Buckeyes Take Jersey Scrimmage Seriously

This morning is a big one for the Ohio State football team because of the staging of the spring jersey scrimmage, a game for bragging rights between the offense and defense with scarlet practice shirts on the line. We have a preview of the event, which will be followed this afternoon by stats and a recap.

The public was able to get a look into the psyche of the Ohio State football team at the annual Buckeye Football Spring Kickoff luncheon held April 8 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Numerous insights were gleaned from the OSU coaches and players at the charity event, but one in particularly drew plenty of laughs – and showed just how important this morning's jersey scrimmage in Ohio Stadium is to those close to the program.

When asked to talk about the scrimmage in front of the crowd, cornerback Chimdi Chekwa chose to progress quickly into trash-talking mode.

"We feel like we've been dominating the offense in practice, so I think we're going to take the jersey scrimmage," he said.

Doing so would end a three-scrimmage losing streak for the defense, which has been forced to wear the white practice jerseys as a result for more than a year and a half.

One of the guests of honor at the event, current Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Santonio Holmes, knew that fact. Despite having left the program in 2006, Holmes was still up on his Buckeye lore and must have had some words that caught the ear of head coach Jim Tressel.

" ‘Tones' wanted to know what color jerseys you have on in practice," Tressel called down to Chekwa from above.

"That doesn't matter right now," came Chekwa's reply.

That drew plenty of laughter, but the next words, out of the mouth of linebacker Ross Homan, elicited even more guffaws from the crowd.

"And if the score is lopsided, Coach Tressel will always put the ball on the 2-yard line for the offense," Homan said.

As if someone couldn't tell by the back and forth, the event is one of the marquee parts of any practice season. Safety Anderson Russell confirmed that the event probably is more important among the players because of the bragging rights involved than the annual Spring Game, a glorified practice session more designed to please the fans.

"I really think this is the more intense of the two because you split the team in half," he said.

The event is typically held once each spring and once each fall. The scrimmage generally matches the first unit on each side, the 2s against the 2s and the third team against the third for almost equal amounts of time. Field position varies throughout the day, and the staff is known for setting up some situations late that favor one side over the other to keep the game close.

The offense gets points for first downs, big plays and for scoring, while the defense earns points for stops, sacks and turnovers.

The last three events all have belonged to the offense, with the fall scrimmage in August 2008 going to the offense by a score of around 72-52, though Tressel professed not knowing the actual final at the time.

The last time the defense was able to get the better of the offense was in the spring of 2007. Playing on the Woody Hayes indoor field because of inclement weather, the defense dominated an OSU offense missing players like the departed Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez and an injured Chris Wells on the way to a 50-44 win sealed on the last play by a Lawrence Wilson sack.

Before that, a young defense won the August 2006 scrimmage in surprise fashion as Brandon Mitchell knocked away a pass during a goal-line drill on the final play to give the pups a win in an event dogged by torrential rains that started the Ohio Stadium turf problems.

It has been so long since the defense was able to come away victorious that Russell had a hard time remembering his side's last triumph. He does remember how his squad can get the red tops back, however.

"The biggest thing is you have to get turnovers because that's the main way you score points," he said. "Turnovers are worth five and if you take it back for a touchdown, you score 12. That's something we definitely need to do."

The defense appears well on its way to do doing so, especially after practice sessions on Thursday and Friday resulted in numerous turnovers for the stop troops.

However, back at the preview luncheon, offensive lineman Jim Cordle was able to get the last line in – something he hopes to continue with a performance today.

"We will maintain the red jerseys after the scrimmage," Cordle proclaimed.

Check back at BuckeyeSports.com throughout the day for continuing coverage of the scrimmage including unofficial stat totals as well as player and coach reactions.

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