Now that we know the Ohio State spring game is officially going to happen on Saturday, it’s time to talk about what we’re looking forward to seeing. We talked about it for a good hour on Accost the Field this week, but since not everybody is the listenin’ type, I thought I’d break a few of the areas down that I’ll be watching.
I will warn you, however, that you should not expect to see many starters for too long. Some stars may not even suit up.
Other than that, though, it should be a fun, wet time for a little while.
So with all of that out of the way, what am I watching for in the Ohio State spring game?
1. Let’s see Tate Martell in his natural habitat.
I mentioned this on the podcast, but I’d love to see redshirt freshman quarterback Tate Martell on the field without the protection of the black jersey. I don’t expect that to happen, but I’d still like to see it. As co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said, Martell’s ability to scramble punishes a secondary for having good coverage. While it probably won’t happen, it would be fun to see. Even in the black jersey, however, we should still get to see plenty of Martell in this game — and plenty of him on the move.
2. Who shines at middle linebacker?
I’m not sure if we could possibly talk about the middle linebacker competition between Justin Hilliard and Baron Browning more than we already have. After Saturday, however, we’ll be able to draw our own conclusions and won’t have to wait for the coaches to tell us what’s actually going on! In last year’s spring game, Hilliard had some fantastic moments. I wouldn’t be surprised if he replicates a few of those plays as he makes one final claim this spring to be the man in the middle for the Buckeyes. Meanwhile, this is the final opportunity this spring for Browning to display his confidence and consistency.
3. Can the offensive tackles hold up?
While we may not see much of Nick Bosa at defensive end on Saturday, we should get a good look at sophomore Chase Young and junior Jonathon Cooper. Both will be in the rotation this season, and in the spring game they’ll likely be going up against some semblance of sophomore Thayer Munford, fourth-year junior Joshua Alabi, and true freshman Max Wray at offensive tackle. Can the inexperienced pass blockers hold their own against a defensive front that knows the pass is coming? And also keep an eye on fourth-year junior Jashon Cornell as he transitions from defensive tackle to defensive end.
4. Is it Dwayne Haskins or Joe Burrow?
I can only assume that Urban Meyer has held off on naming a starter until he gets the go-ahead from the fans and the media, so you’ll want to pay particularly close attention to how quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins and Joe Burrow look. Last year, both of them impressed, but neither of them has felt anything like the pressure they are about to feel on Saturday. Fortunately, we have all seen Haskins respond in lesser situations, so you would like to think it could also project to a spring game in a drizzle.
5. Young receivers vs. young defensive backs.
I’m not sure how much the veteran receivers will play, but we should get at least a look from juniors Austin Mack and Binjmen Victor. We will also get our first extended look at sophomore Jaylen Harris and redshirt freshman Ellijah Gardiner. I’ll be watching to see how each of these pass catchers do against a young Ohio State secondary. Not only will the Buckeyes have two freshman cornerbacks out there, but they’ll have a handful of unproven second-year players as well. How does sophomore boundary safety Isaiah Pryor look against the deep ball? Will sophomores Jahsen Wint or Brendon White look more comfortable back there than Pryor? Does redshirt freshman cornerback Shaun Wade look like he could fit into the rotation? Is sophomore Amir Riep taking to safety? How effective does sophomore cornerback Marcus Williamson look in the nickel?
Bonus: Luke Farrell
Urban Meyer said this week that redshirt sophomore Luke Farrell has moved to the top of the depth chart at tight end, and we all know that the spring is when we see passes to the tight end.
Bonus: Demario McCall
Demario McCall is finally healthy and Urban Meyer has promised us good things when we finally see McCall at 100%. I don’t know if that pertains to spring games in the rain, however.