Looking Forward to Spring

By Jake on March 30, 2011 at 1:00p
27 Comments
There's nothing quite like spring on a college campusDon't worry everyone, March is almost over

Buckeye fans spent most of March dodging firebombs and chugging pepto bismol like a frat-bro on his first natty light. While we had the success of the Basketball team to distract us for most of the month, that went unceremoniously out the window once Buford clanged a 3 with no time left. It wasn't his fault. The whole team left them in that position by playing down the whole game. Nevertheless, with Basketball season officially over for Ohio State, it's finally time to start focusing on what really matters: studying for the LSAT. (Also football) Spring ball is set to get underway, complete with stuffy noses, itchy eyes, and fluff pieces on ESPN.

The football season really starts in April, when the seniors have played there last game and all of the redshirts and underclassmen get another chance to show the coaches what they can do. While the Spring Game is largely a show for the fans, spring ball is extremely important in setting the tone for the involuntary voluntary workouts during the summer, and the momentum a player generates with a good showing early in the year can carry forward into fall. 

Of course, every year there seems to be a couple players who impress the hell out of everyone in April, only to dissappear off the map by September. Taurian Washington was the standard bearer for the Spring Warrior the last few years, barely seeing the field despite very impressive performances early in the year, and copious praise from the coaching staff. So who is the real deal, and who is a flash in the pan? Who knows? But here are the areas to keep an eye on over the next month.

The offense

Were it not for The Event, the offense would be returning almost entirely intact. We lose 3 1/2 starters; 2 lineman, a wideout, and a co-starter at halfback. Unfortunately, for the first part of the season we'll be watching an almost entirely new offense. 

If Braxton Miller were a tank, he'd be a Panther.Help us Braxton Miller, you're our only hope!

Quarterback

Terrelle Pryor has had a controversial career and is constantly criticized for failing to live up to expectations. Of course, when those expectations involve winning three heismans while bringing peace in Israel, it's hard to blame him for that. That said, his off-the-field conduct has put Ohio State in a serious bind. Rather than a grizzled 3-year veteran with defensive end size and wide-receiver speed, we'll have to choose from one of the four backups.

In keeping with Ohio State tradition, we have two slow, white QBs with howitzer arms, and two swift, black QBs who can keep the play alive. Kenny Guiton and Taylor Graham are likely not in the running for the starting job, despite Guiton's impressive display last spring (see Taurian Washington-syndrome). The real Zwick-Smith/Boeckman-Pryor battle will feature wunderkind Braxton Miller and veteran Joe Bauserman. 

I'm sure we're all well aquainted with Bauserman, the football team's 4th quarter hand-off expert. If Bauserman gets the nod, it's because Bollman isn't comfortable giving the reins to a true freshman (see Boeckman in 2008). Miller is a speedy, tall, smart kid with a rocket arm. He was injured during his senior year, but he was widely recognized as the top dual-threat quarterback in the country. Braxton entered school early this year and will be practicing with the team this spring.

Braxton Miller is taller, faster, and has far more upside passing the ball. If Bollman goes with Bauserman, it will be out of an excess of caution. Even with all of the suspensions, we should be favored in every matchup except possibly Nebraska. Whether Miller or Bauserman gets the start will tell us whether the staff is going for broke, or just trying to keep their heads above water.

Offensive Line

No unit on offense sees more attrition than the Oline, but that's probably because the Oline makes up half the team on the field. In any case, for the first five games, at least, the line will be breaking in three new starters. Justin Boren takes his mean mug and deliciously double-crossing dalliance to the NFL along with fellow hopeful Bryant Browning. Mike Adams, the perennial underachiever who finally broke through over the second half of last year, sits out with the rest of the Tat-5. 

Taken together, this makes the O-line the shallowest group on offense. While 2010 saw an embarassment of riches jockeying for playing time up front, with no less than eight Rivals 4/5 star players and thirteen total linemen, this season sees only nine lineman on the roster (including longsnappers). Luckily, most of those eight 4/5 stars remain a part of the nine linemen this season. Of the two returning starters, Brewster, as we all know, is possibly the best center in the nation, while J.B. Schugarts has been solid-if-unspectacular at RT. Adams, when he returns, will look to continue to develop as a dominating presence on the money-side.

