April 12, 2013

Five players to watch in spring game

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Saturday's spring game in Cincinnati will mark Ohio State's 15th and final practice of the offseason, before the Buckeyes take a break from official football activities until August's fall camp. With that in mind, here's a look at the top players to keep an eye on in tomorrow's exhibition as Ohio State prepares for its second season under head coach Urban Meyer.

Braxton Miller, QB, 6-2, 215, Jr.

The 2012 Heisman Trophy candidate will be wearing a black no-contact jersey to prevent a potential season-altering injury from happening, but he'll still play a vital role in Saturday's activities. Meyer has vowed that the Buckeyes will be throwing early and often in Saturday's exhibition, in an attempt to improve a passing offense that ranked 105th in the country in 2012.

A dynamic runner, Miller has spent the offseason attempting to improve his throwing mechanics, and even spent a portion of his winter break training with noted quarterbacks "guru" George Whitfield, Jr. in San Diego, Calif. The junior-to-be might not be full-go on Saturday, but how he throws the ball could be telling of the type of passing attack OSU will possess in 2013.

Noah Spence, DE, 6-3, 247, So.

For the first time in 28 years, the Buckeyes will be replacing all four starters across their defensive line. That doesn't mean that this years line will necessarily be any better or any worse than last year's version, although it certainly will be different.

Ohio State's revamped front-four starts with Spence, a former five-star recruit who saw limited playing time in his freshman season. The Harrisburg, Pa. native has looked absolutely dominant through the first 14 practices of the spring, and a good showing on Saturday would cap off what has been perhaps the most impressive spring of any Buckeye this offseason.

Taylor Decker, RT, 6-7, 315, So.

While Ohio State loses just two starters on offense from its 2012 squad, one of the vital positions that must be filled is the void that Reid Fragel is leaving at right tackle. Heading into Saturday's exhibition, the competition for Fragel's vacancy has come down to a pair of sophomores in Taylor Decker and Chase Farris.

Decker appears to have been given every opportunity to win the starting spot, although he hasn't taken ahold of the position as the Buckeyes coaching staff hoped he would have. A big spring game on Saturday could position him as OSU's No. 1 right tackle heading into fall camp, although this battle will likely carry over into the final weeks of the offseason

Curtis Grant, MLB, 6-3, 241, Jr.

For the second consecutive season, the former five-star prospect is hoping that this will be his breakout season. After entering last year as the Buckeyes' starting middle linebacker, Grant fell out favor coaching staff, and as a result, playing time dwindled throughout the 2012 season.

Grant is back in the starting lineup, and according to Meyer, this time he is fully engaged. Whether or not that will carry over into a successful season this time remains to be seen, but a quality showing on Saturday could be a positive sign of things to come from the junior-to-be.

Doran Grant, CB, 5-11, 191, Jr.

In Grant's lone game as a starter in 2012, the then-sophomore excelled, recording seven tackles, one sack, and recovering two turnovers in the Buckeyes' Sept. 22 win over UAB. Everything after that, however, could be described as inconsistent, as Ohio State mainly relied on Bradley Roby and Travis Howard to play the majority of its snaps at corner.

With Howard out of eligibility, Grant is the next man up on the Buckeyes' depth chart. Through spring practice thus far, he's battled with sophomore Armani Reeves for the right to start opposite Roby, and with Roby not expected to play in Saturday's game, Grant will have the opportunity to show we he can do as the team's top corner.


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