Five Things: Spring Game

By Chris Lauderback on April 14, 2013 at 10:02a
47 Comments

The transition from winter to spring is a catalyst for optimism on many levels. The weather that keeps us predominantly indoors begins to improve, paving the way for things like weekend tee times, drinks on patios, sundress season, and of course, an Ohio State spring game that gives us just enough to keep talking about football until pads start to pop in August. 

The man with the plan

This year, I didn't feel as much hype surrounding spring drills. The newness of Urban has had some time to settle, the basketball team's run gave us something else to pay attention to and staging the scrimmage in Cincy seemed to calm the buzz inside the C-Bus outerbelt just a bit. 

But then the game kicked off and we remembered just how lucky we are to pull for an elite program oozing with talent. 

When the gun sounded, the Scarlet team beat the Gray to the tune of 31-14 but the score is meaningless unless you're a member of the Gray team and you aren't particularly a fan of gardening. 

For the rest of us, the scrimmage provided an exciting glimpse of what's to come this fall. With that, I give you the first Five Things of the 2013 season, one that could prove even more special than what we got in 2012. 

BRAX ON BRAX ON BRAX

Sporting a no-contact jersey that makes him half the player he truly is, Braxton Miller still showed why he's a front-runner for the Heisman.  

While completing 64% of your passes is nothing to sneeze at, that number was hampered by Miller's adjustment to the scrimmage rules in that he often scrambled only to buy more time to throw and potentially force something or create a jump ball situation, just because he couldn't be as effective as usual in chewing up rushing yards off designed pass plays under the two-hand touch rule. His stat line was solid as he completed 16 of 25 passes for 217 yards and a pair of scores along with another touchdown on the ground, but those numbers could've been outrageous if defenders were forced to tackle him.  

As a result, he threw at least four passes that he otherwise would've tucked and ran – for huge yardage. Also, to his credit, he had three throwaways after going through his progressions only to discover nobody was open. 

I'm no Whitfield but Miller's feet looked calm in the pocket, his general mechanics looked fluid and he simply looked more comfortable in his knowledge of the offense and what he wanted to do with the ball. I thought his accuracy, especially on timing or catch-and-run type routes was strong. He hit receivers in the numbers on a couple crossing routes, allowing them to maintain full momentum and outrun linebackers to the sidelines. He looked sharp in the short passing game, leading running backs and receivers toward the hole created in the defense. 

Beyond the physical, he seemed to be more vocal than last year. I saw him in the ear of receivers after plays and on the sidelines, he did a lot of talking to his line. As great a player as he is, he hasn't been touted as an amazing leader by Urban but this looks like the year in which Miller takes that part of his game to the next level. 

Throw in his increased mental maturity with his freakish skills and I'm ready to proclaim him as the favorite to capture the Stiff Arm Trophy. 

THE GLARING WEAKNESS

While it was fun watching Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington put on an impressive pass-rushing display, allaying some concerns about how the defensive line will perform this season with the departures of John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Garrett Goebel and Nathan Williams, it was also scary to see how big of a hole the team has at right tackle. 

Decker struggled but fared better than Farris yesterday

It's been a hot topic all spring so it isn't exactly new news, but at times, it was tough to watch Taylor Decker and Chase Farris try to fill Reid Fragel's shoes. 

I guess I should first say that I'm confident one of these guys will improve tremendously from April to September – and beyond – but if they don't, Braxton will need a timer in his head as he scans the field on designed passing plays. 

With both Decker and Farris needing snaps, Urban opted to play them both with Decker seeing a lot of time at left tackle in place of Jack Mewhort while Farris took most of his snaps at right tackle. 

Neither player had a good day but I thought Decker was significantly better than Farris especially in the first half. Farris was beaten on the same speed rush off the edge multiple times and never really seemed to make any adjustments. At this point, I expect Decker to earn the starting job but improvement is mandatory or else we might see another midseason position shakeup like last season when Zach Boren moved from fullback to linebacker to help a thin and ineffective corps. 

