The Spring Game is upon us, and while it isn't as good as a fall Saturday in Columbus, it's a chance for us to get a glimpse into what the 2018 edition of the Ohio State Buckeyes might look like.
With a quarterback battle headlining a spring camp with plenty of position battles, there are a number of moving parts at Ohio State, including a pair of new coaches in Alex Grinch and Taver Johnson.
While it's only spring football, we'll take it as we present the spring edition of Stock Up/Down prior to Ohio State's team scrimmage on Saturday afternoon.
Ohio State Offense
I realize this is pretty basic, but hear me out. As great as J.T. Barrett was for Ohio State (while some of you may debate that), change is sometimes a good thing and a new quarterback for the Buckeyes will ultimately end up being a good thing. Barrett provided the Scarlet and Gray with unmatched leadership qualities and a knack for making a big play with his feet when needed, but there is no questioning that the offense often became predictable – especially in short-yardage situations – when he was in there.
With Barrett gone, I believe there will more opportunities for others to make plays, much like in 2014 when Braxton Miller was out. The quarterback who wins the job (I maintain Dwayne Haskins is the best option) will have a number of weapons to work with, and I believe Ryan Day's influence on the offense will be felt even more in year two. A more downhill running game, coupled with a downfield passing attack could have OSU primed for a return trip to Indianapolis and perhaps a CFP appearance.
That said, prepare to see plenty of passing on Saturday, as the spring game often serves as a glorified 7-on-7 drill. With a tight QB battle ongoing though, that isn't a bad thing.
Thayer Munford, sophomore offensive tackle
Munford is probably the best story on Ohio State's roster right now. A player who grew up in a tough neighborhood, Munford was given a chance to succeed by Nate Moore at Massillon and now by Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, and he is taking full advantage.
Munford is "penciled in" at right tackle, which is impressive not only because of his limited reps, but because Meyer very rarely names a starter this early in the spring, especially when it comes to a young player. It only helps that Munford is replacing Isaiah Prince, who is slated to play left tackle for OSU. He has a veteran to learn from, and that is always a plus.
With the way Munford is performing this spring, it is not crazy to think he could be a two- or three-year starter for Ohio State and eventually become a high NFL draft pick in the coming years. There is still a lot of work to do for Munford, but his future looks very bright.
Baron Browning, sophomore linebacker
If Meyer says the linebackers are playing well, I tend to believe him. However, after the play of this unit in losses against Iowa and Oklahoma, I remain skeptical.
Browning, however, remains perhaps one of the more talented players on the roster, and with Tuf Borland sidelined for the next few months with an Achilles injury, he has a chance to make a jump at middle linebacker and perhaps make the coaches think twice about inserting Borland back into the starting lineup when he returns.
Browning is one of, if not the most athletic linebacker in Bill Davis' room right now, and a good spring game against a pass-heavy offense could give him the momentum he needs heading into the summer.
Ohio State Defensive Line
Don't jump all over me on this one, but once again, I ask you to hear me out.
Larry Johnson's group is sending three quality defensive ends to the NFL draft and loses another pair of defensive tackles in Tracy Sprinkle and Mike Hill. With that, Ohio State's defensive line is not nearly as deep as it was last season. Nick Bosa will, much like his brother was in 2015, be double- and triple-teamed in 2018, leaving it up to the likes of Chase Young and Johnathon Cooper to step up.
That being said, this is still one of the most talented units for Ohio State, but with Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes all gone to the next level, the stock just simply can't be as high as it was a season ago. All things considered, however, this unit should once again have a big year, just maybe not as big as 2017.
Ohio State Cornerbacks
With Denzel Ward and coach Kerry Coombs gone to the NFL, there are a few question marks with this position group heading into 2018, at least from my perspective.
Kendall Sheffield is now Ohio State's fastest player according to multiple players and coaches within the program, but Sheffield struggled at times last season with pass interference calls and was out of position at times. He enters 2018 as the leader of the unit, but will need to make strides this season if he wants to continue Ohio State's string of first-round cornerbacks.
Outside of Sheffield, Ohio State returns Damon Arnette, who has made an interesting number change from No. 3 to No. 46. Arnette has the most playing experience in the Buckeye secondary, but the number change has many wondering if there are off-field concerns with Arnette. The number change has been used as a motivational tool by OSU before, as Erick Smith changed from No. 34 to No. 46 last season as well following a suspension.
Taver Johnson is a proven coach at the collegiate level, and there shouldn't be much drop-off from the Coombs regime. However, Coombs set the standard of what is expected at Ohio State from the corner position, and that is going to be difficult for Johnson to live up to. I expect the Ohio State corners to be solid in 2018, but I also don't expect a first-round draft pick coming out of Columbus in the 2019 draft, which is why my stock is slightly down on this unit.