COLUMBUS, Ohio — Assessing Ohio State‘s spring game requires context, given that players from the same team are competing against one another.
Is a big play for the offense a bad sign for the defense? Sometimes, it depends on which players are involved. Ultimately, though, execution trumps all else, which is how we weighed the performances when grading Ohio State’s spring game.
What follows is a look at how Ohio State fared in a number of categories, with grades ranging from 1-5 stars:
Offense (4 stars)
The offense wasn’t perfect, especially in the first quarter. But things got going in the second quarter and didn’t slow down. Joe Burrow played well, completing 15 of 22 passes. Dwayne Haskins hit some home-run throws, and Tate Martell put his elusiveness on display. Other than the first few series of the game, it was an encouraging display from the Ohio State offense — and it may have been better if not for rules that allowed defenders to get stops without tackling.
Defense (3 stars)
It’s hard to judge the defense because it’s easier to get stops when offensive playmakers don’t have to be tackled. Of course, it was also harder for the defensive line to record sacks because they weren’t allowed to come in full-steam at the quarterbacks. Overall, though, this format seems to favor defenders and there were plenty of touchdowns over the final three quarters.
The defensive line is going to be a monster, but the secondary has work to do to get to an acceptable level of play.
Special teams (4 stars)
There’s not a ton of special teams action that occurs in the spring game every year, especially with kickoffs out of the equation. With that being said, there was a lot to like from Ohio State in that department on Saturday. Kicker Sean Nuernberger drilled 4 field goals during a practice period in the first quarter, including kicks from 47 and 52 yards. All four had plenty of distance and looked good off Nuernberger’s foot. It was also a bright spot to see Demario McCall returning punts. While he didn’t get a chance to return any, he should be a weapon this fall if he wins that role.
The one real knock on this unit was Drue Chrisman, who averaged just 37 yards per punt on 4 attempts. That’s a small sample size, though, and Chrisman has shown over his career that his punts are nothing to worry about.
Coaching (4 stars)
Let’s be clear: the no-tackling thing with the starters was weird. It almost didn’t look like football out there, and it probably had an effect on the defense (as mentioned above). With that being said, Ohio State finished spring in great shape from a health standpoint. What would the reaction have been if a starter suffered a concussion or some other sort of contact injury? Obviously being that cautious is no way to practice every day, but with 14 practices already in the books, exercising restraint was the prudent move.
Overall (4 stars)
Overall, there was a lot to like about this game for Ohio State fans. Big players made plays, including all three quarterbacks at various points. Whoever wins that job should have Buckeyes fans feeling good about that position. Running back Mike Weber got loose for a huge run. The defensive line — especially ends Nick Bosa and Chase Young — look like they’ll be impossible to stop.
The format wasn’t always conducive to an enjoyable viewing experience, but Ohio State will exit the spring happy and healthy and that’s what coaches are most looking for in a spring game.