Spring Football Report Card

By Kyle Rowland on April 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Kirk Irwin Photography



  • Braxton Miller’s absence took some pizzazz out of the spring. But the competition between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett was more exciting than most backup quarterback derbies. With Miller’s injury history and senior season looming, the winner was going to carry a valuable position. But the ending was awfully anticlimactic.
  • Jones won the competition on a day when even head coach Urban Meyer admitted he would have liked to have been elsewhere at times. Both quarterbacks hovered around a 50 percent completion rate, throwing for around 150 yards with zero touchdowns. Not exactly what fans are used to when the backup emerges.
  • A Kenny Guiton-esque No. 2 might not be a necessity for every team in the country, but when you’re starter has been injured going back to high school, the backup takes on a heightened role. Before the spring, Barrett gave off the vibe that he could assume the responsibility. He’s a natural leader and plays the style both Meyer and Tom Herman covet.
  • But when the spotlight engulfed Barrett, it was the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Jones who pulled away with what he called “the most important position on the team.” Accuracy is a concern going into the summer, but Jones has all the tools to be a competent quarterback. Herman and Kenny Guiton were each a major factor in Jones’s recovery from poor judgment and a suspect work ethic earlier in his career. It remains to be seen whether Herman can sprinkle some of his Guiton fairy dust on Jones.  

Grade: B


  • Ohio State has two sure-fire starters on the offensive line. That’s not good. After two years of stability and constant production, four of five starters are gone. In place are Taylor Decker and Pat Elflein, with Antonio Underwood, Jacoby Boren and Darryl Baldwin the frontrunners to secure the remaining three spots.
  • Saturday’s woeful performance didn’t do much in the way of building confidence. The Scarlet and Gray teams combined for five sacks, including one that resulted in a fumble and defensive touchdown. The rushing game was nowhere near last year’s historic per game numbers. And that was with the entire starting defensive line sitting out.   
  • Underwood said it best when he noted Ohio State is an offensive line-driven team. The Buckeyes have been that for decades, even under Meyer. If three functional starters aren’t identified, national championship hopes could quickly diminish. Ohio State’s saving grace is respected line coach Ed Warinner, who’s already turned undervalued talent into NFL draft picks.

Grade: C


  • There probably isn’t a Carlos Hyde on the roster, at least not for the 2014 season. Hyde’s numbers a year ago aren’t stats that appear on a yearly basis. Still, the Buckeyes have talent and depth at running back. It could be the deepest position on the team.
  • Ezekiel Elliott is a capable starter who proved during an abbreviated freshman season that he can be the top tailback at Ohio State. He averaged nearly nine yards per carry last season and also got involved in the passing game. So far, he’s exceed any expectations levied on him after a standout high school career.
  • Bri’onte Dunn, Rod Smith, Warren Ball and Curtis Samuel are next in line. Dunn and ball were sort of forgotten men who reminded onlookers of their existence. They both performed well throughout the spring and used the spring game as a jumping off point for the regular season. Dunn rushed for 35 yards and a touchdown, while Ball had a game-high 55 yards and a touchdown.
  • Freshman sensation Curtis Samuel was a popular name, as Meyer mentioned him on multiple occasions. His quick acceleration and versatility were seen in the spring game, when he totaled 35 yards – 18 rushing, 17 receiving.
  • Smith’s absence is presumed to be academic related, though Meyer said there are no eligibility concerns. The senior had his own highlights during the spring and figures to be in the rotation come August.

