COLUMBUS, Ohio — With spring practice nearing, opportunity is in the air for Ohio State football players.
The Buckeyes are coming off a season in which they went 11-2 and made the College Football Playoff. However, a 31-0 shutout loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl left the program with some big questions to answer. Improvements need to be made, but Ohio State has the roster and the coach in Urban Meyer to make it happen.
Spring practice lasts for fewer than two months, but it’s still the first big opportunity for players to position themselves for the fall. Over a six-week period, questions will begin to be answered. How will the offense change under new coordinator Kevin Wilson? Will the deep passing game improve? How will the offensive line shake out? With so little set in stone, there’s plenty at stake.
Here are five players who stand to gain the most from spring practice.
Barrett won’t be fighting for his job, but this season has big implications for his Ohio State legacy. What he’s already done is unquestionable, and he’s among the most accomplished quarterbacks in program history. However, he’s in a position where he could achieve things that put the questions to rest.
Normally Barrett’s primary spring objective heading into his final season would be simply not getting hurt. However, the arrival of Wilson changes things. Barrett will spend this spring working with Wilson and new quarterbacks coach Ryan Day to prepare for what could be a really special season. How quickly he can adapt to what they want him to do could position him for incredible success.
Burrow won’t be taking away the starting job from Barrett. However, this spring represents his best chance to position himself to take over for Barrett. Fellow backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins came on strong last season in bowl practice. Based on what was said at the end of the season, Haskins could be equal to Burrow if not ahead.
Burrow had a really strong spring last year. It’s been forgotten a bit, but he also outdueled Barrett in the spring game. If he can replicate that showing while splitting reps, he could put himself in position to become the 2018 starting quarterback.
Running back Mike Weber recently issued a ringing endorsement.
Joe Burrow is the Next Tom Brady and y'all don't even know it ??♂️
— Mike Weber (@mikeweberjr) February 6, 2017
Okudah is just a true freshman, but everything he wants is right in front of him. A 5-star cornerback, he’s walking into a situation where both starting corners are off to the NFL. Junior Denzel Ward is a sure bet for one of those positions, but the other is wide open. Even if he doesn’t win that, he’s likely to see the field as a nickel back or via rotation as a backup cornerback.
Okudah is one of the most polished recruits Meyer has landed during his time at Ohio State. The fact that he’s arriving as an early enrollee and with a cleared-out depth chart puts him in excellent position to succeed.
Pridgeon arrived at Ohio State in 2016 with a ton of hype as one of the top junior college players in the country. However, he sustained a knee injury in fall camp that cost him the season. That injury handed the right tackle spot to Isaiah Prince, who struggled with consistency.
Heading into this year’s spring practice, Pridgeon is healthy and ready to go. He could challenge Prince at right tackle and at least push the junior for that job. If that doesn’t work out, he’s versatile enough to play right guard, the only spot on the line without a returning starter. (Last year’s right guard, Billy Price, is moving to center, the spot vacated by lone senior Pat Elflein.) What will be interesting to see is where Pridgeon first gets a shot — guard or tackle. Either way, he’ll have a chance to lock down a spot.
After a back-and-forth about whether he’d redshirt last fall, Victor finally saw the field early in conference play. He didn’t disappoint. In a crowded receivers room, Victor finished last year with four catches for 64 yards and a touchdown. When he did see the field, he showed off athleticism that was largely missing from that position group as a whole.
With a full offseason to continue adding size and strength, Victor looks poised for a breakout campaign. He’s the deep threat Ohio State has been missing, and he could replace Noah Brown as the team’s de facto red zone target. Now that Wilson’s running the offense, Victor should be excited about what that change could mean for him.