By Ramzy Nasrallah on April 12, 2023 at 1:15 pm
Apr 19, 2007; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes running back Brandon Saine (3) gets tackled by Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker James Laurinaitis (33) for the 2008 Spring Game at Ohio Stadium.
© Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

James Laurinaitis will be back in the building on Saturday.

Yeah, he was there in September on the visitors' sideline too - but this will be different from that and refreshingly familiar. That's him gang-tackling Brandon Saine in the photo above along with Notre Dame's current head coach 16 Aprils ago.

Remember when starting linebackers played and hit their teammates in spring? Jim Tressel remembers.

Antonio Henton transferred to Georgia Southern so Joe Bauserman could thrive
Lil' Animal got all his missed tackles out of the way in April. © Emmons/USAT SPORTS

That was no ordinary April, though. The guys participating in this scrimmage were refugees from a team which had won 19 consecutive games, with like only two and-a-half of them being remotely competitive.

The 20th game took place in Glendale three months earlier. That one wasn't competitive either. It didn't go well.

The 2007 Buckeyes had to replace a Heisman quarterback and his generationally-talented high school teammate. Those gaping holes combined with what happened in Arizona sent prognosticators negative. Preseason magazines - back then, literally made of paper - had Ohio State ranked 11th, which today would trigger a state of emergency.

Dabo Swinney probably saw nothing wrong with that. But as badly as the BCS title game had gone and as good as Troy Smith had been all the way up to that game, the 2007 Buckeyes would be sneaky-loaded in a conference on the downslope. They weren't quite finished playing for national titles.

Laurinaitis, the reigning Nagurski winner and consensus All America, would win the Butkus that year and take B1G Defensive POTY in each of the following two seasons. He will be back in Ohio Stadium wearing the right colors on Saturday as one of two guys from that 2007 team currently earning a paycheck from the beloved alma mater.

The other guy? He will be calling plays. It's game* week! Let's get Situational.


Apr 18, 2015; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller (5) head coach Urban Meyer and quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) talk on the field during the Ohio State Spring Game at Ohio Stadium. The Gray team won the game 17-14.
Apr 18, 2015: Braxton Miller, Urban Meyer and .T. Barrett during the Ohio State Spring Game. © Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Spring game slander has no virtue. A scripted scrimmage, however tepid, is still the sport of kings.

And in Ohio State's case it's a chance to see guys who should play more actually play. Either Kyle McCord or Devin Brown will start at QB this season, but last year they combined for just 82 total snaps despite the Buckeyes winning seven games by more than four touchdowns. Unfortunately, Brown won’t play on Saturday - but McCord will surpass his 2022 snap total, and he’ll get to do more than just hand off and burn clock.

April is now the only month healthy Buckeye starters sit during BIG CHUNKS Of garbage time.

Jayden Ballard only got 101 snaps in 2022. He should have a significant role this season, as should Josh Fryar (231) Tegra Tshabola (52) Caden Curry (78) Kenyatta Jackson (24) Sonny Styles (67) and C.J. Hicks (z e r o).

April is now the only month healthy Buckeye starters sit during big chunks of garbage time. This makes a spring scrimmage flimsy validation for getting even more irritated when the Buckeyes still haven't tapped their 3rd stringers while up 56 on the Penguins early in the 2nd half this September.

It's the first and last time some guys see the field with fans present. Spring slander has no virtue.


The Solo

Shortly after Laurinaitis left Columbus for an NFL paycheck I found myself in Indy on business. As luck would have it, Julian Casablancas was playing at the Vogue. I love The Strokes and if you don't, good news faithful reader - you'll never see them in this section. They do bridges, not solos.

Casablancas shared the ticket that night with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and as a result I can barely remember the Casablancas portion of the show because Sharon and her band tore my stoic rock show facade down to its gooey nougat center and brought me to tears.

Their cover of Allman Brothers' Midnight Rider includes a trumpet solo. Let's answer our two questions.

Is the soloist in this video actually playing the trumpet?

You've definitely shaken your ass to Dave Guy's horn work in songs like Uptown Funk. If you stay up late enough to watch Tonight Show, he’s in the house band The Roots. So we don't need to spend a lot of time debating if a guy who regularly plays trumpet for live studio audiences is actually playing here. VERDICT: Dave is playing the trumpet.

Does this trumpet solo slap?

Only the piano possesses more solo versatility than the humble trumpet. It can wake you up with Reveille or put you in ground with Taps. Every bit of the human condition in between, the trumpet has the agility to invoke the appropriate emotion. Most instruments can’t do that.

My beloved saxophone, the flagship of the Situational intermission franchise, only has two speeds: 1) sultry hourly-rate motel room fluid exchange, or 2) coked-up children's birthday party clown. No instrument does either of those emotions better, but what Guy does on Midnight Rider cannot be replicated by any woodwind.

This solo invokes a dozen emotions. It's five seconds long. The Strokes could never. VERDICT: Slaps

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The Bourbon

There is a bourbon for every situation. Sometimes the spirits and the events overlap, which means that where bourbon is concerned there can be more than one worthy choice.

