COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State has had a number of players star in its spring games in recent years, but doing so is far from a guarantee of future stardom.
For every Johnnie Dixon, whose 2017 spring game performance hinted at a sign of things to come, there’s a Torrance Gibson, who in 2016 caught 2 touchdown passes in the spring game but ultimately never played a regular-season snap at Ohio State.
What follows is a look at past spring game stars in the Urban Meyer era and whether they lived up to any expectations they set in those games.
In 2017, Dixon caught 6 passes for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was the first time in his Ohio State career that he was truly healthy, and he delivered. It turned out to be a sign of things to come, as Dixon led the Buckeyes with 8 touchdown catches in 2017, finishing with 18 catches for 422 yards.
Quarterback Joe Burrow has starred in back-to-back spring games. In 2016, he outdueled J.T. Barrett by throwing for 196 yards and 3 touchdown passes in a winning performance. One year later, Burrow completed 14 of 22 passes for 262 yards and 3 touchdowns in another spring game victory. Despite those performances, Dwayne Haskins passed Burrow for the backup quarterback role in 2017 and entered the Michigan game when J.T. Barrett sustained a knee injury.
Torrance Gibson was on the receiving end of 2 of those Burrow touchdown passes in 2016, setting the Ohio State fan base abuzz. The electric wide receiver appeared poised for big things but was suspended by the university that fall and ultimately transferred without ever having appeared in a game for the Buckeyes.
As an early enrollee linebacker, Nick Conner led all defenders with 7 tackles in the 2015 spring game, including a tackle for loss. For good measure, he added a pass breakup and an interception. However, knee injuries limited him to just 1 game in three seasons, and he was medically disqualified following the 2017 season.
Noah Spence’s talent was evident when he racked up 3 sacks in the 2013 spring game. He continued that into the fall, producing 8 sacks and 14½ tackles for loss in a standout sophomore season. His year ended with a drug suspension, though, and he eventually was banned from Big Ten competition before finishing his career at FCS program Eastern Kentucky.
It didn’t come immediately, but Michael Thomas’ 2012 spring game showing foreshadowed his decorated career. In 2012, Thomas caught 12 passes for 131 yards, accounting for half of Braxton Miller’s 24 completions. He finished the 2012 season with just 3 catches and redshirted in 2013 because of accountability concerns from the coaching staff. He made his final two seasons count, though, by leading the team in receptions with 54 catches in 2014 and 56 in 2015.