Grade: B


  • Similar to the running backs, wide receiver is another area where a go-to guy might not exist, but the depth is extraordinary. Devin Smith, Dontre Wilson, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith, Evan Spencer, Johnnie Dixon, James Clark, Jalin Marshall and Jeff Greene form a nine-man group who should see game action.
  • Thomas and Corey Smith were the two attention getters on Saturday. Thomas had six catches for 64 yards and Smith recorded five catches for a game-high 72 yards. Throwing the football could become a bigger part of the game plan with a veteran quarterback and inexperienced offensive line.
  • Nick Vannett and Marcus Baugh took a bulk of the snaps due to Jeff Heuerman’s foot injury. Meyer and Tim Hinton already knew Vannett could block and catch. It was Baugh’s progression that offered the most promise. After months in the doghouse, he’s working his way back into good graces.  
  • Ohio State contains a mixture of speedsters, sure-handed pass-catches and possession receivers. The issue with the spring was no Braxton Miller. It puts a premium on summer months when the receivers and Miller get together to develop cohesion.

Grade: B


  • The best unit on the team? That’s the popular line of thinking. Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence make up one of the top defensive line in America. None of them played Saturday, and there was no need.
  • The fourteen previous practices already exhibited the D-line’s might. Larry Johnson has slid in seamlessly, earning acclaim and respect from his players and fellow coaches. The product on the field backs up their thinking.
  • Depth is the biggest change on the post-Mike Vrabel line. The Buckeyes weren’t empty-handed last season, Vrabel just chose to use the four best players almost exclusively. Johnson wants to secure an eight- or nine-man rotation.
  • When Rashad Frazier and Tyquan Lewis harassed quarterbacks and offensive linemen, it almost acted as the birth of a deep rotation. Tommy Schutt, Michael Hill, Donovan Munger, Steve Miller, Tracy Sprinkle and Chris Carter also are part of that group.
  • With offenses not afraid to push the tempo to 80 and 90 plays per game, a fresh defensive line is invaluable. If Johnson and the Buckeyes can build a mountain of productivity with an adequate two-man rotation, Ohio State could have a monumental advantage on opponents, especially in the fourth quarter.

Grade: A


  • No position has been under more scrutiny in the Meyer era than linebacker. It’s possible those days could be subsiding. Two weeks ago, Meyer admitted the unit is in the process of turning the corner after years of uneven play. But after the spring game, only one starter was named: Joshua Perry.
  • That leaves Curtis Grant, Raekwon McMillan, Darron Lee and Chris Worley in a battle for the other spots. Meyer said Grant had one of his better springs, and Lee was a constant target for praise in March and April, giving the impression that both will be hard to beat when fall camp arrives.
  • What’s known is McMillan is not just an overhyped recruit. He had five tackles in the spring game, with Meyer leaving no doubt that he will play as a true freshman. Worley is the wild card. He went under the radar all spring before perhaps the best performance of the spring game on either side of the ball. He recorded a game-high nine tackles and one tackle for loss.
  • Just another bright spot for a linebacking corps doing all it can to leave the head coach satisfied.

Grade: B


  • When you allow the video-game numbers Ohio State’s secondary gave up the final three games, there really is only one way to go. Chris Ash and Kerry Coombs’s collaborated press coverage corrected a chunk of the problem. If anything, it changed the mood and removed a cloud hanging over the bruised unit.
  • The passing numbers weren’t great in the spring game, with less than 300 yards and 10 pass breakups. There’s little mystery to cornerback Doran Grant. The senior turned in a solid junior season, but who starts on the other side? It looks like Armani Reeves, who turned in a superb spring. But so too did Gareon Conely and Eli Apple, problems coaches have welcomed. The Buckeyes will need all three to play in the fall.
  • Safeties Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell and Cam Burrows might lack experience but make up for it with talent and natural instincts.

Grade: B


  • Cameron Johnston enjoys the same status as Braxton Miller: virtually no chance of losing his starting position. The sophomore punter turned heads in Year 1 and figures to be among the top punters in the country again in 2014. He booted six punts for 269 yards and a 44.8-yard average in the spring game. Three were downed inside the 20, including one at the 1-yard line.
  • Place-kicking duties were up in the air. But it looked like true freshman Sean Nuernberger separated himself from senior walk-on Kyle Clinton after having the more accurate (and stronger) leg on Saturday. Nuernberger belted a 52-yarder into the wind that may have been good from 60.

Grade: B

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