Saturday Observation: OSU Spring Game

Spring football brings back a small taste of fall football lovers, but OSU's spring game in Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday marked the culmination of the team's activities on the gridiron for the next three months. To hold you over until fall, here are some of my observations from the game and some perspective on the overall spring.

Spring football brings back a small taste of fall to Ohio State football lovers, but the Buckeyes' spring game in Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday marked the culmination of the team's activities on the gridiron for the next three months.

Though spring practices have been closed, Braxton Miller put on a show while leading the Scarlet team to a 31-14 win over the Gray 24-7, leaving Ohio State fans with a good taste in their mouth heading into the summer.

And to hold you over until fall camp, here are some of my observations from the game and some perspective on the overall spring:

Miller in a black jersey – Protecting Miller was obviously the right move, but I made this comparison early in the game: watching Miller in a black jersey is like watching someone skeet shoot with a cap gun. Who Miller is as a player revolves around his athleticism and his elusiveness, and that is taken away when they whistle plays dead when he's touched because in a lot of those instances he would have kept the play alive. Protecting the quarterback is always key – especially with Miller – but it is really hard to gauge his overall game when he's overly concerned with plays ending with someone getting a hand on his shoulder pads.

Looking at all of spring, Miller has clearly grown – Miller finished the game having completed 16-of-25 passes for 217 yards and added a touchdown on the ground, stats that could turn out to be the norm in his junior season. I think it is clear that he has a newfound understanding of the offense, which means he'll make the turn in his third year from an athlete simply playing quarterback to actually being a quarterback. He seems on the same page as his receivers, his ball has more touch and he is more comfortable in the pocket while plays develop. Clearly, it is passing that is the most important area of growth from Miller. Receivers say he is greatly improved, and so does Meyer. And because of it, the head coach said: "I would be disappointed if we didn't have the best offense in the Big Ten next year." Well, that'll be because Miller is one of the best quarterbacks – not athletes playing QB – in the country.

Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington steal the show – Maybe the black jerseys on Miller and Kenny Guiton had a little to do with the fact that Washington had four sacks and Spence had three, but the statistics really are a culmination of a very productive spring for both players. Washington and Spence came in together in the 2012 class as some of the best defensive line prospects in the country, and now both are doing what you'd expect from highly touted prospects – stepping up to be ready when their team needs them the most. Well, after losing four starters defensive line – including John Simon and Johnathan Hankins – that time is now. Spence will be the pass-rusher, and Washington will be a run-stopper, but both have proven to be high-caliber OSU starters in their second seasons. You can't underestimate how important that is, because without them, the Buckeyes aren't a national title contender.

Right tackle spot still up for grabs – Because Spence and Washington combined for seven sacks against the two players competing for the right tackle spot – Chase Farris and Taylor Decker – it was clear that strides still need to be made on that bookend of the offensive front. Though Decker seems to be the clear-cut leader for the position just based on how many reps he gets with the first team, its hard to imagine that he'll enter fall camp as the runaway candidate. Meyer likes to set his starters in the spring and prepare for games in the fall, but he won't be able to do that at right tackle because neither player really has come to take the position. The battle continues in three months, which is something Meyer has admitted is unsettling to him considering it occurs at such an integral offensive position.

Offensive line chemistry still uncertain – Meyer said during this spring that OSU was able to go unbeaten last season because of the chemistry built on the offensive line. When speaking to him after the game, Jack Mewhort was quick to point out that the needed chemistry doesn't exist on the offensive front yet. Well, you can imagine why. The right tackle spot is still up for grabs and Corey Linsley and Mewhort were held out of the spring game to preserve health. Mewhort, however, said chemistry on the offensive line didn't spawn until fall camp last year, and he is confident this year's group will be able to find it after summer. That's a must, because Miller can't do it without them.

Curtis Grant seemingly making strides – When spring ended last year, Grant was a starting linebacker at Ohio State. When the spring game ended Saturday – and he led both teams with eight tackles and a sack – Grant was a starter again. We'll see if he can hold it when the fall comes this time. But if Grant's demeanor during and after the game is any indication, it seems like it is time for the former five-star prospect finally starts playing like one. His physical presence was felt during the game with some jaw-rattling hits, and his overall comfort in understanding the defense and making decisions on the fly seems much improved. When asked after the game if he's confident that he'll finally be a main contributor, he confidently made it clear that this isn't last year anymore. And judging by the spring he's had, I believe him. Oh, and the neck-roll is a good look for him.

Devin Smith is going to be a star – Meyer had a lot of great things to say about Corey "Philly" Brown and Chris Fields in the postgame, but I am sticking with the guy I've been waiting to explode since the day he got here – Devin Smith. If you have ready my observations on this site the last two years, you know I have consistently thought that Smith is a star in the making. Call it a hunch, but I think everyone in the college football world will know the name Devin Smith by the end of October.

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