10 Things We Learned

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Last updated: 04/13/2014 10:42 AM
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Football
10 Things We Learned in the Spring Game

By Patrick Murphy

On a beautiful 70 degree day, the Ohio State Buckeyes took to the field for their annual Scarlet and Gray game. It was not the prettiest football ever played at Ohio Stadium – as many of the recognized names sat out the contest – but fans got a chance to enjoy the Scarlet and Gray.

After an early fumble recovery in the end zone for the Scarlet team, the Gray never looked back, responding with a field goal before two short rushing touchdowns.

It was an opportunity for players to demonstrate their ability in a game-like atmosphere and possibly leave their mark as spring concludes.

Here are 10 things we learned in this glorified practice.

1) This is not the 2013 pass defense

Fans have been waiting eagerly to see how the defense would change under new Co-Defensive Coordinator Chris Ash and today was their first chance. What was noticeable was much more aggressive play from the defensive backs. If you were looking for more press coverage, you saw it on Saturday, as the Buckeye corners were often on the line of scrimmage looking to jam receivers and play physical. Neither quarterback completed more than 50% of his passes nor threw for a touchdown. The defensive backs were looking back for the ball while in coverage, which was an issue last fall.

2. Urban Meyer has a backup quarterback

Although neither had a high completion percentage, both quarterbacks showed promise. At points in the game they both stood in the pocket and made throws down the field. J.T. Barrett had a solid first half, completing 15-27 passes for 112 yards. He showed the mobility necessary to play in an Urban Meyer offense as well. After some first half jitters, Cardale Jones began to go through his progressions, throwing the ball to his third or fourth option more than once. Remember, these quarterbacks are both backups and therefore will not be perfect, but both showed improvement from the reps they received in the spring.

3. There is serious depth along the defensive line

The four anticipated starters on the defensive line did not play, but you may not have noticed. The players out there had their name called frequently, as they created issues all day. Senior Rashad Frazier’s early sack, forced fumble anf fumble recovery for a touch on the Gray’s opening drive set the tone early and it carried throughout. Redshirt freshman Tyquan Lewis finished the game with two sacks and five total tackles. Players like Chris Carter, Micahel Hill, and Steve Miller all made plays on the day as well. Urban Meyer has put a premium on the defensive line and fans are beginning to see the results.

4. The offensive line is slowly coming together

The coaches have a job to do replacing four starters from last year’s offensive line, but they are on their way. Urban Meyer said after the game that the line has a ways to go, but that is expected this early on. Meyer wants perfection and the line was far from that, but they did give the quarterbacks time to make decisions. Five total sacks were given up by the lines on either side, but that will happen when going against the Buckeyes’ defensive front.

5. Tight ends were disappointing

There continues to be talk about the improvement of the tight end position, but it was not evident in this game. Without starter Jeff Heuerman, Nick Vannett and Marcus Baugh got plenty of reps but were substandard. The first half saw multiple drops from the position, even when the quarterbacks put the ball on the money. Vannett finished with four receptions for 35 yards, but dropped a touchdown catch when he was wide open in the back of the end zone in the first half. Baugh dropped an easy catch early and finished with just one reception for the game. He also missed a crucial block on fourth and goal as the Scarlet was looking to score.

6. Cameron Johnston is building on a good freshman season

Johnston demonstrated his leg last season, but the coaches wanted more touch from their punter. The Australian demonstrated this on the first punt of the game, dropping a 41-yard punt to the Gray two yard line to setup the opening score. Johnston, who punted for both teams, averaged 46 yards per punt, including two 54 yarders when needed.

7. The kicking game doesn’t seem to be much of a race

The talk in the kicking game heading into the game was that fifth year senior Kyle Clinton was the more accurate of the two, while freshman Sean Nuernberger had the bigger leg. It appeared in this game that Nuernberger not only had power but also had accuracy. Meyer had both kickers take attempts on every try and backed them up to see their range. Nuernberger made a 52 yarder into the wind while Clinton’s was short and wide right. Both players made their kicks from 47 yards, but Clinton’s struggled to get over the cross bar, while Nuernberger’s went through easily.

8. Michael Thomas and Corey Smith highlighted the receivers

Two players who did not play in 2013 were on display to begin 2014. Michael Thomas finished the game with six receptions for 64 yards and demonstrated ability to catch the ball in multiple ways. He has the hands and the athletic ability to be a top receiver, but it is yet to come together for him at Ohio State just yet. Smith was a JUCO transfer last year and many believe he has a bright future. Cardale Jones looked for him deep several times and although they didn’t connect there, Smith finished with five catches for 72 yards. Both players left a good taste in the coaches’ mouths but need to demonstrate consistency going forward.

9. Chris Worley is a name you should remember

If you didn’t hear it enough during the game, I’ll say it again, Chris Worley. The linebacker’s spring was not as hyped as Darron Lee, but he was everywhere during the Spring Game. Worley finished with nine total tackles, six solo, and one tackle for a loss, but was consistently making plays at the “walk-out” linebacker position. Look for him to battle with Lee heading into the fall for the starting spot.

10, There are still lots of questions around this team

With so many players sitting out, not a lot was answered in the Spring Game. It was a good opportunity to see some younger players but those likely aren’t the guys fans will see on Saturdays in the fall. Meyer said after the game that he was evaluating individual players and not so much a team concept due to the absences and the team’s split. Come fall, more things will fit into place and this team should begin to look like their 2014 selves.

 

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