Though it's hard to gauge exactly what things will look like come the fall, here are some of the initial thoughts from Saturday's spring game:
•Braxton Miller is going to be special – There are a lot of things that have really stuck out to me about Miller this spring, especially with the consistency in which he has thrown the ball. However, the thing that really excites me the most about the type of talent he is comes with the ability to feel the pressure naturally while keeping his eyes down field. We saw multiple times in the spring game (ignore the touch sacks) where Miller escaped pressuring defenders to either find a nice route to run the football or a receiver that found daylight downfield. That can often be a hard skill for quarterbacks to acquire, but Miller seems to have that down already.
One more thing I'll say about Miller is that he's vastly improved his release. Last year people were questioning whether his hands were big enough to throw the football and now Meyer graded his release as an "A" in the postgame press conference. The growth with this quarterback – which also spans over to being a leader – is pretty remarkable. It will be interesting to see what this guy looks like in another year.
•Kenny Guiton made serious strides – I have taken a lot of flack for saying that Guiton shouldn't have come into the game for Joe Bauserman at Nebraska last year. Some agree, others don't – but that's a moot point. I felt that way, though, because Guiton never really showed me anything in practice to make me feel like he is a viable option. Sure, he had a solid spring game a year ago, but after completing 17-of-26 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown in a new offense this year, I'm starting to buy into the fact that he's a viable option as a back up. Meyer has raved about his improvement since the beginning of the spring and I think he put it on display – especially with his legs.
•Meyer looking for playmakers – Mike Thomas steps up – Meyer hasn't hid his desire to find playmakers and the freshman receiver most certainly got his attention. Heck, he got everyone's attention. Thomas hauled in 12 passes for 131 yards and really came away as a wildcard for someone who could really make a difference next season. Remember, Thomas was two receptions off what was the season total for the team's leading receiver a year ago. At the end of the scrimmage, Meyer said he'd put Philly Brown and Mike Thomas as the two top options for the Buckeyes at wide receiver. Given he came into the spring under the radar, I'd say this guy really couldn't have accomplished more in a three-week span.
•Devin Smith is a big-play guy – I find it interesting that Meyer refers to Smith as the third-best option at wide receiver, especially after his freshman season where I thought he was one of the biggest threats on the team. But I think I'm starting to grasp it – Smith has a lot of things to improve on before becoming a complete wide receiver (blocking, for example), but he is always going to make the big plays. That's a knack that cannot be taught and he's done it time and time again. Smith caught only two passes in the scrimmage, but one of the receptions was a 40-yard touchdown catch. My gut tells me that he may not tear up the stat-book, but he'll score a ton of touchdowns this year.
•Chris Carter move makes sense – Nothing against Carter, but things just weren't working out on the offensive line. Meyer was blunt about it in a recent press conference when saying Carter basically wasn't progressing on the offensive line, and taking his big body and throwing it on the other side of the ball seems like the perfect solution. Though he's got quite a ways to go when it comes to technique and understanding the defense, fellow defensive lineman Michael Bennett said some of the team's starting offensive linemen have had a hard time moving Carter. I think if Carter is ever going to be successful at OSU, it is going to be on the defensive line.
•John Simon's dominance didn't have to be put on display – I don't know if I remember any single player dominating spring football the way Simon did this year. I am blown away by the fact that Meyer recognized his dominance so much to completely hold him out of the spring game. Meyer said in the postgame press conference that Simon "didn't need to play," implying that he has more than proven himself in his time in the past and during the spring. He was held out of drills because linemen couldn't handle him – I never expected that he wouldn't play in the spring. What a testament to his dominance.
Ben Buchanan didn't have a good day, but don't worry – I think that Buchanan was one of the most underrated players on the team last year. All you have to look at the stats to see that he was able to pin it consistently inside the opponent's 20 yardline. Though he lacks the power/booming leg that would be ideal, he's a really efficient punter and I think he proved that a year ago. The one thing I'll say about Buchanan that worries me is how much yardage he covers on his punt. He seems to step up into the coverage – while taking an additional step – and it makes me feel like he's going to put himself in position to get one (or more) of his kicks blocked this year. I am surprised that extra step hasn't been taken care of by now.
•Ryan Shazier is a beast – I don't want it to sound like I am trashing the evaluations made by last year's coaching staff, but how on earth did Shazier not earn playing time from the start? There is so much to being a linebacker – whether it is reading defenses or being tough enough to clog holes – but the intensity and confidence in which he plays the game is pretty impressive. Sure, he's going to make mistakes like he did throughout the time he did find as a freshman, but he trusts his instincts and that's what helps him play so quickly and aggressively. I'm not afraid to say he is the best linebacker on this team and perhaps one of the most exciting defenders.
•Lockdown cornerbacks will help this defense – This isn't only about the cornerbacks, it is about the defensive line. Obviously there is a lot to think about when analyzing corners, but it is a proven fact that players at that position are more effective when the defense is pressuring the quarterback. With the defensive line like Ohio State has – guys like Simon, Johnathan Hankins and Michael Bennett stand out ¬– there's no question guys like Travis Howard and Bradley Roby are going to have good years. Both of those players are immensely talented and the help they'll get from the line will make them that much tougher. And don't forget about Doran Grant – he's had a nice little spring, too.
•Carlos Hyde is going to be the go-to back – Ohio State fans should be pleased to hear that Meyer plans to use Jordan Hall as that Percy Harvin-like hybrid player. That's where he belongs and that's why he'll excel. When speaking about the running backs, though, it is clear that Hyde is going to be in a position to be the team's go-to back this year. Though he only rushed four times for 14 yards – including a touchdown – I think he had one of the best springs of any player on the team. His combination of speed and size has OSU's coaching staff licking their chops. BONUS: I think Bri'onte Dunn had a really solid spring, too. It was nice to see him grab a few passes out of the backfield and he'll certainly be in the mix in the fall.