What to watch for on opening day.

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Last updated: 03/05/2013 1:55 PM
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Football
What to Watch For — Opening Day of Spring Practice Edition
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS, Ohio — You never know how much is going to be learned on Day One of spring practice. For one, it's a fairly basic practice with no hitting. For two, the players aren't even in pads yet, so there is only so much actual football that goes on.

However, there is still plenty to learn. Great players will jump out at you in just about any setting, even in basic drills. Even if you don't know exactly what you're looking for, the coaches running those drills will give you a pretty good idea by whom they yell at or whom they praise.

You'll also get a decent read on which players the coaches believe they can rely on. (They will be the players who aren't constantly getting yelled at.)

Even though there likely won't be much scrimmaging, there will still be various one-on-one battles all the way from the trenches to the sidelines. This is going to be our first look at the 2013 Buckeyes, and even though we may not see much, there will still be plenty to take in.

With that in mind, this is what I'll be watching for today.

* The Depth Chart. This is what everyone will be paying attention to, and it will be one of the first things reported. Now, obviously jobs aren't won before the first spring practice even takes place, but the opening depth chart gives you an idea of which players the coaches would like to see come away with the starting jobs. I'm interested to see if there are any returning starters who are now working with the twos. And is it because somebody passed them by, or because a message is being sent.

* How Players Take to That Depth Chart. A player running with the second unit behind an unproven first teamer will either get hungrier or simply accept their lot. Sometimes coaches put a guy on the second unit just to see how he'll react. Motivation is a constant in Ohio State's football program, and Urban Meyer and his coaches will use it wherever they see an opportunity.

* Braxton Miller's Accuracy. Miller won't be facing much of a pass rush today, if any at all, so he should be able to focus on simply throwing the ball. After working all offseason with his receivers and tight ends, he shouldn't come into today's practice and be all over the place. He should be fairly locked in.

* The Biting Pups. I've talked about this before, but in 2010 we got to see Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant as freshmen and they both popped almost immediately. There are five true freshman already enrolled and I want to see if any of them make similar noise. I want to see what Eli Apple and Cameron Burrows look like against Devin Smith. Is Tyquan Lewis as explosive as he was in camp? And where exactly will Tracy Sprinkle line up?

* The Pivot Footprint. Last year, I watched the quarterbacks work exclusively with Jordan Hall on some quick misdirection passing routes that I never saw any other tailbacks take part in. Clearly, Tom Herman had some ideas in mind for Hall, but we never really got to see them in the games. With a lot of passing expected in the spring, I want to see how they use Hall from Day One, and see how much that changes moving forward.

* Jones and Barrett. There will likely be quite a bit of one-on-one between the receivers and defensive backs, which will give us a good look at quarterback Cardale Jones. He didn't take any scrimmage snaps in practice that we saw last season, and this will be our first look at him since early in summer practice. Also, while I don't expect incoming freshman J.T. Barrett to do much following last season's ACL injury, I am interested in seeing what it is that he can do.

* The Linebackers. When I mentioned the depth chart above, I probably could have also said "Middle Linebacker Depth Chart". I am also interested in seeing where everyone else is lining up as well. Ohio State brought in five linebackers in the 2012 class. I am interested in seeing where they are all standing today. Will they all still be standing at linebacker? Last season, Jamal Marcus worked at defensive end for the Scout Team at times. Where will he be when practice opens today? Keep in mind that whatever the depth chart looks like today, nothing is written in stone. In fact, the depth chart right now is written in sand, on the beach, at low tide.

* The Youngsters Against the Vets. I don't know if we'll get to see the defensive linemen battle the offensive linemen in one-on-ones today, but if we do, I will for sure be watching how Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington perform against Jack Mewhort. I'm also interested in seeing where Se'Von Pittman lines up and how he looks, though that could be said for every Buckeye on the roster as well.

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