COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State kicks off spring practice on Tuesday afternoon, and with a new year comes new questions. The Buckeye offense is coming off of record-breaking season in a number of categories, and even with a large number of losses, the expectations are going to be high.
Five Questions Facing the Buckeye Offense This Spring
By Tony Gerdeman
Whether or not those expectations are met will depend somewhat on how the spring goes. Urban Meyer will want more questions answered than raised over the next five weeks or so, and if that happens, it will be a productive spring. If it doesn't happen, we'll have even more questions to ask come this fall.
With that in mind, here are five questions the Buckeye offense will be looking to answer this spring.
1. How much will Braxton Miller play?
Miller had "minor, outpatient surgery" on his throwing shoulder two weeks ago and according to Ohio State, "he will be limited in his activities throughout spring drills." That could very well mean his limitations will make him almost non-existent throughout practice. While that is not an ideal situation, expect Tom Herman to make the most of it with a very interesting quarterback competition to back Miller up. Cardale Jones may get the first crack, but J.T. Barrett will be right there as well. Freshman Stephen Collier might be the biggest beneficiary because his snaps would have likely been very limited without Miller's injury.
2. Can the offensive line hold up?
If you want a pre-spring prediction, it's that the early reports from the first few practices will induce a panic among Buckeye fans when they hear about how the offensive line is struggling in drills. One of the more entertaining parts of practice to watch is the one-on-one pass rushing drills, and it's always one of the drills that we report on. If Vegas was to put odds on how things are going to go this spring, the defensive line would be the heavy favorite. The offensive line is expected to struggle, but the key will be for them to improve and struggle a little less each successive day. If they do get manhandled throughout the spring, just remember that OSU's defensive line is expected to be pretty good.
3. Will the young receivers make plays?
There is pressure on the Ohio State receiving corps to make more of an impact this year because last year was a bit of a disappointment. There will be plenty of snaps to go around as receivers coach Zach Smith looks for playmakers, and he doesn't care who that may be. Age won't matter because the Buckeyes need pass catchers, and if that happens to be a first or second-year player, then don't expect anybody to bat an eye. That being said, we still have to see it happen. Players like Johnnie Dixon and Jalin Marshall have a ton of potential, and if they want to move up on the depth chart, the time to do it is now.
4. Did the year off help anybody?
One definite area to watch will be players like Bri'onte Dunn and Michael Thomas who redshirted as sophomores after playing as freshmen. Will their respective position coaches see what they didn't see last year? Has the year off produced the desired outcome? Surely those players will be excited to get back to fighting for a spot, which they haven't really been doing for a while now. How will they respond? Thomas has looked good in the spring before, but it hasn't been enough. Will we see even more from him this time around? The same goes for Dunn. Will he finally be able to distance himself from any of the other tailbacks on the roster?
5. Is the power running game still a go?
While the plan on offense is to definitely keep the power running game going, actually making it happen is another thing altogether. Breaking in a new offensive line is usually not the way to go about establishing a running game, especially when you might also be breaking in a new quarterback. Will the offensive linemen be able to get to a second block when called upon? Or will they be tied up by the front four? The running backs on the roster should be good enough to find the holes, but will there be any holes to find? If the holes aren't plentiful, is this where a guy like Rod Smith can make his mark by making his own?
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