COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State opened spring practice with plenty of questions and a number of position battles needing to be resolved. With the spring game scheduled for Saturday, it’s a chance for players to put their best foot forward in front of the Ohio State coaching staff and 80,000 Buckeyes fans.
Here are five things for Ohio State fans to watch when the Buckeyes scrimmage on Saturday.
Heading into the spring game, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said none of the quarterbacks battling to replace J.T. Barrett has gained true separation. Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell will each enter the spring game with a chance to take control of the competition.
“All three are close,” Meyer said. “There are times you wish they would separate. … Some decisions are going to have to be made. But right now I can’t name a No. 1. I can’t even name a No. 3.”
Meyer is confident that by the time September rolls around any one of the three would be able to start if needed. But more time is needed for that to be the case.
“You have to go through summer training and training camp and all that,” Meyer said. “But with the proper development, yes.”
For now, though, the spring game offers a chance for a quarterback to take control of the battle and try to hold on to a lead.
Ohio State may very well have an emerging superstar with wide receiver Austin Mack. In his second year in Columbus, his 24 catches for 343 yards in 2017 were better than the combined second-year numbers put up by Ohio State receivers Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, Johnnie Dixon and K.J. Hill.
“People lose sight of the fact that he was a true sophomore,” wide receiver coach Zach Smith said. “He had a really good year for a true sophomore. Now it’s time to have a big-time junior year. This has got to be a big step in his career. From what I’ve seen in two days, it looks like he’s trying to make that step. I expect him to be one of the best in the country. That’s what he has to be. He’s taking steps to do that.”
It also doesn’t hurt if Mack ends up catching passes from Haskins, his roommate and good friend from the Class of 2016.
Offensive line combinations
There’s not always a lot to gain from offensive line play in scrimmages, where depth concerns force coaches to put players out of position or in ineffective combinations. But Ohio State has players who can play either center or guard and players who can play either guard or tackle, making for a lot of possibilities.
“I think that’s the really cool thing we have going right now,” said center Brady Taylor. “Everyone is so competitive and everyone can play a lot of positions. It makes everyone step up their game every day because they know that there are spots on the table to be had.
“[The coaches] can plug and chug everywhere, and in the end I think it’s going to be the best five that play. It makes it really competitive and fun.”
With guards Michael Jordan and Branden Bowen out because of injury and left tackle Isaiah Prince not expected to play much because of his veteran status, there should be ample opportunities for young players to try to make their mark.
Demario McCall returns
At the start of spring practice, Meyer had some interesting things to say about Ohio State fan favorite Demario McCall.
“I want him to be our returner — kick and punt returner,” Meyer said. “And he’s training as if that’s the position. So he’s watching videotape. He’s training. He’s doing it no different than if he’s starting corner or starting receiver.”
McCall ended up taking a medical redshirt in 2017 because of a groin injury, keeping him from following up on an impressive showing in 2016 as a freshman. Now he’ll get a chance to show what he can do, both on offense and as a special teams speed demon.
Above all else, the most important thing to watch on Saturday is whether the game will be played at all. Ohio State announced Friday it was moving up kickoff time two hours, but it’s possible that it could still be delayed or rained out. The good news for Ohio State fans is that while bags are not allowed in Ohio Stadium, umbrellas and ponchos are.