April 14, 2013

What we learned in the Ohio State spring game

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CINCINNATI, Ohio -- With Ohio State's spring game in the books, it won't be for another four months that we'll get another look at the Buckeyes' football team before the start of the 2013 season. With that in mind, here's a look at 10 things we learned in OSU's exhibition in Cincinnati yesterday, as spring practice came to a close with a 31-14 Scarlet victory.

Hard work pays off

Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller spent the offseason focusing on improving his passing mechanics, and his efforts were evident on Saturday. The Buckeyes signal-caller completed 16 of 25 pass attempts for 217 yards, including two touchdown tosses.

As he was last year, Miller is expected to not only be a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2013, but the focal point of the OSU offense. And should his performance on Saturday- which included completions of 49 and 42 yards- carry over into the season, the Buckeyes should be in good shape in Urban Meyer's second season in Columbus.

Adolphus Washington is legit

For the first time in 28 years, the Buckeyes are replacing all four starters on their defensive line, but after Saturday, that seems like the least of their worries.

Playing in front of a hometown crowd in Cincinnati, Washington stole the show, recording four sacks from his new position at strong-side defensive end. The versatile defensive lineman showed plenty of promise as a key cog in Ohio State's front-four, although admittedly, he had some help.

As is Noah Spence

That help came in the form of Spence, a former five star recruit who recorded three sacks of his own while playing opposite Washington at the Buckeyes' LEO/Viper position. The Harrisburg, Pa. native has had a dominant spring, and capped it off with an impressive performance on Saturday.

Plain and simple, should Washington and Spence's efforts carry over into the regular season, success won't be hard for the Buckeyes to find in 2013. Meyer's teams at Florida always strived on a strong defensive line, and for the second consecutive season he appears to possess one in Columbus.

Right tackle still an issue

While the defensive line's success was encouraging for Ohio State, it came at the expense of the Buckeyes' offensive line. Neither Jack Mewhort or Corey Linsley played on Saturday, yet issues still arose on a unit that will return four starters and helped pave the way for the Buckeyes to possess the nation's No. 10 rushing offense in 2012.

Specifically, Ohio State's right tackle position remains a concern. That's the one position that will hold a new starter in 2013, and Meyer and offensive line coach Ed Warinner are still determining whether Taylor Decker or Chase Farris will replace Reid Fragel. After 15 spring practices, Decker appears to hold a slight lead, although neither player should have his name written in ink in the starting lineup just yet.

Grant's a starter

As it did last year, the coaching staff has been touting the emergence of Curtis Grant, although this year, the middle linebacker's play has backed up his coaches' words.

The junior-to-be recorded a team-high 10 tackles and a sack on Saturday, in an effort that was enough to solidify himself as the Buckeyes' starter heading into fall camp. As Ohio State attempts to replace six players in its front-seven, Grant's play will be vital in steadying the Buckeyes' defense.

Grant's a starter

No, this isn't a mistake, as another Grant helped solidify his status as a starter in 2013.

Junior-to-be Doran Grant had an impressive spring, and has been penciled in as the starter at cornerback opposite Bradley Roby. The Akron native had his moments, but was inconsistent in 2012, but the fact that he took a hold of his position battle this spring is a promising sign for the OSU secondary heading into fall camp.

Michael Thomas, spring game superstar

It wasn't quite the 12-catch outing that gave in last season's spring game, but Thomas was again one of more Ohio State's impressive offensive players, recording seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.

Despite his showing, Meyer admitted that he'd like to see more consistency from the sophomore-to-be in 2013. The OSU coach said that it's undeniable that Thomas is capable of making outstanding plays, but needs to become a more reliable player to become a regular option in the Buckeyes' offense.

Fields is ahead

One wideout who did catch Meyer's eye as a starter this spring was Chris Fields. Meyer named the senior-to-be a starter, after he filled in for an injured Jordan Hall in the Buckeyes' slot position.

For what has been an unremarkable career thus far in Columbus, Fields' emergence this spring has been an encouraging sign for his final season at Ohio State. Expected to play four or five wideouts at a time, the Buckeyes will need plenty of wide receivers this season, and adding another option in Fields can only be viewed as a positive.

Punting problems on the horizon

One area that remains a concern for the Buckeyes after spring practice is that of punter. After Johnny Townsend de-committed from Ohio State on National Signing Day, the Buckeyes are down to kicker Drew Basil and wideout Frank Epitropoulos as their options at the position.

Basil handled punting duties for both teams on Saturday, recording three kicks for an average of 34 yards, with just one landing inside of the 20-yard line. After the game, Meyer admitted he has some worries about the Buckeyes' punt game, which behind right tackle remains Ohio State's top question mark heading into 2013.

Miller and Kenny Guiton better stay healthy

While both Miller and his backup Guiton performed admirably on Saturday, Ohio State's No. 3 quarterback, Cardale Jones didn't fair quite as well.

The redshirt freshman completed just 7 of 16 pass attempts for 65 yards, and was also responsible for two fumbles on Saturday. Jones isn't expected to play any significant snaps in 2013, but in a spread offense that relies so much on the quarterback, it's not a stretch to think that the OSU coaching staff was hoping for a better outing from Jones on Saturday.


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