Countdown To Spring: Players On The Spot

We begin our look toward OSU's spring practice, which opens March 31, by trying to answer 10 pressing questions. We answer the first one today, looking at players on the spot -- including DE Jay Richardson -- this spring.

Ohio State's strong finish to the 2004 season – the Buckeyes won four of their last five games, including double-digit wins over Michigan and Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl – have led national pundits to put the Buckeyes high on their preseason lists.

CBSSportsline.com projects OSU as the nation's No. 6 team in 2005, while NationalChamps.Net lists the Buckeyes seventh in its early list. The CBSSportsline.com list is also notable by the presence of three key OSU opponents in the top 10 with Iowa No. 2 (behind projected national champ USC), Texas No. 4 and Michigan at No. 9.

It is clear that Ohio State, coming off a disappointing 8-4 season, will need to be ready to go when the 2005 season begins. The first step in that progression was the winter conditioning program, replete with 6 a.m. workouts.

The next phase is the annual ritual of spring football. OSU will open spring drills March 31. The Scarlet and Gray Game will wrap up spring practice on April 23 at Ohio Stadium.

The practice schedule for OSU's spring practice includes practices on these dates (all 3:15 p.m. unless noted): March 31, April 1, April 2 (9 a.m., first full pads practice), April 5, 7, 8, 9 (9 a.m.), 12, 14, 15, 17 (jersey scrimmage, time TBA), 19, 21 (3 p.m., kick scrimmage), 22 and 23 (Scarlet and Gray Game, 1:30 p.m.).

From past experience, it is safe to assume that all practices are closed unless announced by the school. General admission tickets for the Scarlet and Gray Game are on sale at hangonsloopy.com for $5 each.

Between now and March 31, we will count down with our top 10 questions for spring football.

We will start with our 10th most pressing question and work down to No. 1. Here goes:

10. Will several players "on the spot" deliver?

Each spring, we come to this point and highlight a handful of players who would be on the spot. That means it is time for them to probably deliver on the promise – or step aside and let somebody else earn large doses of playing time.

With this being a veteran team, there probably are not a lot of those guys on this team. Obviously, the quarterbacks and tailbacks will all be scrutinized closely this spring. So you can put Troy Smith, Justin Zwick, Antonio Pittman and Erik Haw on the spot right now.

But there are some more players I think need to have a big spring – their health permitting – include junior defensive end Jay Richardson, junior split end Roy Hall and sophomore tight end Marcel Frost.

Richardson has the frame and all of the athletic ability in the world, now he needs to put it all together. There is an opening at defensive end with Simon Fraser's departure and Richardson is the morning line favorite to win that job.

Hall opened 2004 as a starter, but saw his game reps dwindle each week as Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez moved to the top of the wide receiver chart. At 6-3, 228 pounds, Hall casts an imposing shadow. He needs to develop more consistency to become an impact player. A move to tight end in some sets may also help him.

And, speaking of tight end, Frost seemed to be the answer after he moved from defensive end to tight end for the start of fall camp. But he suffered an injury during camp and never saw the field as a redshirt freshman. The clock is ticking and OSU could definitely use an athletic tight end to help the offense stretch the field. This could be their guy.

If we had to delve any deeper to find some guys on the spot, we'd probably look at the offensive line. Doug Datish and Tim Schafer lost jobs midway through last year. They will be hungry to get back into the lineup. Steve Rehring, Kyle Mitchum, Ben Person, Jon Skinner and others will also be looking to impress as well.

2005 OSU Football Schedule

(Times TBA)

Sept. 3 Miami (Ohio)

Sept. 10 Texas, 8 p.m. (ABC)

Sept. 17 San Diego State

Sept. 24 Iowa

Oct. 8 at Penn State

Oct. 15 Michigan State

Oct. 22 at Indiana

Oct. 29 at Minnesota

Nov. 5 Illinois

Nov. 12 Northwestern

Nov. 19 at Michigan

Returning Starters

* Offense (8): LT Rob Sims, LG Doug Datish, C Nick Mangold, RT Kirk Barton, SE Santonio Holmes, FL Ted Ginn Jr., TE Ryan Hamby, QB Troy Smith.

* Defense (9): DE Mike Kudla, DT Marcus Green, DT Quinn Pitcock, SLB Bobby Carpenter, MLB Anthony Schlegel, WLB A.J. Hawk, CB Ashton Youboty, FS Nate Salley, SS Donte Whitner.

* Specialists (0): None.


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