As I've shared with 12th Warriors at various reader gatherings where spontaneous Q&A breaks out, I do not actually drink bourbon every day. I'm not here to preach or masquerade as a healthcare practitioner, but liver function is critical to remaining upright. That big stinky boy in your abdomen deserves a break.

I had no designs on drinking bourbon on Easter, which my liver generally realizes is taking place when it's abruptly overwhelmed by healthful antioxidants via a dozen Reese's peanut butter eggs. Except the Easter Brunch happened, and bourbon was on the menu.

There's no shortage of rabbit-themed cocktails, and the only Cottontail I had previously was disgusting and would never be featured here (this doesn't count). The one I had at Odette's while holding the Resurrection in the highest possible esteem was 180 degrees from its previous namesake. This is the Cottontail now.

If I were to construct this at home I would muddle a whole peach in a tumbler, add juice from half a lemon, juice from half a sumo orange, a few ice cubes with rough edges, one shot of Routin Blanc vermouth and two shots of Rabbit Hole Derringer, a bourbon we've previously featured. Shake and pour. Happy belated or early Easter.


Apr 16, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Former Ohio State Buckeyes quarterbacks Kirk Herbstreit and Justin Fields talk during the spring football game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch Ncaa Football Ohio State Spring Game
Kirk Herbstreit and Justin Fields talk during last year's spring football game at Ohio Stadium. ©Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch

If you lead a privileged life, a scripted spring scrimmage can feel like an empty festival.

You're accustomed to a higher tier of entertainment and intrigue. You go to real games. Hey, congrats to you. Congrats to us. I have no idea how many of those I’ve attended, but it’s a lot.

Still, I was indoctrinated into spring game attendance as a child and have enjoyed the custom ever since. As an adult, checking in on the product early in its design is a deceptive glimpse into what could be when September arrives.

It’s like a sonogram for a baby you cannot wait to meet; fuzzy, confusing and not all that helpful - but still a custom worth keeping. I watched Terry Glenn light up the defense and thought well that’s nice for him but we’ll see how it goes if he sees the field. I still treasure my dumb April skepticism decades later.

Years later, Bam Childress was a difference maker who was destined to score consequential touchdowns that would be played on a loop until the end of time. Taurian Washington was the total package. JSN was unguardable one April ago. Exciting!

The Ohio State spring game is an unappreciated prequel featuring legends still being assembled for delivery in the fall.

The Ohio State spring game is an unappreciated prequel featuring legends still being assembled for delivery in the fall. But sometimes wires get crossed. Packages get lost in transit. 

If you lead a privileged life you may also have no need or desire to perform the necessary tasks of our dead ancestors, like making clothes, foraging for meals or building furniture.

I entered 2023 in the market for new patio furniture, but I lack the discipline to read fine print which is how six large boxes showed up on my driveway last week containing patio seating for 12 people.

Hundreds of unaligned pieces - metal, nuts, bolts, some oddly shaped doohickeys that will eventually make sense - all wrapped up and packaged in polyurethane and cardboard. The instructions are written in almost-English and in what seems to be 2-point font. Well, this sucks I said to the delivery guy. He did not care. Didn’t strike me as a spring game-type of fan.

I made the purchase incorrectly assuming it would be assembled and delivered. Its condition had to be written somewhere in the description, but in my haste to get the patio in order for the outdoor lounging season I just hit send not realizing the chore I was taking on.

Over the weekend I unboxed everything (this alone took an hour) and set out to connect those hundreds of pieces. One of the pieces was an Allen wrench. The instructions make perfect sense - simply take these hundreds of pieces and connect them using hands and a tiny metal L. On paper, it seems simple.

In reality, most of the holes are out of spec. Some machine printed everything that arrived on my driveway, and half the bolts almost enter their designated holes cleanly. They’re like one or two millimeters away from doing what they were supposed to do on paper. Football is a game of inches. Furniture construction has an even smaller margin for error.

Every other bolt presented a new crisis. That Allen wrench lost its grip and went flying out of my hand half of the time, as no science trolls humans quite as hard or consistently as physics does. I eventually stopped swearing and began muttering assembled and delivered instead.

JSN with one of his final catches in Ohio Stadium :(
Every spring game presents some degree of false hope.

It’s not the wrench’s fault. I didn’t read the fine print. The problem, as usual, is me. I broke down and finally read what I should have before buying it, hoping to find salvation in the details. Drills and other machinery are not recommended. This gigantic patio configuration should only be assembled with human hands. Lovely. Estimated time: probably a month, for someone like me. I’m far more handy with a keyboard or a shaker than an Allen wrench.

Eventually those giant outdoor couches and recliners will look like they did on the screen when I smashed the purchase button. Their assembly is my summer’s unappreciated prequel. They’re still unbuilt because my hands are so sore I cannot make a fist right now. Growing up is a choice; growing old is the unwanted side effect of aging. It will get built.

A proper, violent funeral awaits that Allen wrench once it’s no longer necessary. Pride lasts longer than pain. Savor the journey. Keep ibuprofen handy. And enjoy the hell out of an April scrimmage, even if it barely resembles what you really want to see right now.

Thanks for getting Situational today. Go Gray, Beat Scarlet.

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