It's obviously a long shot but if one of those two doesn't turn the corner, I could see someone like Andrew Norwell moving to the outside and shifting Decker to guard, where he would be bookended by proven guys in Mewhort and Corey Linsley. 

Bottom line, Ohio State will have to get better at right tackle in order to run the table. 

FIELDS MAKING HIS MOVE

I found it interesting that Urban went out of his way to praise Chris Fields, even proclaiming him a starter at one of the receiver spots.

Fields earned Urban's praise but Thomas looked good too

Fields, a senior out of Painesville, was solid but far from spectacular yesterday, hauling in four passes for 29 yards and a score. That said, he's had a good spring overall but I was still a little surprised at Urban's comments. 

He's got the edge on experience and he must be showing a better ability to effectively block downfield because I don't see him as a playmaker on par with a guy like Michael Thomas or even maybe Evan Spencer.

As a result, I wonder if Urban isn't just playing one of his textbook psychological games, building the confidence of Fields while sending a message to Thomas and Spencer that more focus on the little things is required. Looking at their respective bodies of work, I'd have Thomas ahead of Fields in the rotation. 

Thomas looked good yesterday with seven grabs for 79 yards and a score and again showed a knack for racking up yards after the catch, something I haven't seem much of from Fields. Further, I think it's evident Thomas has the higher ceiling and will very likely be an all-conference performer down the line.  

Just something to keep an eye on because with Thomas, Spencer and the host of pass catchers arriving in Columbus come fall, I have a hard time believing Fields will start all season long or be a top-three receiver in catches and yards. I'm not knocking of the kid – he's paid his dues and made some timely plays in the past. I just don't know that I see him as one of Ohio State's best receivers as the season begins to unfold. 

ELI'S COMING

It might be hard for the true freshman from New Jersey to earn snaps in the secondary this season but Eli Apple is going to be a player for the Bullets sometime down the line. 

The early enrollee made his share of mistakes but what was fun to watch was how he responded each time. 

He missed a tackle on the second play of the Gray squad's second possession, then responded with solid coverage to force an incompletion on the next snap.

A few plays later, he got beat by Thomas, allowing to break free for a 31-yard gain but four plays later, he broke up a pass in the end zone, showing excellent coverage and ball skills. 

Early in the 2nd half, he showed great speed as he came on a corner blitz, blasting Cardale Jones and causing a fumble. 

Again matched up with Thomas, this time on Gray's third possession of the 2nd half, Apple made another great play in the end zone to thwart a touchdown. 

Listed at 6'1", 188 lbs, you have to like this kid's size and of all the young guys, he caught my eye the most. Knowing he's also a first-class guy, Ohio State might have a future star on their hands in Eli Apple. 

AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES

Ohio State didn't even dress their top two tailbacks and had their main hybrid guy do nothing but field punts; it is abundantly clear this squad is loaded with guys who can do damage out of the backfield. 

Dunn showed great hands and is a demon in space

Specifically, Bri'onte Dunn was incredibly impressive. Knowing it will be difficult to earn carries with Carlos Hyde and seemingly Rod Smith ahead of him in the tailback rotation, at least at this point, Dunn isn't settling for third string. 

Clearly, nobody is taking Hyde's spot but I do think Dunn can earn some time and I liked how he was used yesterday. The kid has a great set of hands and he can be a legitimate weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. Yesterday, Dunn caught five passes for 61 yards and scared the hell of defenders in the secondary. 

At 6'0", 220 lbs, he was able to catch multiple balls and get a full head of steam upon reaching the second level of the defense, where guys were seemingly doing all they could to avoid a head-on collision. 

Hopefully, if Dunn remains parked at third string, Meyer can give him enough touches to keep him engaged because he's another guy that could be a heavy lifter for the offense in the coming years. 

47 Comments

Comments

AJW_16's picture

The RB depth is pretty redonkulous this year, especially when you consider the guys we have coming in at the fall. Agree with you on the right tackle discussion - may be an area of concern.

"Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you." 

Hovenaut's picture

Nice post Chris. Agree with all points, I was a little concerned to hear Brax still holding the ball but I'll take that in consideration the run game was minimal yesterday.

Hoping Decker locks down (and solidifies) the RT spot. Optimistic in the fact he was close to beating out Fragel last year, so the ability is there.

If I'm a QB in the B1G not playing in Columbus, I'd start getting concerned about Spence and Washington.

Not shocked but surprised to read Meyer declaring Fields a starter.....have to think he's still sharing minutes with the younger guys regardless.

Pleased with Dunn and Ball, thought they were both effective in the touches they got.

A final note for Curtis Grant, glad he's stepping up.

I am not the Last Dragon, therefore I do not possess the power of the Glow.

blazers34's picture

Fields is only a junior? Man, seems like that guy has been here forever. Glad he's doing well

Chris Lauderback's picture

He's a senior. Typo. Thanks for catching.

BuckeyeNationProblems's picture

Noah Damn Spence, welcome to Ohio State. 

Matt

FitzBuck's picture

Unleash the Kraken!!!!
try saying  it every time Spence is in the backfield....it's fun. 

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

BuckeyeNationProblems's picture

Eli Apple is significantly bigger than when he came to osu. He looked tall, lengthy and I wasn't sure he had the frame to put on much muscle mass out of high school. I suppose there's a reason marrioti is strength coach, and not me. 
Welcome young man.  

Matt

steensn's picture

Just imagine when he gets around 200-210lbs. He'll be able to jam the big WRs at the line and the cover them downfield.

Buckeyejason's picture

I dont see him getting any heavier than about 200 lbs. most of our guys in the past that were his height went about 195-200

BUCKEYES BABY!

steensn's picture

Most elite guys are around 200, but some get bigger. Didn't want to limit him....

osubuckeye4life's picture

Another guy that looked pretty stout was Armani Reeves.  Coach Micks conditioning program is paying dividends.

avail31678's picture

How about Michael Thomas?  I swear he was a twig in last year's spring game.  I'm curious what his weight was then and is now...someone do the leg work for me!  ;-)
Seriously, though, I swear Mike Thomas bulked up a bit.
Agreed with all the others...a lot of guys have gotten bigger.  Dare I say it - this team is looking more and more like a Bama team - big, ripped, yet lean and fast at the same time.  IT's a good time to be a Buckeye.

IBleedSandG's picture

I was thinking the same thing when I saw the pic of him in this article. He's definitely added some muscle.

"You pick up the rifle and go as hard as you can possibly go."
-UFM

otrain2416's picture

I don't think the guys competing for the RT position are that bad more that our DEs are THAT GOOD.

rdubs's picture

The RT spot doesn't worry me despite the overwhelming amount of attention.  First off, how many times will they have to go up against players like Spence or Washington.  Also, our offense is designed to create conflict with DEs which will help the RTs gain an advantage as they progress.  I'll bet Meyer is also playing this up to try to keep them both hungry over the summer.

Buckeye06's picture

Just a follow up, I think the DEs yesterday knew the QBs were going to throw the ball, so they went more "reckless" than they may if the run was a huge worry
 
Not as worried about RT as others, but not exactly thrilled haha

FitzBuck's picture

Excellent point.  If it was a run up the middle they would have given up 4-5 yards per based on position.  

Fitzbuck | Toledo - Ohio's right armpit | "A troll by any other name is still a troll".

GV9's picture

You also need to keep in mind that the defense knew that the offense was focused on passing, so they pinned their ears back and rushed for the QB.   Had there been more running then it would've prevented some of that.  

Buckeyejason's picture

Apple will be a top corner in college football in 3 years or so i have a feeling. Dunn is so talented at his size its scary! I could see him being a 3 and out talent with a good 2014 season.
 

BUCKEYES BABY!

biggy84's picture

Any chance that Evan Lisle is the answer at right tackle? 

