Ten Things We Learned From Ohio State’s 2017 Spring Game

10 Things 2017 Spring Game

People will tell you not to take too much from a spring game, but those people have never had to write about a spring game for a living. I’m here to tell you that we should take as much from a spring game as our collective brains can handle.

For me, I actually had to cut the list of 47 things we learned from Ohio State’s spring game down to 10, which is like trying to teach somebody math and eliminating division and subtraction for the sake of brevity.

Maybe we can cover those other 37 things over the next four months or so instead? Until then, let’s take a look at the measly 10 things we learned this time around.


1. Johnnie Dixon is healthy again and it is very good to see.

The Johnnie Dixon you saw in this game was the polished version of the explosive Johnnie Dixon we saw four years ago in the spring as a true freshman. Saturday was a great cap for a guy who had a very good spring. Injuries have taken his entire career to this point, and even when he’s been healthy, he’s still been slowed by not having enough practice reps to be as comfortable as he should be. On Saturday, however, he looked every bit as comfortable as you would expect from a fourth-year guy. Dixon caught two touchdown passes, but the two receptions here are a much better indication of just how healthy he is right now.

2. Binjimen Victor looks faster than he’s ever been.

Zach Smith told me at the Fiesta Bowl that once Binjimen Victor got stronger, he would also get faster because he would be able to produce more explosion. On the screen pass here, you can see that explosion and ability to get the edge which he never showed last year. Up next for Victor will be to bring down those one-on-one balls that his 6-foot-4 frame calls for.

3. The young corners are still learning, but you can see the improvement in real time.

Urban Meyer mentioned during the postgame that he liked the way his young cornerbacks bounced back after a rough start in the spring game. This was an entirely new experience for each of them, so there was a period of adjustment that they had to go through. This is one of the reasons why Meyer likes the stadium filled to capacity every April. Sure, when they get out there for the first time in a real game, there is going to be plenty of butterflies, but on Saturday he saw that each of his young guys can handle new experiences on the fly and eventually settle down. Though there may still be some celebration issues to iron out.

4. Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins are advanced for non-starters.

Just go back and watch the number of times Joe Burrow or Dwayne Haskins drive a safety with their eyes, or come off of the primary receiver quickly enough to find the secondary guy open and with enough space to do something with the football. Kevin Wilson told me on Saturday that the Buckeyes can win with either of these guys, and the fact that they can already manipulate a defense and not lock onto one receiver is a pretty good indicator of what Wilson is saying. Of course, the pass rush wasn’t as menacing as it will be in the regular season, and it helps to have more than one reliable receiver, but everybody at the WHAC is encouraged by what they saw in this game. Watch Haskins and Burrow both keep the safety away from the play.

5. Justin Hilliard is healthy again and it is very good to see.

Before this spring began, Justin Hilliard wasn’t necessarily a name that people were thinking of just because of his injury history. On Saturday, however, he finished his best spring as a Buckeye, and did it injury free. Having missed his first two seasons due to separate biceps injuries, questions were flying around about Hilliard’s future as a Buckeye. On Saturday, however, it was Hilliard who was doing the flying around.

6. The wheel routes are coming, the wheel routes are coming!

The best play in football appears to maybe finally possibly have a home on the Ohio State sidelines. Urban Meyer always talks about wanting to stretch the field east-west and north-south, and the wheel route does both. With guys like Demario McCall and J.K. Dobbins lining up in the backfield, why not send them out and get them matched up with a linebacker — assuming that linebacker is even paying attention. I’ll also be interested to see the tight ends get involved in this as well.

7. Demario McCall is ready for prime time.

It is difficult for a running back to make much of an impact in Ohio State’s spring game, and so when Demario McCall manages to rush for 83 yards on six carries and catch two passes for 48 yards, that’s sort of significant. The other four running backs combined for 77 yards rushing on 15 carries, in case you were wondering. What McCall showed in the spring is the same thing he showed last year in limited opportunities — the potential for a big play at any moment. He had a 34-yard run and a 40-yard reception, and neither were the result of any trickery. It has never been the big-play potential that has kept him off the field, however, it has been everything else. That “everything else” is finally catching up to the rest of him and he is going to have to be reckoned with by Big Ten defenses this season.

8. The middle of the field is larger than it has ever been.

There have been entire years at Ohio State where the middle of the field did not exist for the Buckeye passing game. There was just too much danger there. Like each hashmark was a landmine and each defender was a posted marksman. On Saturday, however, we saw how Kevin Wilson’s offense treats the middle of the field. The landmines have been removed and the defenders may as well be mall cops. Did you see the way the tight ends would slip in behind a linebacker with complete disregard for his authority? If the pass protection can hold up, there will be some routes over the middle of the field that can be dynamite second options for the quarterbacks.

9. Chris Worley may be unlike any MLB the Buckeyes have had.

The need for a middle linebacker to cover “sideline to sideline” isn’t really a thing since a middle linebacker has never lined up on one sideline and had to run to the other. If there was a middle linebacker who could do that, however, it might be Chris Worley. Not many — if any — middle linebackers in OSU history can cover as much ground as Worley, and it is going to be interesting to see how he is utilized in this defense to showcase his abilities. He can do things that past Mikes couldn’t do. On one series yesterday, he went following a running back in the flats in man coverage. A few plays later he is standing Mike Weber up at the goal line. The versatility is going to be fun to watch.

10. [Obligatory spring football mention of the tight ends.]

Can you even read through rolling eyes? I won’t spend too much time on a subject that you are currently reading about while shaking your head, but this goes with the topics above — the middle of the field is a new world and the tight ends may colonize it. The Buckeyes are deeper than maybe they have ever been at the position, and it’s talented depth, not just “depth depth”. These guys can do something with the football and maybe now they will be playing in an offense that can better utilize their respective skills.