The two question marks are at the guard spots, with Adams' backup at tackle likely transitioning to guard when the big man comes back. The two most likely candidates for those spots are Andrew Norwell and Marcus Hall. Both players were supposed to back J.B. Schugarts at RT, with Marcus Hall looking like he might even press Schugarts or Adams for time. Unfortunately, academics threw a curveball at his no-doubt massive head, so he'll be spending this spring getting back in football form. Thus, Norwell is the most likely candidate to spell Adams through Nebraska, and he's a shoe-in for the RG spot once Adams comes back. 

This spring, pay attention to the battle at LT, because if Hall wins the job, we could be looking at an even better line this year than last. Keep an eye on Corey Linsley and Jack Mewhort as well, while they jockey for the other starting guard position.

Receivers

As thin as we are on the offensive line, at least they'll have a couple veterans to help along the newbies. With "The Great" Dane Sanzenbacher scrapping and moxying his way to the NFL and Devier Posey sporting a few ill-gotten tattoos, the wide receiver position will be completely new for the first five weeks of the season. Unfortunately, our offense last year rarely utilized a third option at wide-receiver, so the backups didn't get nearly as much experience as they would have in previous years.

Luckily, the backups are overflowing with talent. Corey Brown and Chris Fields didn't get much thrown their way, hauling in a collective 10 catches for 105 yards and 1 touchdown, but they showed loads of potential last spring and there's little doubt that they will get the starting nods. One interesting possibility at wide receiver lies in Ty Williams, a redshirt freshman from Cleveland variously listed at 6'5" or 6'7". With a plethora of speedy wideouts at their disposal, the Buckeyes could look to Ty to provide a threat to come down with the jump ball. While it won't necessarily be noticable from the couch, the biggest story may be how new WR Coach Stan Drayton adjusts to the job.

As for the tight ends, not much will change. Stoneburner will occupy the Dallas Clarke role of receiver tight end while Fregel will be used primarily in blocking situations.

Runningbacks

If there's one name that Buckeye fans have been whispering to each other in rapturous glee over, it's been Jamaal Berry. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry in limited action last season, and with Saine graduated, Berry should slide comfortably into the role of the change-of-pace. What will be interesting to watch is the dynamic that develops between Jordan Hall, the scatback, Jamaal Berry, the burner, and Rod Smith, the bruiser. Dick Tressel has an embarassment of riches at his disposal, and if there's any position that will pick up right where 2010 left off, it will be runningback.

We all know Berry and Hall, but Rod Smith is an unknown quanitity. He redshirted last season, but he brings a 6'3" frame and speed to match. He's been compared, physically, to Chris Wells and Eddie George, but he's bigger than both. The question is whether his tall frame prevents him from getting the leverage necessary to push the pile at the college level. We'll get to find out this spring.

Defense

The defense has been positively gutted by graduation, unlike the offense. However, also unlike the offense, the defense was largely spared the hammer. So while the prevailing storylines on the offensive side involve which players will fill the gap until the starters come back online, the defense has serious position battles all over the place.

Johnson and Sabino, they got thisThe future of the back seven?

Defensive Line

You don't just replace Cameron Heyward. You especially don't replace Cameron Heyward when you get dinged by the NCAA for violations, like Solomon Thomas. Largely a ghost for 12 games, he exploded on everyone's radar with a game-sealing interception off of the zone-blitz. Sadly, he won't get the chance to build on that performance, and his presumed starting spot is still in serious jeopardy.

Modern-day Atlas John Simon and DE-LB tweener Nathan Williams will lock down their starting spots, respectively. The other tackle spot, vacated by Dexter Larimore, and Heywards old position will be Garret Goebel and Melvin Fellows' to lose. But it will be a close competition, and with the myriad young guns waiting for a shot, don't be surprised if someone you've never heard of gets the nod in September.

Linebackers

There are few schools that so readily reload star after star at a position than Ohio State at linebacker. Ross Homan and Brian Rolle graduate, but not even the runningbacks can compare to the depth at linebacker. The two most recognizable names might be Etienne Sabino and Dorian Bell, two uber-recruits that have been patiently waiting their turns. While Andrew Sweat will likely keep his current starting position, these two both boast blazing speed and plenty of hype. Not to be forgotten, Storm Klein played sporadically, but ably last season and will certainly be in the mix as well.

