COLUMBUS, Ohio — Spring weather still hasn’t arrived at Ohio State and spring camp is almost over.
Of course, that doesn’t really matter much to Urban Meyer when he’s got an indoor practice field to work with as the Buckeyes lay the foundation to defend their Big Ten Championship. Although, it certainly would be nice for Mother Nature to comply in time for the Scarlet and Gray exhibition matchup Saturday at the Horseshoe.
Either way, Ohio State is hitting the homestretch before that long offseason slog in the summer, and the closing scrimmage could be fascinating for a number of reasons. At the top of that list, obviously, will be the quarterbacks. And that’s also the top question that remains unanswered with just a couple more days in pads before they’re put away until training camp.
1. Where do quarterbacks stand?
Dwayne Haskins entered camp as the presumptive favorite to win the team’s most important starting job, and any betting odds will still likely tip him as the leading candidate. But Joe Burrow has put up an impressive challenge and could make the decision more difficult, particularly since Ohio State will need to make some sort of call to be fair to a guy who has the ability to graduate and transfer.
Tate Martell certainly looks like he will be contributing in some capacity, and he can’t exactly be ruled out of the race to win the full-time job either — even if he’s lagging behind in terms of experience. The Buckeyes need some clarity, and the spring game will be the last chance to make an impression before some serious discussions play out in the quarterback room.
2. Who will be protecting Ohio State’s next quarterback?
Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff have consistently tried to downplay the importance of the quarterback battle this spring since they are comfortable with any of the three leading the offense. But when it comes to blocking for one of those passers or opening holes for a talented backfield, the Buckeyes have made it no secret that they’re spending more time worrying about finding the right combination of offensive linemen and settling on a starting center.
That spot in the middle is one of the most intriguing competitions on the roster, and Brady Taylor will again be under the microscope as spring comes to a close.
3. Can Buckeyes take step forward at linebacker?
A solid foundation for the linebackers was in place with Tuf Borland cemented in the middle, which gave the Buckeyes a solid signal caller on defense and allowed them to be flexible while building around him on the outside. That plan is on hold now until at least September thanks to Borland’s Achilles injury, which at this point leaves Ohio State in need of three new starters.
Considering some of the inconsistency last season even with veterans playing linebacker, that might seem like a daunting challenge for linebackers coach Bill Davis. But the Buckeyes have recruited much better over the last few years at that position and have talent and depth on hand, which suggests improvement is coming even with Borland on the shelf.
4. Is there somebody who can spark special teams?
Considering the vast collection of game-breaking weapons Ohio State has at its disposal, it’s a bit puzzling that it’s really struggled recently to generate yardage in the return game. It’s even weirder considering how much emphasis Meyer has always put on special teams, but it looks as if he’s intent on solving that issue this spring.
Ohio State already considered roles in the kicking game as starting jobs that needed to be won, but designating a full-time returner and focusing more energy on the nuances of that position might just be a solution. And it also could wind up being the perfect way to deploy a speedy, elusive talent such as Demario McCall.
5. Where will Ohio State’s leadership come from?
With so many returning veterans, odds are this won’t be a problem for the Buckeyes. But considering the caliber of leaders Ohio State must replace and the respect both inside and outside the locker room that was commanded when guys such as Billy Price or J.T. Barrett spoke, there clearly is a void that must be addressed. Nick Bosa has made it a goal to become more of a vocal leader, and his work ethic and production already carry a lot of weight with the Buckeyes. Wide receivers Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin have long been pointed to as helping change the culture at Ohio State for the positive as well.
But who else is ready to become a captain? With players helping set the tempo and expectations for summer workouts, the Buckeyes will need some new leaders to emerge.