Overlooked amidst the larger stories of this afternoon is that the Ohio State Buckeyes conducted a scrimmage of sorts at the Horseshoe. Comprised of four 8-minute quarters, the players were pitted Scarlet jerseys against Gray.
Quarterbacking the Scarlet were Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen. Leading the Gray was a panoply of signal callers; Justin Zwick, Troy Smith, Todd Boeckman, and Jim Otis all took snaps with Justin and Troy enjoying the bulk of the work. In addition to the quarterbacks, the bulk of the first team players suited up for the Scarlet. Though they might not be officially labeled the "Scout Team", most of those who donned Gray today appeared to be backups.
As can be imagined, the Scarlet emerged victorious. However, their win came with a modest margin of 24 to 19.
Both Mike Nugent and Josh Huston looked sharp, with Nugent connecting on a 44 yard field goal for the Scarlet and Huston booting two field goals for the Gray (at least one of which was over 40 yards in distance).
Probably the best offensive strike of the day was engineered by the Scarlet when Drew Carter slipped behind the defense and found himself so open he looked to be fielding a punt. Krenzel hit Drew almost in stride for a touchdown strike of over 80 yards. Others who scored on the day for the Scarlet were Bam Childress and Roy Hall. Childress reeled in his touchdown when Scott McMullen found him open in the corner of the end zone. Roy Hall earned his 6 points by taking a short pass and cutting back against the defense for a 30-yard jaunt to pay dirt.
Scoring for the Gray were Mike Young and Troy Smith. Justin Zwick calmly stood in the pocket despite pressure and delivered a 19 yard pass right on the money for the score to Young. Smith's touchdown was not quite so easily accomplished as he found himself pressured and was forced to pick his way through the defense to end up with the score sans his helmet.
Other performers of note on offense included:
Michael Jenkins caught several balls and looked to be the first option (again, no shocker here) when Scarlet and Krenzel needed a first down.
John Hollins hauled in a couple of passes. Hollins just keeps plugging along and might end up with extensive playing time before his career is over if he is consistent.
Ryan Hamby had multiple receptions and showed the ability to get open in the middle of the field for gains in excess of 15 yards.
Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall played extensively, neither showing any lingering effects of the injuries that have kept them draped in yellow for the bulk of the spring. Both rushed for decent yardage, alternating finding holes to the inside and the outside of the defensive backups.
Ira Guilford continued to scale the learning curve with several hard runs right up the middle. He refuses to be taken down by the first person to make contact.
Troy Smith showed his wares as a scrambler. With the first team and second team defensive line breathing down his neck on a regular basis, Troy was forced to pull the ball down and run for his life on numerous occasions.
Louis Irizarry showcased his talent catching passes and getting physical with the secondary players attempting to tackle him.
Defensively, Fraser, Pitcock, Hawk, and Penton all pressured the quarterback. Penton and Pitcock ended up with multiple sacks on the day. Mike Kudla shed his yellow jersey and played. Mike Roberts denied Bam Childress the opportunity to turn the corner on a punt return, probably saving a touchdown.
Other notes and observations:
- If the end of the world as the Buckeyes knew it arrived in the form of Ross, Guilford, and Hall getting injured, then Troy Smith would make a fine running back. He shows a natural ability to escape defensive players. About every other time that he takes off upfield, defensive players end up leaving their jocks lying around the field like so much litter.
- The most enjoyable play of the day for John McLaughlin came as time was winding down. Troy Smith was driving with the Gray offense and was once again pressured. Looking to not take the sack, he flipped the ball to big #62 as he was being tackled. John, after playing hot potato with the football for a moment, recovered from his surprise and took off upfield for a nice gain and a first down. Ineligible or not, it probably made John's scrimmage. I know it made mine.
- The defensive line looks every bit as good as advertised. This group goes eight deep and maybe more. Behind the starters, Pitcock, Maupin, and Patterson have looked excellent on the inside. Penton and Richardson have performed well and freshman Marcel Frost has impressed.
- The offensive line is providing more time to Craig Krenzel and the other signal callers to pass the football. Whether this is a trend that will continue in the games is critical to the success of the Buckeyes this season. More time to pass = more passing plays available. More passing plays available = more headaches for the defense and more open lanes for the rushing attack. All this will combine to result in points.
- There is still a waiting game for another wide receiver to emerge who is equal to the threat that Michael Jenkins provides. Drew Carter, Santonio Holmes, Roy Hall, John Hollins, and Bam Childress are all making their case for playing time. Each has looked good at different occasions but none have consistently connected with the quarterbacks. If forced to guess, I would bet that Drew Carter will start and be backed up by Bam or Santonio. Who will end the season as the starter is anyone's guess at this moment. Production will be the key.
- A.J. Hawk is a joy to watch play the game of football. Give me the power to clone him and opposing running backs would mutiny at the thought of charging through the line.
- Justin Zwick is not Troy Smith when it comes to scrambling ability, but he has repeatedly shown he can buy himself much needed time almost at will. Both of these young quarterbacks bring something different to the table. Choosing between them might be difficult come August of 2004.