Spring games at Ohio State, at least in the Urban Meyer era have been used to work out the kinks in the Buckeye passing game. With the way things went last season, especially down the stretch, it is safe to say the OSU quarterbacks will be airing the ball out early and often.
With just two days until the annual spring game, its time to give you three things to watch for when the Buckeyes take the field.
1. Quarterback Rotation
Normally, a veteran quarterback and unquestioned starter like J.T. Barrett would not get many reps in a spring scrimmage, but with Ohio State having "enhanced" its playbook this spring, I expect Barrett to play at least the first half on Saturday. I would be absolutely shocked if Barrett played any less than a half of football and would not be shocked if he came out for the opening drive of the third either. New quarterbacks coach Ryan Day and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will likely be given the green light to fire away in terms of throwing the ball, and I expect Barrett to throw the ball plenty in the scrimmage.
In addition, I expect Joe Burrow will get the start for the Gray squad like he did a year ago, and quite possibly play the entire game. Burrow has been battling with Dwayne Haskins for the backup job for some time now, but appears to have a firm grasp on the No. 2 spot. My guess is that Burrow will play the better part of three quarters before giving way to Tate Martell in the fourth quarter, while Haskins will likely replace Barrett on the Scarlet team. I also expect Barrett, Burrow and Haskins to all be in black no-contact uniforms while Martell, I expect, will be live.
2. Wide Receiver Production, Deep Ball Completions
If the quarterback rotation is the top thing to watch in the spring game, the wide receivers are a very close second. If there is one position that underachieved more than the QB group in 2016, its the wide receiver unit. With Noah Brown and Curtis Samuel gone, there is a lot of unproven talent in Zach Smith's room, and Saturday will give them the stage to show the improvement they say they have made this spring. Binjimen Victor, Parris Campbell, K.J. Hill and Terry McLaurin figure to be the top wide receivers running with the No. 1 offense as well as Austin Mack, Johnnie Dixon and defensive back turned H-back Eric Glover-Williams.
The deep ball completions could have gone into either category here, but we will put it under wide receivers. Ohio State didn't run, or complete many deep passes in 2016, and according to players and coaches alike, improving on that has been an emphasis in spring camp. The Buckeyes are charting their deep pass completion rate this spring and said their goal is to complete at least 50 percent of their long shots. McLaurin, Campbell and Hill figure to be their top deep threats, and seeing them go up against the Buckeyes new defensive backfield should make for a competitive and intriguing matchup.
3. Who Will Start At Right Guard?
This time last year, Ohio State had to replace three starters on the offensive line, whereas there is one opening this year. Billy Price's move to center leaves his old spot at right guard open, with three main candidates to fill the job.
Demetrius Knox appeared to be the early leader for the position after being the first lineman off the bench when Michael Jordan suffered an injury against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. However, Knox struggled mightily in that game and missed Ohio State's Student Appreciation Day practice because Meyer said he was taking care of his academics. That could open the door for Matthew Burrell, someone Meyer mentioned as one of the most improved players on the team this spring, to take the job.
If its not either Burrell or Knox, JUCO transfer Malcolm Pridgeon could possibly slide into that spot if he every becomes fully healthy and learns the playbook. Pridgeon was in competition for an open spot on last years team, but suffered a season ending injury in fall camp that set him back physically and mentally in terms of learning the Buckeyes playbook.
I expect all three to get a chance with the first-team offensive line at some point during the spring game, but whoever walks out with the first-teamers first I will assume to be the leader for the job.
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