The only certainty at linebacker is that the corps will get bigger. Rolle was 5'11" and 220lbs, while Homan was 6'0" and 225, likely the smallest Buckeye linebacking duo in quite a long time. By contrast, Sabino is 6'3" and 240lbs, Storm Klein is 6'2" and 230lbs, and Dorian Bell is roughly Homan's size. If nothing else, our linebackers will look a lot scarier.

Secondary

The secondary is the biggest question mark on the team. Almost every position has holes. The only returning starter is safety Orhian Johnson, who had a relatively quiet season. C.J. Barnett started at safety for the first half of the season before being injured against Miami, so he's the likely starter up top next year too. However, this spring could see a position battle between him and Jamie Wood, the back up last year, or even between Barnett and Johnson. Don't be surprised if the safety spots remain relatively fluid until the season starts.

At corner, the departure of standbys Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence opens the door for the teeing masses. Christian Bryant, Corey Brown, Travis Howard, and even transfer Dionte Allen will all be fighting for a spot. Bryant has the advantage of playing time at the Corner/Linebacker-hybrid Star position, and could end up there again next season, but the outside corners far more important and the staff could move him outside if they feel he's the best available possibility. Corner has also been a spot that the coaching staff has been willing to play freshmen at pretty regularly. Like Defensive End, it's possible that a relative unknown could swoop in and snag a starting position.

27 Comments

Comments

Maestro's picture

Reciever is a big concern.  I look for them to be creative with Jordan Hall and Stoneburner.  Philly is the career leader in receptions with 7 out of the true WR group.  Anyone have Duron Carter on speed dial?  I kid, I kid.

James Louis might make some noise, and I think Evan Spencer will eventually get on the field this coming season.

vacuuming sucks

Chris Lauderback's picture

Agree. I've heard the same about Hall and especially Stoneburner seeing time split wide or in the slot. I think we might see some pretty crazy formations early in the year to get more RB's in the lineup while the receivers sort themselves out. Plus, with an raw (guiton/miller) or janky (bauserman) QB, you know all we are gonna run are short / quick routes with the ultra occassional deep ball on 3rd and 12.

Buckeye in Athens's picture

Or we'll just punt on third and long. 

 

I kid, I kid. Mostly. 

Maestro's picture

What's Verlon Reed up to these days?

vacuuming sucks

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

And what happened to James Jackson? He isn't on the spring game roster.....and Evan Spencer will probably start by the end of the season....

Adolphus Washington is half grizzly bear and half dragon | Noah Spence kills quarterbacks, just to watch them die.

LeeNorthbrook's picture

Where are you seeing a spring roster?

Maestro's picture

I read a while back that he planned to transfer.

vacuuming sucks

gobucks1226's picture

Make no mistake: Tressel will ultimately decides who starts at QB while Pryor is suspended. JT may not be the coach on game day, but he will be involved with all decisions and game planning during the week. All of the QBs will get playing time during the first two games, but I expect Bauserman to be the (safe) choice for Miami.

Unless Guiton takes many leaps and bounds over spring and fall camp, along with his PT in the first two games, it will most likely be Bauserman and OSU playing not to lose.

Olentangy's picture

"Make no mistake: Tressel will ultimately decides who starts at QB while Pryor is suspended. JT may not be the coach on game day, but he will be involved with all decisions and game planning during the week."

 

truly riveting stuff here. you just can't get this kind of information anywhere else.

How firm thy friendship

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Well there goes my appetite for the day. Bauserman wouldn't start on a MAC team IMHO.

Adolphus Washington is half grizzly bear and half dragon | Noah Spence kills quarterbacks, just to watch them die.

Buckeye in Athens's picture

Haha well I don't really have an excuse for that one

costinjr's picture

Bauserman looks like a scared puppy every time he plays. He'll probably start the first two games but look for Miller or Guiton to start against Miami.

Irricoir's picture

You are correct in your assesment of Miller or Guiton for Miami. Ohio State has made it a point to get a mobile quarterback under/behind center when the Offensive Line shows signs of greater deficiency. (Example: Troy Smith over Zwick, and T.P. over Beockman, a sucessful starter the year prior.) With our line being young at that stage in the season, and Miami's Defensive Line being above par, I expect that the Buckeyes will want someone that can extend a play with his legs. Let's face it, we weren't overly succesful against Miami last year on the ground and we will have to be a threat down field to win that game.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

lonedogger's picture

No love for Moeller?  Didn't he get the 6th year back in November?

