Spring Game Notebook: Urban Meyer Likes Progress, Two-Hand Touch, Star Performers And More

By Tim Shoemaker on April 16, 2017 at 7:45 am
J.T. Barrett leads Carmen Ohio.

Urban Meyer likes where his team is.

Spring practice is officially in the books for Ohio State following Saturday's spring game. The Buckeyes put up a lot of points in a 38-31 win for the Scarlet team and the performance served as an appetizer for what should be a rather interesting 2017 season.

Following Saturday's game, Meyer was asked what his general feel was for this group.

"Very pleased," he said. "I would be disappointed if I said we're awful right now, but very pleased. [There are a] couple areas we've got to shore up, and I don't think we're nine strong, but I think we're seven strong right now." 

"That's pretty good in April to be that."

Meyer wouldn't elaborate on what two units he was referring to — "that's between me and the two," he said — so draw your own conclusions. There's plenty of time for the Buckeyes to get to where Meyer wants, but it seems the coach is satisfied with the start he got.

Two-Hand Touch?

Like many others, you were probably confused when Ohio State opened up the spring game by playing what was essentially a game of two-hand touch. It wasn't expected by anybody as there was no announcement made prior to the game.

The Buckeyes switched things up midway through the second quarter, though — when most of the starters were out of the game — but Meyer was also asked about the no tackling rule after the game.

"We've done that before," he said. "After the 2014 season, we had a veteran group come back and I wanted — it's either you don't play some guys or you kind of restrict the tackling and keep guys up. I wanted them to experience the crowd and play and finish a good spring."

"So we did, I think, three series with the 1s, two series with the 2s and we call that thud tempo just to keep everybody up," Meyer continued. "Then we let the guys that don't play much, scrimmage."

So there you have it.

Hilliard, Dixon Come Back strong From Injuries

Two players who haven't really seen much playing time in their Ohio State careers are linebacker Justin Hilliard and wide receiver Johnnie Dixon. Injuries have hampered both throughout the last couple of seasons.

Both are healthy now, however, and each had a really strong performance in Saturday's spring game. Dixon caught six passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns while Hilliard recorded a Gray team-leading seven tackles.

“It was very frustrating for me because it was like you couldn’t really do nothing about it, you know?" Dixon said afterward. "I just cheered my teammates on and did the best I could from the sideline or whatever. The worst part for me was consistently it happening time after time. I’m over it now.”

Added Meyer on Hilliard: "He's been hurt since he got here. So you're not aware what he can do. I think he's had a very good spring. ... we certainly need him to be in the rotation at linebacker."

The last part is the key for both Hilliard and Dixon. A spring game performance is one thing, but doing it when the games actually count is another. 

Hilliard probably won't start at linebacker — Dante Booker, Jerome Baker and Chris Worley have those spots all but locked up — but he can be a contributor in some way this season. Dixon may not start at receiver — though there doesn't appear to be much separation there right now — but he can certainly contribute. 

The only question that remains now: Will they?

Jarvis Finds the End Zone

One of the better parts of Saturday's spring game was super Ohio State fan Jacob Jarvis scored a touchdown on the final play of the game.

Afterward, Meyer declared it was Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes who came up with the idea.

"This is one of the best groups of older players I've ever been around," Meyer said. "Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes came to me yesterday and we love Jacob. Jacob's part of our family. He's been that way for about four or five — four years now and they asked if we could do that."

"I wasn't sure how you would do it," Meyer continued. "So we worked it out. But that was the players' idea. And that shows you what kind of character we have in those upperclassmen."

Offense Here to Stay?

Yes, it was just a spring game, but Ohio State's offense felt different Saturday. Perhaps that was a product of it being a scrimmage, but maybe Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day figured some things out the last couple of months.

Starting quarterback J.T. Barrett said he believes all of the things the Buckeyes wanted to accomplish this spring happened.

"If you talk about our offensive goals, things got better, absolutely," Barrett said. "We talked about pass protection, deep ball, and also finishing cross-face. Make sure we're finishing blocks, runs, things like that. I think in those areas we definitely got better." 

"I think we're on the right path," he continued. "Are we game ready? Not yet but we don't have to be. We have time. I think I'm comfortable saying that we definitely got better in those areas."

The first true test comes Aug. 31 in Bloomington, Indiana.

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