BSB Spotlight: Spring Game Look Ahead

The spring game is almost here, and with that in mind, Buckeye Sports Bulletin staffers Matthew Hager, Marcus Hartman, Jeff Svoboda and Ari Wasserman have each chosen something they are looking forward to seeing Saturday afternoon when the Buckeyes take the field at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Hager: I am going to start this off with a perhaps unusual choice. There's plenty to watch for on Saturday on the offensive and defensive sides of the football, as I'm sure Marcus, Jeff and Ari will discuss below. But what am I looking forward to on Sunday?

Call me Jim Tressel because I want to see some punting.

Admittedly, I do not see the punter position as a potential problem for the Buckeyes this fall. From what we've been able to see of practice this spring, Drew Basil looks more than competent doing double duty (triple if you count kickoffs). The senior did both place kicking and punting in high school and new special teams head man Kerry Coombs sounded very confident recently when discussing Basil's punting.

"He was a great punter in high school," Coombs said. "Very comfortable, great poise and his operation times are outstanding. We can win with Drew Basil as the punter."

But it's not just Basil I want to see. I want to see how Frank Epitropoulos looks in game action. The Upper Arlington, Ohio, product punted in high school – a two-time second team all-state pick at punter, in fact – in addition to his efforts at wide receiver. Epitropoulos has had a solid spring at both positions, and I'm interested to see how he looks when thousands of eyes are on him in punting situations.

Hartman: With a lot of passing promised by the head coach, I think the most interesting thing to watch will be the battles between the wide receivers and defensive backs.

With All-American cornerback Bradley Roby expected to miss the game with a shoulder ailment, the young cornerbacks on the roster figure to get a workout. That group includes Dorian Grant, a junior moving into the starting lineup opposite Roby, along with sophomores Armani Reeves and Adam Griffin, redshirt freshman Tyvis Powell and true freshmen Eli Apple and Cam Burrows.

The receiver group is headlined by returning starters Corey "Philly" Brown and Devin Smith, but Meyer wants to see someone from the next group including Evan Spencer, Michael Thomas, Chris Fields and Epitropoulos step up as well, so this should be a competitive spot. Powell and Griffin along with safety Corey Brown have also taken turns repping at the Star position in the nickel defense, so their battles with inside receivers such as Fields could be interesting as well with the offense hoping to take a step forward in terms of versatility.

Svoboda: Spring game lore is riddled with skill position players who have stood out only to seemingly disappear back into the shadows when the season starts.

Bam Childress might be the most famous such recent player – he had 11 career spring game grabs in four years and a monster 2003 contest in which he had two long TD catches and a kickoff return score – but it happens quite a bit (see Thomas' 12 catches last year, which beget three grabs in the entire regular season).

Despite that, I'm still interested to see which skill position players stand out in Paul Brown Stadium. This has been a good spring, I believe, for the running backs (Rod Smith, Warren Ball and Bri'onte Dunn), wide receivers (Fields, Thomas and Epitropoulos) and tight ends (Jeff Heuerman, Nick Vannett and Blake Thomas) that haven't been featured in the past. The practices open to media have allowed almost every scholarship player at those positions to flash some skill and show they might bring something to the table in varsity competition.

This is a key point for that, too, with the skill position recruiting taking a major step forward in Columbus in the 2013 and future recruiting classes.

And with Urban Meyer talking about the importance of the spring when it comes to setting the fall depth chart, this is a key time for younger skill position players to make their moves. The spring game is a chance to do that in front of a large crowd, so yes, I am excited to see which players take the most advantage of that.

Wasserman: Having had the privilege of watching spring practice this year, I have found great entertainment witnessing this Ohio State team try to overcome some of the monumental losses in personnel it suffered after last year. After losing all four defensive linemen that position is going to be the spotlight heading into fall – especially when considering two of those linemen were John Simon and Johnathan Hankins – but when it comes to Saturday's spring game, I am most excited to witness another defensive position: linebacker. Or, more specifically, Curtis Grant.

Grant has been a curious player since coming to Ohio State as a highly touted five-star recruit. Looking only at his appearance, the guy looks like he's been in the NFL for two years. He passes the look test, but now it is time to see if he is going to live up to the expectations and turn into that next great OSU linebacker. Through two years with the Buckeyes, Grant has only been a disappointment.

But it's important to remember that he has only been a disappointment because of the standards set during his recruitment. He still has a chance to develop into the player most thought he already was, and Meyer said he's seeing that development this spring. As of right now, Grant is this team's starting middle linebacker, but I want to see him in a game setting. I want to see if he can make plays without over-thinking, and I want to see if he can use his imposing physical stature to make his presence felt. It's fun watching practice, but now its game time.

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