Ohio State Spring Game: What Can Fans Expect?

Saturday is the one time each spring most fans have a chance to check out the Buckeyes before the first game in the fall, and so there's always anticipation for the annual spring game (1:30 p.m., BTN). So what should fans expect to see? BSB staffers break down what to watch for after having had an eye on the Buckeyes this spring.

With the annual spring game upon us, Urban Meyer has set the ground rules for the contest.

There will be just two scholarship quarterbacks, Cardale Jones on one side (not live) and Stephen Collier on the other, and Meyer said there will be a lot of passing. Meyer has said the fans deserve to see the top players on the team, so members of the 2,000 Rep Club such as Taylor Decker and Joey Bosa will have two series to show their stuff.

There will be a pregame equipment sale, a halftime quarterback challenge between Jones, J.T. Barrett and Troy Smith, halftime races between the fastest students on campus and Buckeye players, and much more. There won't be the injured Barrett on the field, nor will there be Braxton Miller, Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Thomas, Tyquan Lewis, Joel Hale or some other potential starters who are banged up.

And what does Meyer want to see? The usual. The three-time national championship head coach wants to see how his young players handle the spotlight.

"There's a bunch of players that have not performed in the arena in front of big crowd," Meyer said. "That does impact people. It impacts the way they play and the nerves, the ability to show up when everybody is watching. I've had great players in practice that can't play in games or need time to develop. That's No. 1.

"No. 2 is there's going to be a bunch of guys that have neve rplayed, the Noah Browns off the top of my head, Gareon Conley are two guys that are penciled in to start somewhere and to watch those guys perform."

So now that we know what the head coach is looking for, what should the fans keep an eye on? BuckeyeSports.com has the answer. A number of our writers and analysts have been attending practices throughout the spring and have a few things in mind that we've noticed that fans will want to check out. There's also a few players who have stood out that we think fans will enjoy watching, perhaps for the first time.

Blake Williams
While the most interesting position group for Ohio State will be pretty boring for the spring game – only Cardale Jones and Stephen Collier will be available at quarterback – there will still be plenty of intrigue surrounding the defending champs this Saturday and it will start with the receivers and defensive linemen for me.

The Ohio State staff has been calling for more substantial depth from the defensive line for a while now and the rumor this spring has been that they might finally have it. While Saturday is really just one more practice, I am interested to see young players like Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes and Sam Hubbard perform in front of the crowd. They should give us a glimpse of who is worthy to start opposite Joey Bosa and who may be able to spell him for stints this fall. Though the tackle rotation is slightly less interesting to me because of the presence of known commodities in Tommy Schutt and Donovan Munger, I’ll be looking to see who looks most competent next to Adolphus Washington.

With Devin Smith and Evan Spencer gone and Mike Thomas rehabbing from a sports hernia surgery, I expect a lot of mixing and matching at wide receiver in the spring game. We’ve heard about Jalin Marshall, Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown being moved all over the field and I hope to see some of that Saturday. While who plays – including youngsters like Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin – will be interesting, I’m also intrigued by who lines up where and how often individual players are moved around not just from drive to drive but from play to play.

Player you'll want to watch – Gareon Conley. After going on about the D-line and receivers, I’m going with a corner here. The secondary as a whole isn’t that interesting as Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell and Eli Apple all return to their starting roles, but their success – and the continued improvement of the secondary under Chris Ash’s press-corners scheme – is dependent on Conley stepping in to a big role this fall. The redshirt sophomore started last season in a dead heat with Apple, but he couldn’t keep pace throughout the season and he was picked on when he got the start against Michigan State. I’ll be looking for Conley to put an up-and-down first season behind him and solidify himself as Apple’s running mate.

It appears we won’t see much of the 2,000 Rep Club, as Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said Thursday that expects guys like Joey Bosa and Taylor Decker to play only the first two series of the spring game. That should open the door for some of the lesser-used players who have ascended to the first-team reps in spring practice while their more experienced peers were withheld.

The benefit here is twofold. First, Meyer protects his stars while making sure that everyone who forked over $5 gets to see at least some snaps with the best-known Buckeyes on the field. But once the game is turned over to the younger guys, Meyer will get to see what he has with some potential future weapons. Heading into his fourth year, Meyer has spoken time and again about the difference between guys who can do it in practice vs. those who get it done in front of a big crowd.

There are plenty of guys – whether it’s the class of 2015 early enrollees, class of 2014 redshirts or handful of class of 2013 guys still waiting for a chance – who can show the coaching staff what they’re capable of with the spotlight on them. It could help or hurt their chances for playing time this fall, and that’s just the type of sink-or-swim competition that Meyer craves.

Player you'll want to watch – Parris Campbell While it’s been Noah Brown that’s received the most praise this spring, Campbell hasn’t been far behind in that category. He showed up to Ohio State last June at just 16 years old and still has a handful of months before he turns 18. That was at least one of the factors in the decision to redshirt him, but now the coaching staff can turn him loose. In media day interviews in New Orleans and Dallas, players told me that he was the redshirting player that impressed them the most in practice.

Last year, I expected an entertaining spring game (it did not deliver, for the record), and this year I expect the opposite, to be quite frank. Only one of the big three at quarterback will play, the offensive line is either banged up or being rested, and the general lack of work being given to the team's most experienced players means the little we've seen thus far this spring has been choppy at best.

So, of course, this will probably be a phenomenal game filled with fireworks and entertainment galore. Maybe this will be the game that such young skill position players as Jalin Marshall, Curtis Samuel, Noah Brown and Parris Campbell officially announce themselves to the OSU crowd (though Marshall and Samuel already have in some ways) and take home the coveted Bam Childress Award. Maybe each of those players will haul in a deep ball from Cardale Jones or make two players miss on the way to a long touchdown. They have each been praised this spring, so it could happen.

But my bet is the defense has a good day, especially if we don't see much of Taylor Decker, Billy Price, Jacoby Boren and Patrick Elflein. I really like the progress this defense continues to make and I think there's a chance such young studs as Jalyn Holmes, Sam Hubbard, Dante Booker and Erick Smith show up to play and make this a low-scoring affair more remembered for student races and quarterback challenges than actual football substance.

Player you'll want to watch – Jalyn Holmes: With the team's top offensive linemen either banged up or resting, I think it could be like two years ago when edge rushers Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence combined for seven sacks and the two teams had 12 sacks between them. With that in mind, I think Holmes will be the one to stand out most. He played some as a freshman and has been in the thick of a battle for playing time this spring, and he has the size and speed to be a terror in a game in which Urban Meyer has said the Buckeyes will pass quite a bit.

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