Buckeyejason's picture

I say theres absolutely no chance! Hes about 280 lbs right now..needs a year to grow and get stronger till he plays with the big boys. Decker or Farris will do fine.

BUCKEYES BABY!

Becool12's picture

I like Lisle but I don't know about that. I think it's too soon. Freshmen linemen usually have a hard time adjusting right out of high school because the competition is so different. He would have to have a miracle transformation in Fall camp. 

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

I wonder if Lisle could fill in at Guard and be a better option than moving Decker back in to guard.  At 280 pound he may be able to get away a little better at guard than tackle, if he has better speed than Decker to pull out around the edge.  Just an option they might look at.  Overall I'd like to see Decker or Farris step up and take control of the right tackle position.  Still time for that to develop in the fall.  If anything this will motivate all of the guys to hit the weights hard from now until the fall to be the best they can be.  Having a good solid O-line will be key to making a run at the B1G and a BCS bowl/National Champtionship!!
Go Bucks!

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

This team is going to be stronger and stronger as the days go by until the season starts... it is going to be fun to watch!

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

AngelHeartsBuckeyes's picture

Maybe Dunn is the future Hall who is actually the current Harvin?

Buckeye born and bred. Buckeye til I'm dead.

Becool12's picture

I think all 4 of our running backs have the potential to be drafted. I think their ceilings increases as you go down the depth chart. I feel like Hyde has the lowest ceiling and Ball has the highest. I'm not dissing Hyde in anyway, but he reminds me of a bigger Antonio Pittman. He gets the job done without really impressing me. I think Rod Smith has the height and the quickness to be good starter for us. He has maybe 5th round potential if he handles his fumbling problem. I think Dunn is an absolute monster. He is way better in space than I thought he was. He was graded as a downhill runner coming out of high school but he has proven that he could catch the ball. And his stiff arm is ridiculous. He kinda reminds me of Beanie Wells. Ball, I think has the highest ceiling. He runs wild and recklessly like Adrian Peterson. I could definitely see him fending off Zeke Elliot for  a couple of years. 

Knarcisi's picture

Brax's feet looked good and not to knitpick, but his deep balls were still a bit wobbly. Any insight?

Knarcisi's picture

Agreed on Apple. Missed some tackles but was all over the place. As was Reeves ... Seemed to be able to hang with D Smith all day. 

Knarcisi's picture

Hell, throw Brionte Dunn in the H position for a few series ... Great hands ... And would love to see him get he ball in stride rather than stopping in short hook area. 

Poison nuts's picture

I thought Ball looked good as well.

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

DefendYoungstown's picture

Not that my comments matter BUT, I thought Brax looked better in the 5-15 yard passing attack. D Line looks good, probably wont be at the level that we were last year but we have young studs that will develop as the year progresses.  Secondary played well. Kicking might be an issue but I thing Basil will be fine once the season rolls around, hopefully we don't have to rely on a kicking game as the O will just roll up the points.  Overall it will be a good season, not sure we go 12-0 but I welcome  the Bucks to Pasadena in January. I will be here waiting and will take my son to his first every tOSU game at the Rose Bowl.

What we can't do in the air we'll do on the ground.

Becool12's picture

I think the d-line will be way better at pass rushing than last year. I think we are about to witness the most athletic Ohio State defensive line of the decade. Spence has pure speed. He is a pass-rushing beast. Washington is an absolute monster. I don't think I've ever seen someone of that size move that fast. I think our primary problem will be stuffing and defending the run. 

Mattymatt's picture

Agreed. I think this years Dline will out perform last years. Its going to be fun watching these boys grow up. Prediction, Spence is going to be as good as Clowney, if not better.

Buckeyejason's picture

Prediction, Spence is going to be as good as Clowney, if not better.

Just don't see him that good yet. Over pursues alot and doesnt have that size, power and strength that Clowney has. He can be really good though!

