State's defensive line in 2013.
The presence of Spence and Washington make that challenge much easier to overcome.
The soon-to-be sophomores had a breakout spring for Ohio State, shining during one-on-one drills and live scrimmages. That all culminated during the Buckeyes' spring game, where they combined for seven sacks for the Gray team.
3. Ohio State Is Even Deeper at the Running Back Position Than We Thought
Entering the spring, we knew the Buckeyes had three talented running backs in Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith and Bri'onte Dunn. All three of those backs saw action last year and combined for 1,318 yards and 20 rushing touchdowns while averaging just under five-and-a-half yards per carry.
What we didn't get to see last year was Warren Ball, who took a redshirt his freshman season. Ball came out this spring and really turned heads with his impressive and evasive running style.
Ball was so good that he is now in a battle with Dunn for the third spot behind Hyde and Smith on the depth chart. The Buckeyes' backfield will get another boost when Ezekiel Elliott, a 4-star running back out of St. Louis (via 247Sports.com), reaches campus this fall.
4. Curtis Grant Might Finally Be Putting Things Together
The former 5-star linebacker recruit came to Columbus with a ton of hype and enormous talent in 2011, but Grant was never able to grasp the mental aspect of the game during his tenure at Ohio State.
Grant played mainly on special teams his freshman season before earning the starting middle linebacker position last year. It only took four games for Grant to lose his starting spot after a bad start to the year, and he was later replaced by converted fullback Zach Boren.
This season has a now-or-never feel to it for Grant as Meyer continues to bring highly-rated linebacker recruits to Columbus.
To Grant's credit, he responded.
After battling with Cam Williams, Grant secured the starting middle linebacker position after a strong spring outing. Grant looks much more comfortable in the middle of the defense, showing good awareness in the passing situations that confounded him last year.
5. The Offense Is Going to Be Much Better in 2013
It's a common theme for Meyer-coached teams, but all signs are pointing to Ohio State being much better on offense in 2013.
The Buckeyes led the Big Ten in scoring offense last year with 37.2 points per game, and if history really does repeat itself, that number will swell in 2013.
During Meyer's last three coaching stops, his teams have increased their point totals by an average of 10 points per game in their second years. That's a result of the players being more comfortable operating Meyer's spread offense, in addition to the coaching staff being able to add more to the playbook.
With nine starters back on that side of the ball, the Buckeyes looked poised to explode on offense.
David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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