Time to Shine: Spotlight on Young Players in Ohio State’s Spring Game
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A year ago, Urban Meyer was just curious to see what type of team he had inherited at Ohio State.
Now that he knows that group was good enough, or at least tough enough, to win 12 games, Meyer is hoping to see what some of his new guys can do when the lights go on.
That doesn’t just refer to freshmen, although the Buckeyes will have four newcomers on the field Saturday when play their final scrimmage of the spring at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Defensive backs Cam Burrows and Eli Apple will join defensive linemen Tyquan Lewis and Tracy Sprinkle as the four rookies in Saturday’s game, but what Meyer really wants is to get a closer look at is the new guys who are battling for starting spots at Ohio State this season.
“I'm not too worried about the returning starters,” Meyer said after practice Wednesday.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“I want to see an environment with the coaches off the field and everyone screaming assignments at these kids who have never played before. I want to see them play.”
The Buckeyes are really only replacing two starters on offense in right tackle Reid Fragel and tight end/receiver Jake Stoneburner. The other side of the ball is a different story for Luke Fickell and his staff, as they look to replace seven starters from last year’s defense.
That includes six players in the front seven and all four starters on the defensive line.
“For (Corey) Linsley, (Jack) Mewhort and (Andrew) Norwell it’s actually much less because we’re not going to do much,” Meyer said of the importance of Saturday’s spring scrimmage.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“For Adolphus Washington, Noah Spence, Curtis Grant, Tyvis Powell and the kids who haven’t played, it is different to hear it and see it. Everyone’s watching. If you give up a touchdown pass in a controlled scrimmage, the ball goes back to the 20-yard line. Here, points are going up on the board.”
Meyer said Linsley is unlikely to play much if at all on Saturday because of a lingering foot issue he has been rehabbing all spring. Cornerback Bradley Roby won’t play because of a shoulder injury and linebacker Ryan Shazier would seem like a longshot based on his limited practice time this spring.
The Buckeyes are also dealing with a few minor concussions, as both Rod Smith and Nick Vannett are in jeopardy of missing Saturday’s spring game. Jordan Hall could also be a scratch because of a lingering hamstring issue, and then Meyer will probably hold some guys back.
That could include tailback Carlos Hyde and left tackle Jack Mewhort.
“I’ve been pulling out Jack Mewhort a little bit, so we don’t have the chemistry we had a year ago,” Meyer said Wednesday.
“The offensive line set a nice little standard last year. I thought we were the best offensive line in the Big Ten. We’re not right now. What is it, practice 13? We’re not the best offensive line in the Big Ten.”
That may have played into Meyer’s decision to put his top two quarterbacks in protective black jerseys for Saturday scrimmage. That means Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton won’t be eligible to get hit in the spring game, and Meyer is going to make sure nobody takes another shot on his Heisman Trophy candidate.
“I'm going to carry a baseball bat,” he cracked.
“Kenny Guiton will be in black but we’re going to let (third-string Cardale Jones) play a little bit. He’s getting better.”
The Buckeyes have been scrimmaging more this spring than Meyer can ever remember doing in the past because he wants to get a look at his hurry-up, no-huddle offense. He also wants to get a look at his passing game, which simply was not up to Meyer’s standard last season.
“I want to see the receivers make some plays that we didn't make a year ago,” Meyer said.
“We're way behind on quality of depth at that position. That's a major, major concern.”
Meyer is also concerned about the battle at right tackle, which has not progressed as quickly as Ohio State’s head coach would have liked to see this spring.
“That's real bothersome to me,” Meyer admitted, “it's real bothersome to our coaches.”
Sophomore Taylor Decker and redshirt sophomore Chase Farris have been battling for the position throughout the spring. Meyer said Decker, who has taken the lion’s share of the first-team reps, is actually ahead of where Reid Fragel was this time last year.
It’s not easy, however, to make the kind of jump Fragel did from the end of spring practice to the start of the season.
“In spring ball, you're trying to win a spot,” Meyer added.
“During the fall, we're trying to win games.”
With that in mind, there will be a lot of young guys out there trying to win a spot on Saturday.
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