While it might be a stretch to say Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton passed their first tests under new head coach Urban Meyer with flying colors, it does appear to be a good sign the coach who mentored standouts Josh Harris, Alex Smith, Chris Leak and Tim Tebow in college left the spring with a good feeling about his most important position group.
"Those two guys had very good springs," Meyer said.
That will be key as Ohio State transitions from an offense that was equal parts power and spread the past few seasons into an attack that spreads the field on almost every play. While the sets will still feature enough fullbacks, tight ends and pulling guards to keep longtime Ohio State diehards happy, the zone-read based rushing attack will often be in the hands of the quarterback.
In that vein, Meyer was pleased with what he saw from the two signal callers halfway through the spring, with both showing the smarts and quickness to make plays with the ball in their hands.
Also, both professed a comfort level with the new setup.
"It's just a different type of offense," said Miller, who compared it to the offense he ran in high school at Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne. "It's all spread with the plays coming in quick – no huddle and just keep it moving. It's more fun. It's just like high school back at Wayne – all signals, get the ball in and make the best plays you can."
While the running game – bolstered by talented backs Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde, Roderick Smith and Brionte Dunn – showed some teeth throughout the spring, the passing game moved along at a bit more slowly after finishing 115th in the nation last season.
Meyer was quick to point out that wasn't all because of the quarterbacks, pointing to a lack of experience and depth at the receiver and offensive line spots as well. But by the end of the 15 practice sessions, the new head coach was able to come up with a scouting report on both of his charges who saw the lion's share of the reps.
"He can pass the ball," Meyer said of Miller. "Release, I give him an A. He has a very good release. Arm strength I'll probably say a B but I'm very critical. Accuracy a C or a B. We've got to get him more accurate but he's getting better. He had a very good spring, a very productive spring."
The sophomore, who went 4-6 as a starter last year as true freshman after being a five-star prospect at Wayne, showed improvement during the spring in a variety of ways, the most noticeable being in the quality of pass he throws. During Miller's freshman campaign, especially in tough weather conditions, his ball tended to wobble or knuckle, but it was clear he had put time into refining that delivery during the offseason.
His 24-for-31 performance in the spring game also showed an improved efficiency after he completed only 54.1 percent (85 of 157) of his passes a season ago. Throughout the spring, Miller showed more confidence throwing down the middle of the field and fitting the ball into tighter windows, but he did throw some interceptions, including one in the spring game.
The passing game does include more high-percentage throws than in the past, though, and the number of screens, outs, swing passes and crossing routes should help keep Miller's completion percentage higher than a season ago.
"The first spring practice is kind of tough for everybody," he said. "We're trying to learn the plays and trying to get the pace down. Right now, we're feeling pretty good."
Miller isn't the most in-your-face kid in the world, either, and said the coaches have tasked him with improving his leadership in the offseason as well.
"Last year, coming in as a freshman, there was a whole bunch of leaders on the team," he said. "I was just trying to fit in and work my way in and do the best I could do. Coming in this year I have a year under my belt. I'm just growing older and more mature."
As for Guiton, the one-time three-star prospect and late addition to Ohio State's 2009 recruiting class caught Meyer's eye with his ability to make something out of nothing when the pocket broke down, as it often tends to do when players like Johnny Simon and Johnathan Hankins are on the other side of the ball.
That ability to make plays has the Houston native as the clear No. 2 on the squad, and his showing in the spring game – which included both a running and a passing touchdown – was an example of his ability to move the ball as the field general.
"Kenny Guiton is a much improved player," Meyer said. "His arm strength is there but he doesn't let it go for some reason. His accuracy is not bad, but he doesn't let it go. We have to figure out why. That's why I was talking to him on the field. He threw a pick today but if he lets it go it wouldn't have been a pick."
For Guiton's part, the junior who has a total of two passes in his OSU career is excited for what may come.
"I think I came a long way (this spring)," he said. "It's a new offense. We're all learning it, and I think we're doing a good job of it."