Spring practice kicks off this week (first practice is Thursday). In past years, the spring practice anticipation would be quite heavy,
and this year is the same although it has sort of snuck up on us a bit. But it is
upon us, and today
we have a look at some of the key issues to watch for this spring. I tried to come up with 20
questions to make it more gimmicky, but I could only think of fourteen...
How can I get an early glimpse?
We were informed a few days ago that spring practices would be closed, but the game is expected to be well attended. Tickets for the game (April 26th, 1:30 pm EST) are still available, and if you can't be there, chances are it will be televised by Ohio News Network or someone in your local area.
Is spring practice overrated?
Well, some players likely hate it, and serious injuries can result (see what happened last year with Wisconsin and WR Lee Evans), but for fans, it can be a fun time. For those of us who follow OSU football close enough to know the name, number and hometown of every player on the roster (or is that just me?), it can serve as a great fix while passing the time between seasons. It's all in good fun.
Will the Buckeyes be fired up to repeat?
Early indication is that OSU is working as hard as ever. In the past, we've seen teams that are seemingly set up for a repeat fall short, but this year's team seems to be working even harder. We expect OSU to take it up a notch this year.
How will the true freshmen do?
Every year, we get caught up in recruiting rankings and assume that the incoming freshmen will make more of an impact than they wind up making, so assuming that any will start might be somewhat unfair. But Ashton Youboty and Donte Whitner -- the two true freshmen who enrolled early this year -- will be getting a head start and might be in a better position to push for PT come August than any of the other freshmen. We'll get our first glimpse at them this spring, and we're going to get to find out how they do when going up against players of a higher level.
What will happen at CB?
This ties in to the previous question, of course. CB is one of the spots to keep an eye on this year in spring. That may seem to be odd since the two players who started at CB at the end of last year are back this year (Dustin Fox and Chris Gamble), but there could be some shifting going on with at least one of those players. If that is the case, we'll get to see someone get a chance to step up and take a starting spot. If that happened, the favorite would likely be E.J. Underwood, with others like Whitner, Youboty, Bobby Britton, Harlen Jacobs, Mike Roberts, and possibly Richard McNutt also competing for time. Watching McNutt will be intriguing in itself since he is making an attempt to fight off his ankle problem and see the field one more time.
What will happen with Dustin Fox?
And this ties in to the last two questions... Fox, as we know, was brought in to OSU as a safety and was moved to corner out of necessity. Now, however, OSU must replace two departed starters at safety, and Fox could be a candidate. Will he move back to his old position, or will he stay at CB? As of earlier in the winter, the decision was being left up to Dustin. We'll have to keep an eye on this to see if we get an answer this spring.
What redshirt freshmen will start to step up?
This spring will bring the first look many fans will get of players like Justin Zwick, Troy Smith, Santonio Holmes, Roy Hall, R.J. Coleman, Doug Datish, T.J. Downing, Joel Penton, Tim Schafer, Jay Richardson, Quinn Pitcock, Stan White, and Brandon Mitchell. Which of those players will emerge this spring? It could be any of them, but watch for Pitcock, Penton or Richardson as defensive line injuries will give the linemen a chance to do their thing, and the raves about Santonio Holmes are always common, so keep an eye on him and Hall. And, of course, we'll definitely get a look at Smith and Zwick...
What will come of the redshirt freshman back-up QB derby?
No one knows the answer to this question, but it might be the answer everyone wants to know. OSU has the luxury of having two senior QBs this season, so we might not find out the future QB out of Justin Zwick and Troy Smith just yet since there's no need for that decision to be made. But we'll get to see the progress the two have made and if there is a possible front-runner. This is one of the big things fans will be looking for in the spring game.
What other new faces will we be seeing?
Like people who can't wait until Christmas to open their presents, Buckeye fans will be happy that they won't have to wait to see the unique LB duo of Air Force transfer Anthony Schlegel and ex-Marine walk on Cliff Reynolds. We'll have to wait to see what they do in a real game, but this spring, we'll get an early look at these two players.
What to make of the MLB derby?