COLUMBUS, Ohio — While we are always warned not to make too much of any one spring practice or spring game, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be at least a little prepared for what you are about to see.
Five for Friday: What to Watch For in Saturday's OSU Spring Game
By Tony Gerdeman
Even if it is relatively meaningless, that doesn't mean we shouldn't make an effort to be ready you for the last college football game you will see for the next four-and-a-half months. It is, after all, just about the least we can do.
And as you know by know, doing the least we can do is what I do best.
So with the Spring Game just a day away, here are a handful of things that you should be keeping your eyes on.
1. Sam linebackers Darron Lee and Chris Worley's usage in the defense.
Darron Lee and Chris Worley both play the "walk-out" linebacker position, and will frequently be matched up against slot receivers. In Lee's case, that means Dontre Wilson. Both linebackers have been quite successful in defending the quick screen passes that damaged the Buckeye defense a time or 20 a year ago. Urban Meyer expects them to continue doing that on Saturday.
2. The aggressiveness of the cornerbacks.
The largest part of the improved defending of the quick passes is due to the cornerbacks playing exclusively press man this spring. The cushion is essentially gone right now. They are getting their hands on the receivers and running stride for stride. They are also more than willing to lay a hit on somebody. This has been perhaps the most impressive position group of the spring. They have taken to the new defense quite well. All four scholarship cornerbacks have shown that they deserve to see the field.
3. The speed and quickness of the tailbacks.
The Scarlet team has the two fastest and quickest of the tailbacks in Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel. They have been dynamic all spring long, and they are both capable of breaking a long one in front of the 50,000 or so in attendance on Saturday. Funnily enough, Gray team tailbacks Bri'onte Dunn and Warren Ball have each broken runs of 70+ yards this spring, so let's not pretend that they are the lumberers of the group.
4. The maturity of Dontre Wilson.
Both Zach Smith and Urban Meyer have said that Dontre Wilson is the most consistent receiver on the team, which should tell you all you need to know about the amount of improvement that Wilson has made since last season. When the Gray team is in their base defense, watch for Wilson to be heavily, heavily involved.
5. How Raekwon McMillan handles his duties as a starter.
Raekwon McMillan is the lone middle linebacker on the Gray squad, so you will get to see an awful lot of the heralded freshman. While Curtis Grant and Camren Williams are splitting reps on the other side, McMillan won't have to sidestep for anybody. This will probably be the most action he has seen in a practice this spring.
Bonus: The arm of Cardale Jones.
It is huge. It would fit under the category of "cannon" more than "rifle", because rifles are more accurate than cannons. He has had issues with the ball sailing on him, though Tom Herman has attributed it nerves. Will those nerves raise up again on Saturday in Ohio Stadium?
Bonus: The demeanor of J.T. Barrett
J.T. Barrett is supposed to be the calm leader between the two quarterbacks, so keep an eye on his demeanor as the game goes on. Does his confidence grow with production? Does it hold steady with struggles? Will his teammates rally around him as they have with Kenny Guiton in previous editions of the Spring Game?
Bonus: The playmakers at receiver.
This really should be a showcase for players like Corey Smith, Michael Thomas and Johnnie Dixon. If Smith closes spring football like he opened it, don't be surprised if Buckeye fans leave Ohio Stadium talking about the redshirt junior from Akron all summer long.
Bonus: The man-to-man coverage of the safeties.
The Buckeye safeties will find themselves in man-to-man coverage quite a bit on Saturday, which has not always been a good sight to see for OSU fans. Now, however, with former cornerbacks Tyvis Powell and Cameron Burrows manning the starting positions, the coverage should be improved somewhat. That hasn't always been the case this spring, especially against Dontre Wilson. Also watch the tight ends, as they have had some very nice moments this spring.
Bonus: The kicking game.
Placekickers Kyle Clinton and Sean Nuernberger are battling for the starting job and nobody has won it yet. A strong showing in the Spring Game is exactly what Meyer is looking for from his kickers. Will the accuracy that has been missing finally show up?
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