Five for Friday: What to Watch for in Saturday's Spring Game
By Tony Gerdeman
The Ohio State Spring Game isn't being televised live this year because Michigan's spring game kicks off at the same time as OSU's, and the BTN didn't want to upset one fanbase by showing the other school's game live. (Never mind the fact that Michigan fans don't really care about spring games.)
So, in lieu of your television set, you can watch live via your phone or tablet, because that's your preferred way of watching stuff anyway. Besides, that 50" television in your living room is just there to tie the room together. It's not even plugged in. Your neighbors don't even know!
Anyway, if you're not in attendance, or don't feel like squinting at your handheld device for a few hours, when you do finally watch the game on tape delay at 7:00 pm Saturday night, I've given you a few things to look out for.
I've basically done all of the work for you. All you have to do is stay hydrated.
1. The potential of Cardale Jones. I'm going to tell you right now, when you see Cardale Jones break containment and race towards the sideline and pick up 13 yards on third down, he's going to remind you of a certain quarterback who was at Ohio State a few years ago. No, not Rob Schoenhoft. What you should really pay attention to is his passing, however. This will be mostly a passing scrimmage, so his arm will be on display. He has a cannon, but it's the shorter stuff that has given him trouble this spring.
2. The new and improved Braxton Miller. Everybody knows by now the work that Braxton Miller has put in in the offseason to improve his footwork and mechanics. On Saturday, you'll get your first look at Braxton Miller 3.0. He won't be running much, as he'll be wearing a black jersey, but that doesn't mean he won't get chased. Miller has worked on maintaining his mechanics during "chaos", which there should be plenty of come game time.
3. The speed of Noah Spence. Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton won't be live, so sacks can be accumulated with just a simple hand touch by the defense. For Noah Spence, this is an invitation to attack relentlessly, especially knowing that there will be more passing than running in this game. Left tackle Jack Mewhort has been the only player we've seen win as much as he has lost against Spence. When he's matched against everybody else, a three-step drop is optimal.
4. Tyvis Powell in coverage. As the Buckeyes' starting star, Tyvis Powell should be extremely busy in this game. Watch how well he handles both roles as a run and pass defender. The ability to do both well is what will optimize this defense. At 6-foot-3 and 201 pounds, Powell has the size to handle the line of scrimmage, but it will be his ability to cover that wins him the job for good.
5. Curtis Grant's comfort level. Urban Meyer had some strong words in Curtis Grant's favor on Wednesday, so you'll get a chance to see for yourself if you agree with Meyer's assessment. It will be interesting to see how well he does against the pass on Saturday. You probably won't get to see him attack the run as much as you'd like, however. Still, he should play quite a bit given that the linebackers will be split up, so you'll get a pretty good look at him for basically the first time since last September.
Bonus: The short passing game. It's a spring game, so there will still be quite a few deep balls thrown by Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton. However, there is an asserted effort to get the ball to the receivers via shorter routes, including Devin Smith. Will those short catches turn into decent gains?
Bonus: The freshmen cornerbacks. With Bradley Roby sitting this one out, that means both Eli Apple and Cameron Burrows will get major minutes. They are both tall and long corners, and they are currently battling eachother for the fourth cornerback spot. Every snap is going to be tabulated, especially for those fighting for a spot.
Bonus: Adolphus Washington's pass rush. Noah Spence has been getting most of the talk, but Adolphus Washington has been extremely impressive this spring as well. As a freshman, he was a more effective pass rusher than Spence. He is a much better player now than he was a year ago. (So is Spence.) Watch how often he flushes a quarterback out of the pocket.
Bonus: Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball. With Rod Smith out, and Carlos Hyde likely to get a lightened load, Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball should receive the bulk of the carries. Granted, there may not be a lot of carries, but both tailbacks will be used in the passing game. You'll get an idea of what they can do away from the line of scrimmage.
Bonus: C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant making plays. There are going to be a lot of tackles to be made by the Ohio State safeties on Saturday. A few of those plays will be one-on-one matchups in open space. Will they be able to bring down Philly Brown and Devin Smith? If they can't, will you credit the receivers, or blame the safeties?
Bonus: Watch the right tackles. Taylor Decker and Chase Farris are battling for the starting right tackle spot. It's highly likely that they will be on opposite teams. Expect the guy who has Noah Spence on his team to look better in this game.
Bonus: Out-Of-The-Blue Spring Game Hero. Last year it was Michael Thomas. (By the way, make sure you watch Michael Thomas in this game. He's been fantastic all spring.) Who will it be this year? Chris Fields? Kenny Guiton? Actually, it will probably be Michael Thomas again. And Kenny Guiton. Always Kenny Guiton.
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