M Man's picture

I absolutely love Moeller.  A great guy.  One of the most underrated linebackers in the history of football at The Ohio State University.  And hell yeah he deserved a sixth year.

buckeyedude's picture

Bo said he never should have been fired.

 

 

M Man's picture

True story; Gary Moeller's drunken encounter with police officers at a high-end suburban Detroit restaurant (Moeller was never charged with anything other than being disorderly) occurred just as Bo was leaving to go out of town for a speaking engagement.  Bo told Gary to stay quiet until Bo returned.  Again, there were no other charges and no serious charges pending against Moeller.  But then an audio tape of surfaced, of Moeller yelling at police officers.  Nothing that, say, a Harvard University professor might not yell at police officers, and that the President of the United States might then defend.

After the audio tape went on-air, the forgettable Michigan AD at the time asked Moeller to go on a leave of absence, basically to satisfy the demands of the angry press.  Moeller said "No" before anybody could even think about it.  And Michigan promptly let Moeller go; all without Bo's involvement.  Bo was furious.

Gary Moeller is a great lover of OSU tradition, to this day.  He goes to all of the football alumni events.  Not that that ought to surprise anybody.  I'm just glad that he didn't get your HC job in that era.  We'd have about 8 less wins against you.  

Maestro's picture

I think he was talking about Tyler by the way, and he deserves plenty of love.  He will be the leader of the defense this year.

vacuuming sucks

M Man's picture

If you ask me (I don't suppose that you guys really care to ask me), the biggest thing going for you is that Braxton Miller is an early-enrollee.  That's a massive difference for what kind of year he can have. 

In 2009, Tate Forcier was an early enrollee in Ann Arbor, and managed to learn the Rodriguez offense sufficiently well roll up a record of 4-0 as a starting QB, against very similar opposition to that which the Buckeyes face in their first four or five 2011 games.  [The '09 Wolverines beat Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan and Indiana to start the season.  The fifth game was an OT loss to Michigan State, in East Lansing.] 

And let's be very clear; Braxton Miller will have a better team surrounding him, than did Tate Forcier with the '09 Wolverines. There's not even any need to make the argument that Braxton Miller is a superior talent to Tate Forcier; the point is the ability to make a fast start in today's Big Ten Conference. 

And remember, the guy who Tate Forcier relegated to backup with his early start was his fellow freshman (but summer-arrival) Denard Robinson.

costinjr's picture

Agreed, Braxton being an early enrollee is a huge plus. Scouts have said that Miller is a much more polished QB than Terrelle was when he enrolled at Ohio State. If he can get a solid spring practice in, than that's great news for the Buckeyes. However, regardless if a true starter at QB emerges, we still have question marks on who we're throwing to. In the early stages of the year I'd look for Ohio State to rely heavily on the stable of running backs we currently possess, at least until Posey is back or a receiver other than Stoneburner steps up.

Kurt's picture

Yes, but I see a big difference in this comparison is that our offense is far from the read-option of RichRod.  That offense is briliant bc a true frosh can come in and learn how to operate it pretty quickly.  Whereas our multiple/pro-offense is sort of intricate and requires a lot more of a qb, usually more than a true frosh has to offer...and many times even seasoned veterans.

buckeyedude's picture

Forget about more cowlbell (http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/628756/), I'd like to see more Carlos Hyde. Was impressed with him what little he got to play. Could Roderick beat him out for bruiser back? 

 

 

Jake's picture

I think Rod Smith will almost certainly have the edge over Hyde.

Jdadams01's picture

Could Hyde possibly redshirt and put himself in play at fullback? I think he's a great talent, but I just don't see him getting passed hall, berry, or smith. Plus, the 2012 guys coming in. If he worked out as a fullback, we'd be able to have the threat of a handoff to him as well as a potentially devastating lead blocker.

costinjr's picture

I've thought about that possibility. It could be cool but Zach Boren is an absolute beast at FB already. We could maybe see some different formations (dare I say split back?!). To get Hyde in the game. Otherwise I wouldn't be surprised to see him redshirt this season. Out of all the backs I'd put him on transfer watch.