Ohio State Football: Spring Game Buckeye Leaves

After a four-month hiatus Buckeye leaves are back as football -- or something resembling a real football game -- returned to Ohio Stadium for the Ohio State Spring Game Saturday. With most of the stars sitting out to avoid injury our focus is on the young Buckeyes who impressed in the final practice of the spring.

Ryan Ginn: Because he embodies everything Ohio State needs development-wise this offseason, I’m going to go with Malik Hooker for my Buckeye Leaf. The Buckeyes are going to need young players with little to no experience to step up this fall – especially in the defensive secondary, which lost three of four starters – and Hooker perfectly fits the bill. Because he started playing football so late in his high school career he’s flown a bit under the radar but he’s one of the most athletic players on the team. He looked like his level of play is catching up with his ability after making two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

Blake Williams: While it's hard to pick out one performance in a practice setting that featured heavy rotation, Malik Hooker gets the nod for me. He scored the game's first touchdown when he caught an under-thrown ball from J.T. Barrett and returned it 82 yards to pay dirt. He hauled in another pick in the second half, this one off of Stephen Collier, but he was more than a ball hawk. Hooker paced all Buckeyes with 10 tackles, seven of which came in the first half. While I don't think a position battle can be one in the spring game, Hooker did nothing to hurt his chances of being the starting safety this fall.

Tim Moody:  The Gray squad won the game in pretty easy fashion with strong play on both sides of the ball, but one player who hasn’t been highly touted this spring stole the show on defense. Defensive tackle Davon Hamilton, a redshirt freshman, isn’t expected to be a factor in the lineup in 2016, but he made his case with five solo tackles and three sacks, totaling losses of 10 yards. On a day when long touchdown passes were the crowd pleasers, Hamilton must have at least caught the eye of the Ohio State coaching staff by spending the majority of Saturday afternoon in the backfield.

James Grega: This was a tough call between Malik Hooker and Joey Burrow, but considering he was piloting an entire offense in front of 100,000 people, Burrow gets my vote. Burrow displayed impressive touch on multiple deep balls and on a goal line fade pattern to Torrance Gibson for an early score. Burrow was also working with the second team defensive line, and after a shaky first possession, calmed down and played an almost perfect game outside of acrobatic INT from Jerome Baker. If recent history holds true and Ohio State needs to turn to its backup QB for any extended period of time, it appears Burrow is capable of at the very least being a game manager for OSU, with a very high ceiling. 

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