Spring game confirms some things, leaves other things unanswered

COLUMBUS – The Buckeyes returned to Ohio Stadium today to play the annual spring game. The format of the game made i tnot so much a game but more of a game-like environment to get players competitive reps.

The team accomplished their two main goals.  They got the reps they wanted and they did it with no injuries. That makes the day a win.

For fans, however, the spring game is a bit different. For them it is a glimpse at the evolution of the team and a preview of what might be on the field next fall.

Tackling was not allowed in this year’s format. That made evaluation of certain position groups difficult if not impossible. Not known is whether the defense was limited to certain defenses, whether blitzing was limited, etc.  Given all those caveats, here are the-Ozone’s quick impressions of the topics of interest.

Quarterbacks: Coach Day has been consistent in saying it is still a three-man race for the quarterback spot. The game today did little dispell that notion.  All three scholarship QBs got significant reps and all three had their good moments and bad moments.  While it looks like the race is not yet decided, what did show through is that there is legitimate talent at the position. The passing game was the strength of the day, but on a day when tackling was not required the running game was handicapped.  Any contact with a running back killed the play, so the bast way to move the ball was through the air. All three quarterbacks had their fair share of good decisions and good throws. All three also had their share of misfireds common to young playerrs.

Receivers: The hype has been that this position is loaded. Lets got one thing clear right away. It isn’t hype. It’s fact.  Returning upper classmen Chris Olave, Jamison Williams and Garrett Wilson are back and better than ever. Second-year player Jackson Smigh-Njigba sparkled as well. What was a little fuzzy was just how good the highly-touted incoming freshmen are. After seeing them in this game the answer is “As advertised.” Emeka Egbuka was touted as the best receiver in his class and he looked like it. The only doubt that might creep into that ovservation is that fellow freshman wide receiver Marvin Harrison appears to be much, much better than he was projected to be by the recruiting services, and Harrison may be every bit as good as Egbuka. Both got open and caught the ball consistently. Egbuka is really, really good. Harrison may be just as good. Fellow freshman Jayden Ballard didn’t get the targets that the other two got but was effective when he was targetted.

Running backs: Incumbent starter Master Teague did not play while recovering from injury. That freed up reps for younger players.  We got our first real glimpse of a healthy Marcus Crowley and he was impressive. He is very quick and is also an effective receiver out of the backfield. Miyan Williams picked up where he left of last season after a very good freshman year. Incoming freshman TreyVon Henderson showed quickness and the ability to be involved in the passing game as a receiver. The lack of tackling did not allow the running backs to showcase themselves, but they all looked very competent runing the football.

Offensive line: The O-Line was missing two starters but still performed well. The got push in the running game and moved the line of scrimmage to make room for running backs. For the most part they protected the quarterbacks well but did have trouble blocking freshman defensive end Jack Sawyer. More on that later.

Overall the offense looked very good in this controlled environment. The QB position will be a work in progresss if for no other reason than the youth at the position, and that could cause some hiccups particularly early in the season, but it w as pretty clear that the Buckeyes are going to be able to score some points this year.

Defense: The defense is the side of the ball with the most question marks this year. Last year’s pass defense was one of the worst in the Big-10 and there much focus on whether or not that can be fixed this year. This game did not provide much insight. The defense did come up with a couple of turnovers but the OSU offense was able to move the ball against them fairly consistently. The defense was, however, missing several key players at cornerback and linebacker, and it’s not known just how handicapped the defense was in terms of scheme.  On the plus side there were several new faces that stood out defensively. Freshman defefensive end Jack Sawyer recorded three sacks, forced a fumble and also batted down a pass. He appeared at times unblockable and will be a force to be reconned with.  Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg also made some very good plays in pass coverage. He registered at least two pass breakups while defending tight ends.

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