Ohio State fans who make the trip to Ohio Stadium on Saturday will have the opportunity to see the Buckeyes’ first-team offense go head-to-head with the Buckeyes’ first-team defense.
What they won’t have the opportunity to see is players being tackled to the ground.
In his pre-spring game press conference on Wednesday, Ohio State coach Ryan Day said Saturday’s game will be played with a “thud” format. That means that while defenders will still be expected to run at full speed and hit ballcarriers, they will not tackle players to the ground.
Day made that decision because he decided it simply wasn’t worth the risk of injury.
“I thought about it a bunch, and tackling in the spring is a dangerous thing,” Day said. “We spend so much time and so much effort recruiting these guys, getting them ready to go. Just don’t think it’s worth it, trying to put the guys in the ground right now.”
Quarterbacks, as is customary for the spring game, will be wearing black jerseys and will be considered “off-limits,” so defenders will be expected to only touch them.
Ohio State hasn’t set its rosters for Saturday’s game yet, but those will likely be fluid. Day said Wednesday that the Buckeyes want their first-team offense to go against their first-team defense, and their second-team offense to go against their second-team defense, so the rosters will be divided that way but some players will also switch teams as necessary. As the game progresses, Ohio State will start to pull its established veterans out of the lineup in favor of reserves; Day named junior defensive end Chase Young as an example of one player who isn’t likely to stay in Saturday’s game for long.
In the past, Ohio State has held a draft to divide up its rosters – which has meant a mix of first-team players on both sides of the ball for both the Scarlet and Gray teams – but this year’s spring game, which doubles as the Buckeyes’ final practice of the spring, will more closely resemble a scrimmage.
“We want to have good-on-good. So we’ll just kind of separate that out,” Day said. “We’ll have several guys with double jerseys, so we’ll kind of move them back and forth a little bit, and making sure that we get those guys out of there early if we need to. But it’ll really be kind of like the first group against the first group, second group against the second group, and then as the game goes on, we’ll kind of adjust from there.”
Players who are not expected to play in Saturday’s game after being sidelined by injuries this spring include Thayer Munford, Jordan Fuller, Robert Landers, Tuf Borland, Demario McCall and Marcus Williamson.
Saturday’s spring game will consist of four 10-minute quarters; the clock will stop as it normally would during a game in the first half, but will be a running clock in the second half. In place of kickoffs, the ball will be placed at the 35-yard line after the initial coin toss and all subsequent scores, and all punts will be fair caught. Field goals and extra points will be kicked as normal.
Day believes having a spring game is valuable for Ohio State’s young players, as it gives them an opportunity to play in Ohio Stadium in front of a crowd, but he doesn’t want to put his players at unnecessary risk of injury for a game that will ultimately have no bearing on the actual season this fall.
It is an opportunity for the coaches to evaluate their players – particularly potential starting quarterbacks Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin – in a game-like setting. From that standpoint, however, Day also doesn’t want to put too much emphasis on the spring game over any of the Buckeyes’ other 14 spring practices.
“This game will be a little bit of an exposure to see how they do in that environment, but the body of work over 15 practices is really what we go back on,” Day said. “The only thing that would be different was, now you’re in front of a huge crowd in the Horseshoe. And how do you respond to that. So that’s a little bit a part of it, but day in and day out, we get to see how they respond to different situations.”
Saturday’s spring game is scheduled for a noon start and will be televised on BTN. Ohio State said Wednesday that it has distributed more than 63,000 tickets for Saturday’s game at Ohio Stadium, which will have a capacity of 76,000 due to construction and renovation taking place in the north end of C Deck. Gates will open at 10 a.m., and parking is free. General admission tickets ($5) and a limited number of club seats ($15) can still be purchased through Ticketmaster.