Five Things: Putting a Bow on Spring Practice

By Chris Lauderback on April 20, 2017 at 11:05a
Urban Meyer's 2017 roster is loaded with young talent.
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No shortage of intrigue greets Ohio State's annual spring game signaling the end of camp until fall but last Saturday's event was met with even more excitement than usual as the Buckeyes lost a host of upperclassmen to the NFL from last year's squad and welcomed in 10 early enrollees to this year's edition back in January.

Fans also received their first glimpse of an updated offense thanks to new coordinator Kevin Wilson and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day. 

The result was a 38-31 victory by the Scarlet and a handful of storylines worthy of following through fall camp. 

With that, here are Five Things that stuck with me as we're now forced to anxiously await the start of fall camp some three and half months away. 

WILSON: KING OF PRUSSIA

Updating a stale offense was first on the docket for Meyer after Ohio State failed to score a point against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal. 

Charged with doing so, Kevin Wilson arrived from Indiana and proceeded to mesh new wrinkles and concepts into Meyer's power spread. 

The result, as so eloquently broken down by our own Kyle Jones, saw the Buckeyes employ some shallow cross action, five-wide empty sets at the goal line, a wheel route off run fake action, among other wrinkles. 

We didn't see much in the way of new screen pass looks but we do know those are also a staple of Wilson's playbook and combined with the noted shallow cross action, those should not only help J.T. Barrett more easily find guys in space but could also offset what are still sizeable question marks with pass pro on the right side of the line. 

It's hard to get too excited over what happens in a pass happy scrimmage but it's hard not to like what the offense showed with Wilson steering the ship. 

3=0? 

Color me still very much concerned with the right side of Ohio State's offensive line especially the right guard spot despite Greg Studrawa having three guys in the current rotation in search of a legit starter. 

Demetrius Knox seemed to be the odds on favorite to cement the gig after running with the starters to open spring camp but was absent from the student appreciation practice dealing with academic stuff. He was back at practice the next time out so that doesn't appear to be much of a concern but at practice or not, Knox saw Matthew Burrell make a strong push for the starting job in the latter stages of camp. 

In the spring game, neither Knox nor Burrell proved stellar enough to lock down the starting spot and Burrell helped trigger a Barrett interception on one play in particular as Sam Hubbard bullied him into Barrett's lap on a straight forward rush. 

Matt Burrell made a push for the starting right guard job. He'll have to keep improving to be the starter in game one.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Pridgeon arrived at Ohio State last year as a big time juco transfer offensive tackle but after injuring his knee in fall camp his season was lost. 

Despite the right guard spot being ripe for the taking, Pridgeon appears to be third-string for now as he continues to learn the offense. 

None of this sounds like great news to me and if the right guard spot isn't shored up come fall, along with Isaiah Prince showing extreme improvement at right tackle, the possibility remains for the passing game to struggle if pressure causes Barrett to once again get happy feet while giving receivers little time to separate in coverage. 

qbu

So Joe Burrow and Dwayne Haskins look pretty damn good. 

Burrow entered camp as Barrett's backup and delivered a stellar performance last Saturday connecting on 14 of 22 throws for 262 yards and three touchdowns. 

Burrow's day featured a well-thrown 44-yard strike to Johnnie Dixon along with 35-yard and 40-yard tosses for six. His day also featured a goal line sack that he just can't take in a real game. 

Despite Burrow's strong showing, Haskins stole the QB show from my perspective hitting on 26 of his 37 throws for 293 yards and three scores. 

The kid has such a quick and effortless release and seems built to run Meyer's offense. 

To be clear, Burrow's performance and skill set are nothing to discount. Haskins just looked like a guy who could be a game-changer at the most important position in college football. 

It will be interesting to see how this battle develops throughout the summer and into fall camp as it's easy to believe both could lead Ohio State to wins if forced into action. 

IMPROVED BUT STILL MUCH TO PROVE

Many left the spring game feeling much better about the state of Ohio State's much-maligned #ZoneSix and while there were bright spots to be sure, there's not enough evidence to cross the true wide receivers off the watch list. 

Dixon emerged as the feel good story of the spring after he stayed healthy for the duration culminating in a six-catch, 108-yard, two touchdown effort on Saturday. 

Yes, his performance was great to see and he is by all accounts a solid teammate but considering past knee issues limited him to seven catches over parts of three seasons, counting on him for a full season of legit production could be a fool's errand. 

Everyone would love to see Johnnie Dixon stay healthy and be a productive wideout in 2017.

Terry McLaurin also had a solid game with four grabs for 80 yards including a touchdown that should've been overturned but while Binjimen Victor reportedly showed flashes of big time talent throughout camp, he's still working on consistency and I frankly ended up hoping to see more on Saturday. 

Can Dixon, McLaurin, Victor, K.J. Hill and others such as Austin Mack continue their development as outside receivers through summer? Can at least three from that group truly separate and give the Buckeyes some legit factors on the outside to complement the slot? 

I don't think we saw or heard enough good things from spring camp to answer with a resounding yes. 

ESTABLISHING A PECKING ORDER

Thinking about the distribution of touches, Mike Weber and J.T. Barrett will have the ball in their hands more than any other Buckeyes. That much isn't breaking news to anyone. 

What is far less certain is which guys will emerge to be the next most prominent guys called upon to make plays. 

Knowing the H-back is so crucial to Meyer's offense and Parris Campbell is set to start in that spot after shifting inside from wide receiver, the belief is Campbell will have ample opportunity to prove he can be a playmaker at what is by all accounts a more natural position fit.

Boosting that belief is the unsolicited complements Meyer has tossed Campbell's way over the years despite relatively pedestrian production. Can Campbell be a big time playmaker on the run and pass from the H? 

Behind Campbell, the talk most of spring was about Hill being the guy next in line as part of a dual role with his primary spot as a wideout with maybe even Eric Glover-Williams in the mix. 

Interestingly, Demario McCall's name didn't get as much run as an option at H but will that change as Meyer and Wilson seek playmakers who can run and catch? 

McCall is penciled in as Weber's primary backup at tailback but will he prove too electric to not give him some looks in the slot knowing Weber will be the bell-cow behind Barrett? 

The logical thought is Campbell will get every opportunity to show he can be The Man in the slot but if he starts slow, it wouldn't be shocking to see McCall emerge as a guy Wilson tries to feature on screens, wheels and crosses to see what he can do in space with Hill proving to be of more value on the outside especially if dependable wide receivers prove to once again be scarce. 

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