Saturday Spring Game Will Be New To Many

It won't be the normal Saturday in April when the spring game kicks off tomorrow afternoon, but that could be a good thing for Ohio State fans. A Buckeye squad needing to replace 11 departed starters will put those players to the test in a jersey scrimmage that should give OSU fans a nice taste of how the team has progressed through spring ball.

Those Ohio State fans that got used to the spring game actually being a game – as it was for the first 10 springs of Jim Tressel's tenure – must instead brace for a scrimmage on Saturday afternoon in Ohio Stadium.

The good news is that the scrimmage might show those paying customers a lot more about their beloved Buckeyes than any spring game from past seasons, though.

"It makes it more important because its ones vs. ones, twos vs. twos and not all spread out, so everyone has to step their game up," tight end Jake Stoneburner said. "If the offense wants to win, we have to beat the No. 1 defense. I think it makes it more intense and more fun."

That's right, much more is on the line this time around as the offense faces the defense at 1:30 p.m. in the Horseshoe, and it might be more entertaining as well.

In fact, the cherished scarlet practice jerseys will be on the line as the game will follow the format of the jersey scrimmage the Buckeyes stage at least once every spring and every fall. The unit – offense or defense – that comes out ahead in a modified scoring system, which will reward points for such events as first downs, turnovers forced and three-and-outs as well as touchdowns and field goals, will hold the jerseys when fall commences.

Each drive will start at a predetermined point on the field chosen by the coaching staff, and the offense will have three plays to get a first down to continue the series or the defense will receive points for the stop. The offense can also kick field goals or go for it on fourth down, but punting will not be part of the proceedings.

It should take some getting used to for the paying customers, but the contest should be more intriguing because the starters will be matched up against the opposing starters, the top backups against the top backups and so on.

In the past, the spring game was more about matchups determined by the draft, which didn't always result in equal teams on each side. The result was often sloppy play and low-scoring contests that didn't really give the coaching staff much info about how players would perform in important situations.

"A lot of schools do a scrimmage like we're going to," center Michael Brewster said. "It'll be something different. I think the fans will get to see a little more ones vs. ones, which that'll be cool. They're not really used to that."

Of course, not everyone is a supporter. Cornerback Travis Howard, who has moved into a starting role this spring, remains in favor of the old way of doing things for a variety of reasons.

"I kind of liked the tradition and how they did the spring game before," Howard said. "When they split the teams up it's about different matchups, not just you going against the same person every day like we do in practice.

"How they used to do it (in the spring game) is better because you create different matchups and have different guys on your team instead of defense all together and offense all together. It builds more of a team bond."

All things considered, the Buckeyes likely would have gone with the traditional game if the correct personnel were in place. The biggest culprit is along the offensive line, where OSU boasts only eight scholarship players and 11 members overall, barely enough to split into two teams.

Ohio State is also thin at wide receiver, where there are only six scholarship players. On the defensive side of the ball, a rash of injuries has left the team thin, with only four scholarship cornerbacks and four safeties in action by the end of a scrimmage held last Saturday.

Another major loss as far as fans, reporters and players alike are concerned is the forgoing of the spring draft. The often entertaining affair in past years would split up teams and give a little bit of insight into how players on the team viewed the talents of their fellow Buckeyes.

"It would have been fun," Brewster said, "but you gotta do what you gotta do."

As usual, the men's lacrosse game will take place in the stadium before the football contest. The Buckeyes and Fairfield will face off in an ECAC matchup starting at 11 a.m. Ohio State enters at 7-6 overall and 2-2 in the conference, and Logan Schuss leads the team – which beat No. 3 North Carolina earlier this year and lost close matchups to highly ranked Notre Dame and Virginia – with 28 goals and 43 points.

The lacrosse game and the football game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

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