It is a testament to the popularity of Ohio State football in central Ohio that the Buckeyes’ spring game, which is truly just a glorified practice, drew more than 60,000 fans even though the tickets were being sold for $20 apiece up until the night before the game.
For context, the majority of schools do not charge fans for admittance to the spring game.
However, there were bigger takeaways to be made from the game than the fact that people love Ohio State football. The Gray squad topped the Scarlet one 17-7 in a contest that did not feature Braxton Miller due to injury.
I’m not trying to evaluate an offense. Who cares? There are guys out there who will never play or they’re not ready to play now. [Sports information director] Jerry [Emig] handed me these stats. I’m not sure what to do with these. I don’t care.
What I do care about is who’s physically going to make the plays. It was almost like an individual game today. That’s what I wanted to watch. I wanted to see who’s going to compete, who’s going to make plays and who’s going to fit the team concept because we all know what we saw out there. That’s not a team. That’s not the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Even though Meyer wasn’t particularly impressed with the performance, there were some conclusions that could be made. Here are a few of them.
Braxton Miller Needs to Stay Healthy
Miller did not play in the spring game because he is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Backups Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett battled it out instead.
Who will win the backup job?
Neither made much of an impression, as Jones finished 14-of-31 for 126 yards and Barrett went 17-of-33 for 151 yards. There were no passing touchdowns on the day, which is somewhat concerning considering the secondary’s talent was dispersed between the two rosters—and safety Vonn Bell isn’t even healthy.
If Miller were to get hurt this season, there doesn’t appear to be a Kenny Guiton waiting in the wings.
Both Jones and Barrett flashed potential, particularly with their legs, but Guiton had a certain command of the offense when called upon. He saved Ohio State on multiple occasions in the past two seasons.
Barrett is only a redshirt freshman and presents more of a long-term solution than Jones, but don’t be surprised if Jones wins the backup job by August. Barrett didn’t do enough in the spring game to overcome the experience edge that Jones currently holds.
The 2nd Cornerback Position Is up for Grabs
Ohio State’s biggest weakness last year was its secondary.
The pass defense ultimately proved crippling in the Orange Bowl when Clemson scored 40 points, and watching the Buckeyes try to defend a screen pass against archrival Michigan was painful.
All-Big Ten player Bradley Roby is no longer around at cornerback, which means the second spot is up for grabs across from Doran Grant. Eli Apple and Armani Reeves both played significant minutes in the spring game and impressed throughout.
Apple and Reeves both broke up passes, although it was Apple who dropped a near interception. Ultimately, Apple looked slightly more impressive than Reeves thanks to his physicality and speed, but Reeves has more experience in the Buckeyes’ system.
Neither separated himself from the other, although the silver lining is neither struggled enough to fall in the pecking order either. Expect to see plenty of both when the season rolls around, although the starting job will likely be decided in camp.
It is also worth mentioning that incredibly talented incoming freshman Marshon Lattimore could work his way into the rotation as well.
Carlos Hyde Will be Replaced by a Committee
Miller drew many of the headlines when it came to Ohio State’s electric offense last season, but Carlos Hyde was the wrecking ball that made the engine go.
In fact, had the Buckeyes given Hyde the ball more in the losses to Michigan State and Clemson, they very well could have won both games. How effectively Ohio State replaces his production will go a long way toward determining how the season unfolds from an offensive perspective.
There is plenty of talent at the running back position, and if the spring game proved anything, it was that there will likely be a committee of ball-carriers this season.
Bri’onte Dunn finished with 35 yards and a touchdown on six carries while Warren Ball impressed with 55 yards and a touchdown. Curtis Samuel is a speedster who showed flashes of his potential (although he failed to get into the end zone from the 2-yard line on multiple occasions when running between the tackles), and Rod Smith is a physical bruiser who didn’t play.
Land-Grant Holy Land and Rowland pointed out that Smith missed the spring game and hasn’t been practicing lately:
Hadn’t been practicing MT @KyleRowland: Rod Smith not playing in spring game. Dressed in jersey and shorts— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) April 12, 2014
That’s not even mentioning Ezekiel Elliott, who didn’t break out on any runs in the spring game but could have the inside track for the starting job.
Elliott showed his explosive speed and power during garbage time on a number of occasions last year and may have the best combination of elusiveness and the ability to pick up tough yardage through the middle of anyone on the roster.
There may not be a Hyde on Ohio State this season, but there are still plenty of capable running backs in the stable.
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