10 Things We Learned from Meyer’s First Spring Game
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It wasn’t everything Ohio State fans had hoped for, but Saturday’s Spring Game was the official start of the Urban Meyer era in Columbus.
Fans finally got a chance to see Meyer’s new offense in action, and while the weather wasn’t ideal for a spring game, it was good start for the Buckeyes as they try to bounce back after a 6-7 season a year ago.
Here is a look at 10 Things We Learned during Meyer’s first spring game at Ohio State.
1. Meyer is a little bit nuts. Before things even officially got started Saturday, Meyer put some of his top players to the test in front of thousands of Ohio State fans. The Buckeyes came together at midfield for what they call the “Circle Drill,” which pits two players against each other in a battle of strength…and will. That’s hardly an entirely new concept. The Buckeyes used to have a “Hoot-n-Holler” drill that was somewhat similar, but I’m not sure how many times Jim Tressel ever had his quarterbacks get in the ring like Meyer did Saturday with Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton.
Photo by Dan Harker
2. Braxton Miller is a little bit good. One of the most interesting aspects of Saturday’s Spring Game was the fact Braxton Miller couldn’t use his legs to make plays. That is hardly unique to these type of scrimmages, but we have seen have much that can mentally change the way a quarterback plays. Much like Terrelle Pryor, Miller’s most dangerous weapon is his legs, but we saw him throw the ball with confidence Saturday.
He went 4-4 on the opening drive before Carlos Hyde walked into the end zone, and Miller connected on his first six passes, and seven of his first eight to start the game. He threw the ball with confidence and he found the open man. Even his interception to Adam Griffin was a ball that got away from him and sailed over the head of tight end Nick Vannett.
3. Playmakers are starting to emerge. At the start of spring, I wasn’t really sure who was going to make plays for this offense in the passing game. Neither was Urban Meyer. No one had more than 14 catches a year ago, which is even worse than it sounds. I thought Jake Stoneburner would be pretty good in this offense, but I wasn’t sure what to make of the guys around him. I’m starting to get sure. I really like what we have seen from guys like Philly Brown and Devin Smith this spring. Meyer seems to falling hard for Jordan Hall, and Carlos Hyde is a guy who could have a big year in Ohio State’s tight zone-read running game. Add in guys like Chris Fields, who actually had a nice day Saturday with five catches for 72 yards, and Mike Thomas, and this team might actually have some guys who can play on offense.
Photo by Jim Davidson
4. Thomas is going to get a chance. It’s the spring game, so let’s keep that in mind when talking about freshman wideout Mike Thomas. He would hardly be the first player to have a monster performance in the spring before fading in the fall. Bam Childress and Taurian Washington co-authored the book on it, but Thomas is going to get a real chance to make an impact. He looks like a kid who has all the tools to play receiver, and they were on display Saturday. Not only did he catch 12 passes for 131 yards, but they were not all easy catches. He does know how to get open, but he also has the ability to go up and get the ball at its highest point. He has developed an obvious relationship with Braxton Miller, and Thomas is a big, quick receiver who could blossom as a freshman at Ohio State. Keep in mind he is actually a year removed from his senior year of high school.
5. This was not the real Urban Meyer offense. Just the fact Meyer planned to throw the ball 75 percent of the time on Saturday meant that we were not going to get a true glimpse of what this offense is going to look like in the fall. Meyer and his offensive staff have emphasized that this is going to be a run-first offense with a lot of power football. We didn’t see much of that Saturday. We also didn’t see much of the perimeter running game, or the quick passing game that Miller has been working on in practice. We didn’t get to see Miller work with Jake Stoneburner or Philly Brown, and of course Jordan Hall was held out with a sprained foot. Things are going to look a lot different in the fall, but it was cool for fans to get a glimpse of some the players who will be on the field this fall, even if they didn’t get to see many of the plays.
Photo by Dan Harker
6. John Simon is going to have a monster year. Watching John Simon pace up and down the sidelines Saturday was like watching a caged lion at the zoo. The fact Luke Fickell didn’t have to tackle him to keep him off the field is almost a victory in itself. Simon is clearly the best player on this team, and all indications are that he is actually a much better player than he was even last fall. Meyer was asked why Simon didn’t play much in the Spring Game, and his response was that he doesn’t need to. They have also taken that approach on a number of winner-loser days in order to give the offense a chance.
7. The three freshmen LB’s are going to have opportunities in the fall. It was almost crazy to see how little depth Ohio State had at linebacker Saturday. With Curtis Grant and Storm Klein both sidelined by injury, the Buckeyes barely had enough guys to put a defense on the field. They had to move quarterback Ross Oltorik to linebacker just to give them enough bodies. Grant, Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino are penciled in to start the season, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the freshmen hit the field in the fall. Luke Roberts is already in the two-deep, but David Perkins, Camren Williams and Jamal Marcus will all have a chance to compete for playing time. It is the one position where Ohio State absolutely cannot afford an injury in the fall unless one or two of those freshmen is ready to play.
participates in the singing of Carmen Ohio
Photo by Dan Harker
8. Meyer is going to embrace Ohio State traditions. And why wouldn’t he? It only makes sense, but it was good to see Meyer singing Carmen Ohio with the players in the south end zone Saturday. He talked about hearing Hang On Sloopy and how he wants to embrace Ohio State traditions. That is music to the ears for Buckeye fans everywhere.
9. Meyer isn’t afraid to put his kicker on the spot. One of the more unique moments in Saturday’s Spring Game was the moment where Meyer stopped practice to put the pressure on kicker Drew Basil in front of 80,000 fans at Ohio Stadium. Basil had nailed a 41-yard field goal in the north end zone when Meyer made him line it up again. Basil connected on the second 41-yard kick, so Meyer moved him back four yards to set up a 45-yard try. Basil had that kick blocked by either Adam Bellamy or Garrett Goebel, so Meyer made him kick it again. Basil came through, hitting a 45-yard field goal, but Meyer wasn’t done with him. He moved it back again, to 53 yards, and after Basil hit monstrous kick from that distance, Meyer made him try a pair from 58 yards. Basil missed both, but it was a great opportunity for him to kick with the pressure on.
Urban Meyer puts a little added pressure on Drew Basil
in front of over 80,000 in Ohio Stadium
10. This spring was a big success for Meyer and his staff. He may never admit it, because Meyer is a perfectionist, but this spring—and off-season really—had to go about as well as he could have hoped. Not only did the players buy in to Mickey Marotti’s off-season workout program, but they were able to pick up enough of the offense in 14 practices to make Saturday’s Spring Game look respectable. They obviously still have a long ways to go, but if Meyer felt confident enough in his running game that he wanted to focus on the passing game, that bodes well for Ohio State. This program will always hang its hat on the running game. They still need some playmakers to emerge, but guys are starting to show some promise, and that’s really all Meyer could have hoped for this spring.
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