There will be months to pick apart a fairly fascinating spring of Ohio State football, but we’ve got to start somewhere.
Here are my top five takeaways from the 2016 spring game:
1. Joe Burrow can really sling it
The redshirt freshman quarterback showed why he is expected to be J.T. Barrett’s backup this fall. Stephen Collier had his moments, but the raw ability of Burrow was really on display.
Ohio's 2014 Mr. Football completed 14 of 23 passes for 196 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. One of the TDs was a shovel pass, but the other two were on different types of great throws. He hit Torrance Gibson with a beautiful fade pass (and Gibson made a great catch) for another score then hit Terry McLaurin in stride for his last TD of the day. McLaurin never had to slow down so he was able to run through an arm tackle on the way to the end zone.
2. Urban Meyer must have extremely high expectations for Torrance Gibson
Speaking of Gibson, reporters went to the postgame interview room looking for Meyer to rave about the redshirt freshman. Instead he sounded disappointed he didn’t see more from Gibson, who caught six passes for 50 yards and two touchdowns. After hauling in Burrow’s pass in the end zone, he later took a shovel pass and beat the defense around the corner to the end zone for his second score. The 6-4, 205-pounder showed his freaky athleticism when he went up for a few passes and also proved he can put his foot in the ground and leave a defender in the dust on a wide receiver screen. But Meyer spoke more after the game about how good he can be this fall than how good he was Saturday. That should probably excited Ohio State fans and concern the Buckeyes’ opponents.
3. Parris Campbell is growing up
There’s a tendency to forget about four-star recruits who don’t made an immediate impact, but Campbell’s long wait for playing time may be close to paying off. A player who was unusually young when he graduated from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in 2014, he is now a 6-1, 205-pound third-year sophomore who showed off some impressive strength and balance when he got his hands on the ball. Campbell caught three passes for 106 yards, including a 55-yarder, and looked like a handful in the open field. He figures to be in the mix this fall even when some veterans return from injuries that slowed them or kept them out in the spring.
4. Mike Weber might have that “something”
In his first chance to run the ball at Ohio Stadium in front of a large crowd, the redshirt freshman offered some hints about why it took a preseason injury (and a Heisman Trophy candidate) to keep him off the field last fall.
Now listed at 215 pounds, Weber displayed great burst, power and quickness in the hole. He stiff-armed a defensive tackle to the ground on one run and ran over a safety to finish one of his two touchdown runs. Maybe that’s why teammates were comparing him to a smaller Carlos Hyde during preseason camp last year? At any rate, Meyer cautioned not to get carried away with such comparisons yet, but there is still reason to think he’ll make some noise for the Scarlet and Gray sooner rather than later.
5. There is no shortage of playmakers on defense
The defense was decimated by graduation and NFL draft early entries, right? Maybe not. The bevy of big plays by defensive linemen such as Davon Hamilton, Dre’Mont Jones and Jashon Cornell was probably aided somewhat by the lack of offensive line depth that is seen in many spring games, but it still had to be encouraging for anyone wondering how much the Buckeyes will miss Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt.
More impressive, though, were Malik Hooker and Dante Booker. They combined for 17 tackles for the Gray team, and both laid out a couple of big open-field hits. Hooker had two interceptions, both on plays where he had to go get the ball, and returned one for a touchdown. That capped a spring in which the sophomore safety was often mentioned as an up-and-comer. Meanwhile, Booker looked just like a guy who could have been playing earlier but had to wait his turn behind a stalwart linebacker like Joshua Perry.