Five Things: Looking Ahead to Ryan Day's First Spring Game

By Chris Lauderback on April 11, 2019 at 11:05 am
Garrett Wilson hopes to put on a show this weekend in the Shoe.

Last April, Ryan Day was prepping Dwayne Haskins to run the offense while Urban Meyer was steering the entire Buckeye ship. 

Fast forward to April and Meyer is retired, Haskins is about to get rich and Day is two sunrises from leading his team onto the field for the first time as the permanent head coach. 

To Day's credit, he subscribed to the mantra "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," choosing to leave the existing culture, traditions and most of the offensive staff in place while making wholesale changes to a porous defense that yielded school records for points and yards allowed. 

Fans will get their first glimpse of Day's Buckeyes this Saturday afternoon in the Shoe during the annual spring game and storylines abound. Here are Five Things in particular I'll be watching for as the scarlet and gray take the field. 


As a generally old grouchy person, I'm a natural skeptic when it comes to true freshman hype. Urban loved to heap praise on first-year guys and often the substance failed to match the hype albeit with notable exceptions like the Bosa bros, Michael Jordan, J.K. Dobbins and a few others. 

It feels like five-star talent Garrett Wilson has a real chance to join that group of first-year ballers after Day, Brian Hartline and others have raved about his hands and ability to pick up the offense from both the X and Z receiver spots. 

The first 2019 early enrollee to shed his black stripe, Wilson should get plenty of chances to show what he can do in what is typically a pass-happy scrimmage which could serve as a nice springboard into the offseason as Day and company look to replace the production lost with the departures of Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon. 

With names like K.J. Hill, Jaelen Gill and maybe Demario McCall expected to take most of the snaps at the H-back slot (though McCall won't play Saturday), veterans Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, along  true sophomore Chris Olave (who is also doubtful), appear to be the three names in front of Wilson on the outside. Even if that order holds true, it should still mean plenty of opportunities for Wilson this fall.  


Last season saw outside linebacker Malik Harrison turn in a versatile, solid season but fellow starters Tuf Borland and Pete Werner endured their fair share of struggles. Baron Browning also hasn't yet lived up the hype. To be clear, I'm not ready to put any of these dudes out to pasture but at the same time, I'm excited to see what kind of young depth might be coming up behind them, notably Teradja Mitchell and Dallas Gant. 

Both true sophomores, Gant and Mitchell in particular were factors on special teams last season and while meaningful snaps in meaningful games could still very well prove elusive, Greg Mattison and company hope to see a lot of piss and vinegar out of these two on Saturday. 

The way Mitchell brought the wood on special teams last year, you can bet he'll be ready to roll and Gant looks to slot behind Harrison on the outside entering the season so he should also log a ton of time in the Shoe this weekend. 

With Ryan Day deeming the game a "no tackling" contest, I'm curious to see what these two can offer in the way of pass coverage. 

If nothing else, maybe they can push the vets not named Harrison to step up after slogging along in run support and pass coverage a season ago. 


After a whirlwind transfer process that led to Justin Fields' arrival and Tate Martell's departure, we finally get our first extended look at Ohio State's shiny new quarterback. 

With the expectation that Day will dial up a plethora of pass plays, we should get to see Fields attempt all the throws in the playbook – and hopefully a few on designed rollouts – as well as an early gauge on his decision making. 

We assuredly won't get as great a feel on how much Day might seek to feature him on designed runs or reads and even his scrambling ability will be kept in check with a quick whistle. 

Beyond the mechanics of his passing game, I'll be curious to observe his command of the offense and how the guys respond to his leadership. 

Fields didn't come here to sit. The real question is just how far he's come in such a short time in a new city with a new team in a new offense. 


With the expectation the offenses will put the ball in the air a lot, it should give us a good look at how the edge rushers not named Chase Young are coming along. 

Zach Harrison will obviously be a guy for fans to key on and rightfully so after Day won the five-star's services. Harrison enrolled early and has earned praise through flashes of the unlimited potential and physical gifts you just can't teach. 

Besides Harrison, I'm most interested to see how Tyreke Smith looks after a season in which he saw more snaps – 183 – than any other true freshman on the roster. The kid's physical tools should be complemented by a year of seasoning and an improved commitment to film study. 

We'll see how much time senior returning starter Jonathon Cooper logs after a heavy workload opposite Young last year but he's another guy that needs to take a big leap this season after coming in as a five-star talent. 

Along with Smith and Harrison, Tyler Friday is worth a mention after playing sparingly as a true freshman last year and we can't forget about Noah Potter, an early enrollee in this year's class. 


A lot of balls in the air means a lot of chances to see how the secondary is progressing under the tutelage of new co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley. 

Hafley subscribes to having the defensive backs look back for the football and the notion that the corners and safeties should receive instruction and watch film largely as a group in the spirit of building more cohesion. 

Ohio State generally knows what it has in guys like senior corner Damon Arnette and injured senior safety Jordan Fuller but a host of younger guys are still evolving into finished products and I'll be interested to see how they fare against Fields, Matthew Baldwin and the new-look receiving corps. 

True sophomore Josh Proctor will have my full attention after hopes he might see defensive snaps last year never materialized. Day has been complimentary of Proctor's progress and while Fuller and Brendon White, depending on how the bullet position evolves, will see a ton of snaps, it would be nice to see Proctor be worthy of providing legit depth. 

A bigger factor in this year's plans, redshirt sophomore Shaun Wade is also drawing raves this spring after leading the defense in interceptions a year ago. Beyond how he fares in pass coverage, it'll be interesting to see how and where he lines up most often, given his versatility within a new defensive scheme. 

Beyond those two, will another name we know, but one that hasn't wowed us yet step up? Isaiah Pryor maybe? Sevyn Banks? Amir Riep? C'mon Saturday. Hurry it up. 

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