Mixed emotions overSpring Game format.

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Last updated: 04/20/2011 2:11 PM
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Football
Mixed Emotions over New Spring Game Format
By Brandon Castel

COMMENTARY — Let me start by saying that I love the new format for the Ohio State spring game.

While I have enjoyed attending the annual spring game draft, which is usually good for more than a few laughs, the game itself had become a bit of a drag.

The teams are usually uneven (last year the Gray team had Boom Herron, Brandon Saine, Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde while the Scarlet had both Devin Barclay and Ben Buchanan).

The starting quarterback only plays for one quarter.

The offensive lines are all mixed up, which is a huge advantage for the defense that tends to mix and match guys anyway.

The rules are restrictive, but most importantly, we just never got a real picture of what this team would look like. Last year we had Terrelle Pryor taking snaps for Corey Linsley and Kenny Guiton throwing the ball to DeVier Posey.

The new format will create much more intriguing matchups. Fans will get a chance to see what we see during the jersey scrimmages, which are usually far more competitive than the spring game.

Although Pryor won’t be out there Saturday because of his foot injury, we will likely get a chance to see all four of the other quarterbacks running the first-team offense against the first-team defense. We will get to see Travis Howard covering DeVier Posey and Mike Adams blocking Nathan Williams.

We will get to see All-American center Michael Brewster going against the young Johnathan Hankins and we will likely get to see young backs like Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry and Rod Smith running the ball behind Ohio State’s first-team offensive line.

It is a perfect way to end the spring, and the fact it’s being played in Ohio Stadium in front of thousands of fans should make for the most intense jersey scrimmage yet. I love that the winners will get the Scarlet jerseys to start the fall, something the players take seriously, but I can’t help feeling torn over how we got here.

Part of it, certainly, was the players wanting a more competitive spring game, but that can’t be a completely new concept. The part that disturbs me, and has disturbed me from the beginning, is the fact Ohio State cannot comfortably field two full teams for the spring game because they might not have enough offensive linemen.

If ever there was an indictment of Ohio State’s offensive line recruiting, this has to be it. Excluding walk-ons and early enrolled freshmen, the Buckeyes return only seven linemen from last season. Those seven happen to be pretty solid, so I can’t fault Jim Bollman there, but it is clear that he has settled for quality over quantity. Personally, I would prefer both.

They missed on Evan Blankenship, who moved over to play defensive line last season, as well as Sam Longo, who transferred in the winter, or else they would be at 13 total offensive linemen this spring instead of 11.

It’s not entirely Bollman’s fault that Longo decided to transfer, but even if he stayed, he was never going to play. The Buckeyes missed on some big targets in Seantrel Henderson—who might have ended up being a bigger headache than he was worth—and Aundrey Walker, both of whom initially selected USC.

Being from a pipeline school like Glenville, the Walker miss stung a little bit more, but they can’t force kids to come to Ohio State. My indictment of their recruiting is not for missing on guys like Henderson and Walker, rather for not having adequate backup plans.

There were a number of solid offensive line prospects available in their own backyard the last two years that ended up signing with other Division I schools because they never got a sniff from Ohio State. That included Skyler Schofner (Michigan State), Andrew Donnal (Iowa) and Kevin Schloemer (Cincinnati) in the class of 2010 and Ryan Kelly (Alabama) in 2011.

The Buckeyes will add three more freshmen in the fall, but it’s a shame they actually have to worry about changing the format of their spring game because they may not have enough bodies to fill two offensive lines.

This is Ohio State football. I could understand something like that happening in the MAC or even the Big East, but there is no reason this team should have to worry about something like this. That being said, it probably won’t impact the actual season one bit.

Having seven offensive linemen who are ready to play is a pretty good number heading into the season. It’s about what the Buckeyes had last year, with Andrew Miller and Andrew Norwell being their sixth and seventh guys.

If Tommy Brown or one of the incoming freshmen can pick things up in a hurry that would give them even better depth, but remember, they also lose three more seniors after this year in Brewster, Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts.

Let’s hope we don’t have this issue again next spring, although they can keep the new format for the spring game.

Spring Game Format

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