Spring practice for the Ohio State football team begins April 1, the start of a process that leads up to the April 24 spring game in front of what is typically a large crowd if the weather cooperates.
While that game always gives fans a chance to see the Buckeyes in a way they normally don't get to experience, the fun part for many of the Ohio State players and coaches comes in the weeks before as the pressing questions facing the team begin to be answered in practice sessions.
This year's slate seems sure to include both a kick scrimmage and a jersey scrimmage, two of the more important events that test players' abilities to perform their best under pressure. Those showings, combined with three weeks worth of practice time, will help reshuffle the depth chart going into August camp.
In the 14 sessions before April 24, there will be plenty of questions to answer for the Ohio State coaching staff, and it will be up to the players to provide those solutions. With that in mind, BuckeyeSports.com begins a preview of the spring by looking at the burning questions at each position starting with the offense.
QUARTERBACK: Will Terrelle Pryor take another step?
Obviously, the quarterback position – and any discussion about the team – has to start with Pryor, who has become the face of the Buckeye squad.
When we last saw the junior, he was completing his second year as a Buckeye in grand fashion, showing off his game management skills while guiding the team to a Big Ten title and then combining those abilities with his game-breaking talent in the big Rose Bowl win against Oregon.
There's little doubting that Pryor got better as a player during the final six games of 2009. He cut down on mistakes, took care of the ball, made quicker reads and delivered more accurate passes – all things that observers had wondered if he could do in his first season and a half at Ohio State.
Now, he has to keep the momentum going. Pryor likely won't be asked to overextend himself during the spring – especially as he recovers from postseason knee surgery – but after a few more months of film study it will be interesting to see just how much he's gotten better from a mental standpoint after making a huge jump at the end of the year.
Bonus question: Will Kenny Guiton show what he can do in his first extended time in the spotlight as a Buckeye?
RUNNING BACK: Will a healthy Jaamal Berry impress?
Ohio State fans know what they have out of four of the five scholarship tailbacks who played a season ago. Brandon Saine has both speed and power, Dan Herron is good at picking his way through piles, Jordan Hall has quickness and vision while Jermil Martin provides a physical presence with some moves too.
Then there's Berry, who was expected to show up on campus and make an immediate impact after arriving from Florida with plenty of plaudits. Recurring leg injuries kept him from fulfilling that promise in year one, so he enters the 2010 spring camp as an unknown compared to those who got to play above him.
There's plenty of reason to think he'll make an impact, too. Head man Jim Tressel seemed eager to get Berry on the field even midway through the campaign when a redshirt seemed like the prudent move, and Berry showed flashes of skill even while alternating sitting and playing during fall camp.
A positive showing on the field would go a long way toward cementing Berry in the team's 2010 plans, as the field gets even more crowded with Carlos Hyde taking part in spring practice and highly rated back Roderick Smith slated for a fall camp arrival.
Bonus question: Will Hyde and Hall do enough to earn big carries in 2010?
WIDE RECEIVER: Which of the youngsters will step up? This question stays the same for the second year in a row, but it's a fair one. Ohio State welcomed in three true freshmen last year at the spot in 2009, with Duron Carter earning playing time while Chris Fields and James Jackson watched. Now, with some big losses hitting the position, the chance for increased playing time looms.
For Carter, the major key will be to earn back what he lost, which was a spot in the rotation, when he was suspended for the Rose Bowl because of academics. He showed enough talent to get on the field from the opening game, so there's no doubt the coaches know what he can do. However, he'll have to show he's able to be trusted with the car keys, plus Carter will want to continue to move up the rotation because his playing time decreased as the season went on in 2009.
Fields made heads turn with his talent during his redshirt season, drawing comparisons to Santonio Holmes from some and playing dangerous Minnesota wideout Eric Decker on the scout team leading up to that contest. Jackson was compared to Ted Ginn Jr. before arriving at Ohio State and will be itching to show what his speed can do to stretch the field.
With Ray Small and Lamaar Thomas having left Ohio State and the Buckeyes sure to tinker again with three- and four-wideout sets, spring is the time in which those players can state their cases.
TIGHT END: Will Reid Fragel or Jacob Stoneburner emerge as the starter?
Stoneburner certainly enters the spring with a leg up after he earned extensive playing time – including seeing the field in crucial running situations – during the 2009 season.
However, this question is more a credit to Fragel, who has impressed at every turn with his size and athleticism. He worked with the top units in fall camp last year because of injury and saw time mostly on special teams for the Buckeyes, making him part of the minority in the class of 2009 that didn't redshirt.
Fragel also impressed with his conditioning in winter workouts, so he'll at least be in the discussion when it comes to playing time. While everyone waits to see if Stoneburner will become the passing-game target everyone envisioned while he was embarrassing defenses at Dublin (Ohio) Coffman, it's also fair to wonder if Fragel's abilities will get him extensive time in 2010.
Bonus question: The time-honored one: Will the tight ends be more a factor in the passing game as talent continues to build there?
OFFENSIVE LINE: Will we see a new Mike Adams in 2010?
It's safe to say 2009 was a forgettable year for the big lineman. His play was questioned after practice reports painted a less-than-flattering picture of his development, then he was held out from the first two games of the year and later suffered an injury that curtailed playing time near the end of the season.
So far, 2010 seems to be better, as he was in excellent shape when the media were allowed to watch winter workouts in early March. Next up, he'll have the chance to show whether he's improved on the field when spring practice begins.
Two of the major complaints about his practice work last year dealt with his propensity to play high and give up leverage as well as his lack of a "mean streak" when blocking opposing players. The former certainly should be better with another year of technique work under his belt – especially given his relative youth in '09 after missing most of his freshman year with injury – and the latter could improve as well as he sees a glowing opportunity to supplant Jim Cordle at left tackle in the offing.
Bonus question: The staff rarely likes to take chances with dinged up offensive linemen in the spring, so opportunities could come down to this simple question: Who will be healthy?