Spring practice is now wrapped up for the Ohio State football team. With Saturday’s spring game in the books, we begin our long, dark journey into the ether of waiting for football season to get here.
But before we go gentle into that good night, let’s at least talk a bit about what we saw from the Buckeyes on Saturday. More specifically, let’s talk about what we learned in our first decent glimpse at the 2018 Ohio State Buckeyes.
1. Joe Burrow should be the starter.
Joe Burrow was in control the entire game. He completed 15-of-22 passes for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Dwayne Haskins is supposed to be the truest passer of the quarterbacks and Burrow is supposed to be the happy medium between Haskins and Tate Martell. Burrow was certainly happy on Saturday, but his performance was anything but medium. You saw him throw the deep ball well — he completed three passes of 30+ yards. Add in his ability to run the ball, and he can take the Ohio State offense to heights it has never seen.
2. Dwayne Haskins should be the starter.
Dwayne Haskins is the best football thrower on the team. If the Ohio State quarterback is truly a distributor, nobody else can distribute the way Haskins does. He stretches the field in every direction, and further than anybody else. Haskins didn’t have the best day on Saturday, but he has already earned the confidence of his teammates. He continues to show that he is worthy of both their trust and this job.
3. Tate Martell needs to play.
Tate Martell only completed 5-of-16 passes for 28 yards, but he did have some drops mixed in. Where he was most effective was running the ball, which is how he is going to get on the field this season. Martell carried the ball 10 times for 74 yards and a touchdown. The impressive part about those stats is that any touch from a defender counted as a tackle. Martell showed a J.K. Dobbins-like ability to make defenders miss. When the regular season rolls around, it’s difficult to imagine the Buckeyes not having room to get a handful of snaps for Martell each week.
4. Sean Nuernberger concluded a strong spring.
Sean Nuernberger had a very good spring kicking the ball. Urban Meyer made him the lone kicker on placements and made sophomore Blake Haubeil the lone kickoff specialist. This continued focus paid off throughout the spring and finished well on Saturday when Nuernberger was perfect on kicks from 40, 42, 47, and 52 yards. The NCAA’s new kickoff rule has put some confusion in Ohio State’s special teams moving forward, but at least the placements look like they’ll be okay.
5. There are a lot of cornerbacks on this team.
After the game, Urban Meyer said the Buckeyes had a solid three-man rotation at cornerback with Kendall Sheffield, Damon Arnette, and Jeff Okudah. Throughout the spring game, however, sophomore Marcus Williamson showed a physicality to his game that would fit right in. Redshirt freshman Shaun Wade also had a nice diving interception. The freshmen didn’t look out of place either. Given the play of Williamson and Wade, it wasn’t a surprise when Meyer said afterward that a fourth corner might make it into the rotation.
6. The deepest position on the team may be H-back.
Ohio State was without two if its top three H-backs from last year as K.J. Hill recovers from shoulder surgery and C.J. Saunders was held out with a believed-to-be minor leg injury. No worries, however, as Parris Campbell and Demario McCall proved dynamic enough for everyone. Campbell only played a limited number of snaps, but showed the speed that he has become known for. McCall, meanwhile, split time on both teams and caught 11 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns. While we have seen the H-backs utilized well on crossing routes, where they have struggled is on the deep passes. Surprisingly, for being at H-back for about five months, McCall looked good on the deep balls, catching a pair. He was targeted 26 times in this game according to the box score, so that’s 15 times he and the QB came up empty. Further examination will have to figure out why that was. Regardless, McCall sure looked comfortable making life uncomfortable for the Ohio State secondary. Oh, and let’s go ahead and stop with the Spring Game Curse talk. Plenty of players have had great spring games and then contributed significantly that season. It’s not like winning the Par 3 tournament at the Masters.
7. Master Teague is going to be good.
It is silly to get too excited about a running back’s performance when half of the game is two-hand touch, but doesn’t it also say something that he was able to find his way so deep into the Ohio State defense before being touched? Master Teague rushed for 73 yards on 14 carries, and had it not been for the early whistles he would have done much better. Teague did most of his damage against the perceived second-team defense, but he left me wanting to see a whole lot more. You could tell he wanted to do more as well, but those early whistles kept him reigned in. I don’t know where the carries will come from this season, but it has to be a comforting thought for Tony Alford to know who he’s got waiting in the wings.
8. The inconsistent hands were consistent.
Parris Campbell and Binjimen Victor have been criticized in the past for their inconsistency in catching the football. On Saturday, however, they were both very consistent. Campbell caught all four passes thrown to him, and Victor came away with five of the seven thrown in his direction. One of those two that got away was actually caught by Victor near the goal line, but the pass took him out of bounds. The other incompletion was thrown over his head and uncatchable. One spring game doesn’t prove much, nor does one actual game. The key to losing the inconsistent label is to do it over a long stretch of time. Perhaps this was the beginning of that stretch. If it is, look out.
9. Nothing was settled at linebacker.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said after the game that even though there are a bunch of questions about the linebackers, he still feels as though this is a position of depth for the Buckeyes. Which means that the coaches believe they have a whole bunch of something, rather than a whole bunch of nothing. Neither Schiano, Urban Meyer, or linebackers coach Bill Davis has voiced any concern about the position. On Saturday, there were bright spots throughout, but it wasn’t all fantastic. The raw talent is certainly there, but a top three has yet to emerge. But as Schiano told me after the game, nobody says you can only play three linebackers in a game.
10. Nothing was settled at boundary safety.
Now we move to a position of concern for the Buckeyes. The OSU defensive staff — as well as Urban Meyer — has been waiting for a boundary safety to step forward, but it hasn’t happened yet. Sophomore Isaiah Pryor seems to be the guy the coaches would like to step forward — or perhaps he is the guy with the slimmest of leads right now. Redshirt sophomore Jahsen Wint and sophomore Brendon White are the other two competing for the job. When true freshman Josh Proctor gets to town this summer, he could also factor in. Wint led all players with 11 tackles on the day — which was more than twice what anybody else had. Pryor, meanwhile, led the Scarlet with four solo tackles. This competition will continue into the fall. Schiano did say after the game that he believes they do have options who will be ready when the season gets here.