COLUMBUS, Ohio — The weather complied long enough to let Ohio State and Urban Meyer get exactly what they wanted to end spring.
The Buckeyes drew a big crowd at the Horseshoe. The quarterback battle got another relevant data point. A bunch of touted recruits got a taste of the experience on campus. And camp ended without any significant injuries heading into the offseason.
Officially it will go down as a 37-14 win for Team Gray. But as always, the real winner once again was Meyer in an afternoon exhibition that truthfully didn’t reveal all that much — even for those scrutinized quarterbacks.
So, what can be learned from Saturday’s limited contact scrimmage?
Ohio State’s quarterback battle really is close
There has been no reason to doubt Meyer when he’s assessed the race to take over the most important position on the roster as too close to call this spring. Now there’s even more evidence to support that claim heading into an intriguing offseason — and potentially into training camp. If Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins both weren’t viable options for the job, there would have been no reason for Meyer to set up the format the way he did. But he wound up pitting the starting offense and defense against each other and splitting snaps between his top-two candidates, even subbing them out for each other in the middle of drives. Burrow has a decision to make about his future still, but he looked more than capable of leading the Buckeyes back to a Big Ten title — and Haskins wasn’t too shabby either.
Thayer Munford is making a move
A switch to the left side may or may not be permanent, but it feels safe at this point to write the sophomore tackle’s name into the starting lineup in pen. The Buckeyes showed off a lineup early in the afternoon that included Isaiah Prince back at his familiar spot on the right instead of where he had been expected to move throughout spring camp, which might be a product of the continued emergence of Munford. Either way, the future is looking even brighter for the physically gifted blocker, and the Buckeyes should be in good shape either way after Prince’s strong campaign last season.
Ohio State’s defensive line is scary
Saturday was Chase Young’s birthday, and the sophomore defensive end celebrated by feasting on the offensive line. He had a first-quarter sack and a couple more plays where he held up because of no-contact rules went uncredited. Additionally, Nick Bosa showcased the same explosiveness that helped him win Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2017.
The Ohio State backfield looks deeper than ever
While the focus was on the quarterbacks, the Ohio State running backs also had themselves a day. Mike Weber’s first and only touch of the game went 63 yards and would have been a score if not for the no tackling format. With Weber and J.K. Dobbins resting up, freshman Master Teague received the majority of the carries and played well, scoring a touchdown. Antonio Williams, who has had an impressive spring, also found the end zone.
Sean Nuernberger can hit from deep
In 2017, kicker Sean Nuernberger made 17 of 21 field goals and set a Big Ten career record for consecutive extra points made. It’s worth noting, however, that Ohio State’s recent distance problems continued in 2017. The Buckeyes didn’t convert a field goal longer than 40 yards in 2015 and made just 1 that eclipsed 40 yards in 2016, when Tyler Durbin made a 45-yarder. Nuernberger made just 1 of 4 attempts from 40 or more yards in 2017, knocking in a 44-yarder against Michigan but missing from 43 against Michigan and Wisconsin. An attempt from 47 yards was also blocked against Maryland.
In the spring game, Nuernberger showed he has the potential to knock them in from deep. Though just one counted in the game, Nuernberger hit four consecutive field goals in the first quarter. The last two attempts game from 47 and 52 yards and easily sailed through the uprights.