Another Ohio State spring game has come and gone, which means there are sweeping judgments to pass upon everyone and everything.
This must be how mothers-in-law feel.
The Gray Buckeyes put it on the Scarlet squad, running away with a 35-17 win.
We saw Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin compete on the field in front of a crowd for the first time, but they were hardly the entire story. We still learned some things about them, but we learned plenty of other things as well.
1. The Buckeyes will be okay with either quarterback.
I’ve seen enough of Ryan Day to know that he’ll have the Buckeyes just fine at quarterback. And sure, the two quarterbacks he’s had previously have arguably been the two best in Ohio State history, but Day should receive some credit for that, right? Last April, neither Dwayne Haskins or Joe Burrow were the players they ended up being in September, and the same will hold true for Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin. There is plenty of room for growth, but both have been hand-picked by Day to lead his offense.
2. Maybe the safeties are deeper than I thought.
Jahsen Wint is the No. 2 at Bullet behind Brendon White, but that position also requires some safety play. Wint’s two interceptions came when he was at safety. The other interception on the day came from backup strong safety Amir Riep. Riep had an outstanding day and provided a shadow to Jaelen Gill in coverage throughout the game. Early in the first quarter, two deep shots were thrown to Jaelen Gill and both times Riep was running step for step in coverage. Josh Proctor was with the twos as well. The way all three “backups” played, it looks like that group is deeper than I expected. The style of defense likely helps as well. I would have liked to have seen more from Proctor and Isaiah Pryor at free safety in the deep game, but their inability to affect those passes appeared to be outstanding design by the offense.
3. Jaelen Gill will have a sizable role this year.
I’ve been on the Jaelen Gill bandwagon since his Westerville days, but it was good to see him targeted 12 times in the spring game. He ended up catching seven passes for 95 yards and did a nice job of taking advantage of the defense. With Parris Campbell gone, Gill is the only H-back on the roster that can do what he did. And he’s already ahead of Campbell as a receiver at the same stage. The passing game won’t be as prolific this season as it was last year, but Gill could very well lead the team in receiving yards just like Campbell did a year ago.
4. The linebackers will be involved in the passing game.
We saw Malik Harrison nearly intercept a pass on Saturday as he dropped back in a zone. I wouldn’t expect that to be an unusual sight for the linebackers this season. They have been part of the pass defense over the middle all spring long, and that’s not just the Bullets. It would not be a surprise to see one of the inside linebackers lead the team in interceptions this season. They have been impressive against the pass throughout camp.
5. Javontae Jean-Baptiste is going to push for time.
Based on experience, Javontae Jean-Baptiste would be the No. 5 defensive end on the team behind starters Chase Young and Jonathon Cooper, and sophomores Tyreke Smith and Tyler Friday. As Larry Johnson has said many times, however, if a guy shows he can play, then he needs to get some snaps. At the Friday practice a week and a half ago, Jean-Baptiste was active in the backfield, and again on Saturday he came away with six tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. He will push Friday and Smith for time, but he’ll also be pushed by true freshmen Noah Potter and Zach Harrison.
6. The linebackers are more active in pursuit.
Maybe this is just in my mind, but it feels like by asking the linebackers to do less, they are able to do more. When they were tasked with assisting the defensive line last year, they were taken out of the play time and time again. When they were allowed to play further back, there were times when they were slowed down by the processes of elimination that they all had to go through. Now, with a shorter checklist, they can begin the processes sooner. They are now more capable of chasing the play to the sideline without the ball carrier turning the corner. Limiting the home runs is a focal point for the defense this year and the linebackers are going to be key in making that happen.
7. Jahsen Wint has found a home.
You remember the home renovation show that used to be on TV where they’d send the family away for a week and then they’d fix the house up and when the family got home they’d block the view of the house with a giant bus and then yell, “Move that bus!” and reveal the house to the overwhelmed and thankful family? It’s like secondary coaches Jeff Hafley and Matt Barnes, along with Bullet coach Greg Mattison, all spent time renovating Jahsen Wint and then on Saturday, they yelled, “Move that bus!” and Buckeye fans got to see the new and improved Jahsen Wint. While Jordan Fuller said the Bullet was a fitting position for Wint, his biggest plays came while he was at safety and making plays on the football. He struggled in that area last year, but looked remarkably comfortable doing it on Saturday.
8. Zone 6 is going to be just fine.
Losing Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, and Johnnie Dixon could devastate most teams, but the Buckeyes still have a host of playmakers returning, and we didn’t even see Chris Olave or Jaylen Harris on Saturday. The four seniors of Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack, KJ Hill, and CJ Saunders will provide tremendous leadership, and the youngsters like Olave, Harris, Garrett Wilson, and Jaelen Gill will pitch in with some big plays throughout the season. Brian Hartline has proven himself so far, but now he has to get young guys ready and not just veterans. Doubt him at your own risk.
9. The running backs are going to be fun to watch.
It’s too bad Demario McCall wasn’t able to practice this spring because of a calf injury, or you’d be really high on these backs. I understand if maybe your opinion of JK Dobbins has dropped, but the Buckeyes have some options this year if he suffers through another down season. I’m not one of those people expecting a 2018 season from Dobbins. Marcus Crowley and Master Teague both run the ball hard, which is going to allow them to bust some big runs as they break through tackles. All of them will be used in the passing game. This is a deeper group than it was last year, which will create more competition and conceivably a better product. Having the threat of the quarterback run is going to be a huge help as well.
10. A downfield attack with the H-backs would be welcome.
The downfield passing game has been a topic for years, and we didn’t really see it as much as we thought we would with Dwayne Haskins. The spring game passing attack is never an accurate portrayal of what the season will look like, however, it was noteworthy to me that the quarterbacks were going deep to the H-backs. Those guys are usually defended by safeties, which can give an offense an advantage. They didn’t connect on many of those pass attempts, but if they can incorporate the deep stuff to the H-backs this season, that would be an exciting addition for this offense.