BUCKEYES BABY!

avail31678's picture

Agree with Jason.  Clowney-like is a stretch - that dude is a freak of nature.  But, that said, Spence seems to be well on his way to securing his spot in Buckeye history.  He's a keeper.

Buckeyejason's picture

Just watched the spring game finally. Spence and Washington looked good..but didnt impress me as much as i thought. Alot of it was basically the QB dancing around the pocket to long and one of them finally touching him. 
Pretty boring spring game to be honest. Apple jumped out as well as Perry and Feda. Grants performance doesn't make me think any different of him yet..needs to show that in real games. I hope to see alot of Dunn and Ball this year! 
WR's look like they can be the best in the league this year if Braxton can get them the ball. Cardale was pretty solid on those zone reads.

BUCKEYES BABY!

pjtobin's picture

I just want to say yes, yes , yes. To all of these comments. All valid points. The only one I disagree with is the one about how Hyde is at his full potential. I think he is a beast. And can't wait to see him healthy and ready. He ran over ttun's d last year. Full steam ahead. This is going to be a fun year to watch. I'm confidant with this team, players, and coaches. I'm so glad I'm a buckeye!

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

t-dub's picture

I finally had the chance to watch the game. I was encouraged by almost every phase of the play.  Almost.  I wish that our DEs were as good as the RTs made them look, but I don't see it.  
They were slow footed and out of position again and again.  couldn't even really judge their hand work because they were so out of position.
The only upside is that our non-conference schedule gives them some time grow. it better happen fast

"What is our aim, I can tell you in one word. Victory" Winston Churchill

BeijingBucks's picture

even if our DEs aren't as good yet as we hope they are... imagine being the opposing QB knowing they're coming :)  That will get in your head and force a gameplan full of 2 step drops, handoffs and generally panicky thinking.
Or perhaps they'll start doubling the edge rush or open up the middle of the line letting more blitzes come from everywhere.  
All in all doesn't it makes it easier on our DBs when an offense has a harder time working to the sideline cause the DEs are clowneying plays up in the backfield.
 

 

 

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

FROMTHE18's picture

This is their first opportunity to be THE guys on that line...they are also sophomores, I expect them to be as good as advertised, and by seasons end be considered among the best in the nation.

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

I was watching some spring game highlights, and saw #13 come flying in and blast Cardale Jones for the sack/fumble... for a second, I thought Damon Moore was back with the Buckeyes!

albinomosquito's picture

Where can I get my Spence jersey...?
 
Speaking of which, any ideas what numbers are going to be available this year?

MAVBuck's picture

Dunn, Ball, Marshall, Elliot, Wilson...all sitting behind Hyde and Smith. I know they are only a play away from an injury (God forbid) but lets just hope they can get some touches so none of them get an itch to transfer to somewhere with a thinner depth chart. As great as Dunn is at catching the ball, Hyde isnt too bad either. Thats also going to be a trick of the last 3 so itll be interesting to see how Urb splits it up.

Psychranger's picture

Nice article Chris. You and I are asking the exact same question re: Meyer praising Fields when all the factors like speed, getting open, and most importantly, the moves to avoid tackles and break to the open with speed are what you get with Thomas. None of the other receivers have game breaking moves and usually go down when hit. Thomas avoids the hit and creates space which is a God Given Gift. I've seen Coach Meyer at UF demand perfection of a few players he felt needed to be pushed to the point of breaking before giving them his blessings and I hope that's what's happening here. What mistakes are they that he says are preventing Thomas from rising on the depth chart? It sure wasn't the TD catch he made, where he used his jumping ability and hand eye coordination to wrestle the ball away from the defender! 

JB3

MediBuck's picture

Intriguing commentary by Coach Urbs about Fields. I though Thomas looked solid out there again, and with Hall playing the H-receiver, spot, it may be tough to crack the WR rotation in the base 1-back, 4WR position. I suppose we'll have to see about this once EzE, Jalin Marshall, and Dontre Wilson come to town :)

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

MAVBuck's picture

Well said, thats not even including the talented TE's that are looking to breakout!