Next Saturday, Ohio State will play in its annual Scarlet and Gray game. Ohio State fans take the game very seriously, being the only school to have over 100,000 in attendance for the game. In recent years, stars have under performed, backups have shined, and players have come out of nowhere and had incredible seasons. The game is a great way for Urban Meyer and his staff to get a look at how his team is doing. It also gives fans a way to get a preview of who to watch in 2017. Here is a look at what to watch for in Last Word on Sports’ Ohio State Spring Game Preview.
Ohio State Spring Game Preview
One of the most important things to watch for is how Kevin Wilson will run the offense. Ohio State’s offense has struggled in the last two seasons and by the end of the year, it looks almost completely flat. To answer this problem, Meyer went out and hired former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson. Fans can have an idea of what to expect from him if they watch film from his former teams, but will need to see how it works with the Buckeye’s offense.
Ways to tell if the offense is running efficiently is if J.T. Barrett is able to stay in the pocket. Wilson typically does not ask his quarterbacks to scramble and would rather they sit in the pocket and spread the field with speedy receivers. His style will also allow Mike Weber to get more room to break off big runs. Wilson runs zone plays to the outside which should help Weber break free for more long runs as opposed to just fighting for yards up the middle. Here is an example of this from 2007 at Oklahoma where DeMarco Murray broke free for a 65 yard touchdown.
Any Quarterback not named J.T. Barrett
It is all but certain that J.T. Barrett will be the starter in 2017. He’s proven that he can lead this offense and that if he’s given good play calling, he will break records. However, after this season, J.T. Barrett will be heading to the NFL Draft and the position will be wide open for 2018. The leading candidates for the position are Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins, and most likely Tate Martell. Burrow and Haskins have been taking second and third string reps at the position while Martell has also been in the mix.
Burrow has experience in the Spring Game and has been successful. He had almost 200 yards last season and three touchdowns, leading Gray to beat Scarlet 28-17. He will likely lead his team again this season looking for similar results. Haskins will be very exciting to watch if he gets to play because of his freakish athleticism. One of Martell’s only flaws that will be interesting to watch is his size. He stands below six foot tall which is a concern for most teams, but not Ohio State. Barrett has even joked about his size but noted that is hasn’t set him back.
The Buckeyes defensive line could be the best in the nation this season. Studs like Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, Nick Bosa, Michael Hill, and Dre’Mont Jones make it hard to argue there is a group better. The six recorded 209 tackles, 42.5 for losses, 18.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles in 2016. One of the only problems the Buckeyes will face is how to utilize all of them. This type of depth allows defensive coordinator Greg Schiano to get as creative as he wants with combinations.
While the Spring Game is a great way to see how players are performing, we shouldn’t expect everyone to give 110% on every play. Players do not want to risk getting injured so it may be hard to see just how good the defensive line is by this game. However, fans will be able to see how cohesive the group seems. Even if they aren’t giving full effort, they will need to make sure they are able to play as a group. Offensive lines will not be able to double team if everyone is a threat. As long as they give the same effort they did in 2016, 2017 could be even deadlier for opposing offenses.