Thursday, April 26

Spring is in the air

There isn't a whole lot of Buckeye coverage to talk about when both the football and basketball squads are in the off-season, but last week's Ohio St Spring Game provides one of those opportunities. Not that you can accurately gauge how successful your team will be based solely on them playing each other, but watching guys in Scarlet and Gray uniforms hit each other gives me quite a jolt of excitement. There are a few individual performances in this game I'd like to touch on, but first I'll give you the one underlying impression I had of seeing our Buckeyes on the field for the first time since January - we have a new coach in Columbus. Yes, this is obvious, as we all know that Urban Meyer has taken the reins of the program. We also knew coming in that some changes would be made, and it should also be pointed out that this was only a Spring Game, the play-calling could be significantly different once the actual season starts. With all that being said, the offense that Coach Meyer ran last weekend was a complete 180 from what we've seen from Ohio St since...ever. While I'll once again mention that we probably shouldn't expect to see an offense exactly like this one in the coming season, I think it's safe to say that the "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense that has been the Buckeye staple since Woody was roaming the sidelines has officially been replaced. While he doesn't quite have the same playmakers on this team (yet), Meyer has implemented a similar offense that he ran in Florida, with lots of shotgun, no-huddle, quick passes, and letting his start player (Braxton Miller) loose while trusting him to make the right decisions. Whether Brax can correctly make those decisions will decide how effective this team can be. Another key for Meyer to run his offense is finding that Percy Harvin-type player with a ton of speed that can line up at running back or receiver. It seems Jordan Hall is the front-runner for that spot right now, but was unfortunately held out of the Spring Game for precautionary reasons.

But as of now, the Scarlet and Gray game provided fans with lots of fast-paced action, something we are not used to seeing. Miller threw the ball 31 times (which would certainly be a career high if he does this in a game that counts), completing 24 of them for 258 yards. He also had an incredible run on the last play of the game, giving the Buckeye faithful a glimpse of what he is truly capable of. He got around the outside before tiptoeing the sideline and diving into the endzone, but was stupidly ruled out of bounds and the touchdown didn't count (seriously?). But nonetheless. His counterpart for the Gray team, Kenny Guiton, was also slinging the rock, going 17 of 26 for 191 yards with each a passing and rushing touchdown.

The biggest individual performance came out of nowhere from freshman wideout Mike Thomas. Thomas grabbed 12 of Miller's tosses for 131 yards. For some perspective, three Buckeyes tied for the team lead in receptions last year with 14. Total. For the season. Meyer has no qualms playing youngsters over veterans, so if Thomas can continue to impress he will definitely see the field, possibly even starting opening day (128 days!). Barring injury or something crazy, the one starting WR position should be locked up by Philly Brown. Brown impressed last week as well, catching seven passes for 90 yards as Guiton's #1 target. After the game, Urban confirmed that suspicion by telling campus newspaper The Lantern, “Right now, him (Thomas) and Brown are kind of our top two (receivers).” Defensively, LBs Curtis Grant and Storm Klein were held out of the game with injuries, opening the door for Ryan Shazier to steal the show. Shazier had eight tackles, and just seemed to be all over the field. With last season's leader Andrew Sweat graduating, linebacker is a rare question mark heading into the 2012 campaign, and Shazier may have played his way into the starting lineup with this performance.

As for the game itself, Miller's Scarlet team rallied late for the 20-14 victory. After Guiton's TD run put Gray up 14-13, Brax led the game-winning drive that was capped off with a Rod Smith touchdown. Christian Bryant ended the hopes of a last-minute Gray drive by intercepting Guiton in the closing minutes.

The coolest part of the afternoon festivities came before kickoff, when Meyer had his players do one-on-one contact drills. The highlight of the clip is when the two QBs were thrown in there (resulting in Guiton absolutely truck-sticking Brax), showing that they aren't afraid of contact either. Also, John Simon is an absolute monster. There isn't much else for us Buckeye fans to do now for the next four months other than wait in anticipation of another successful season, watch the (first-place!) Tribe, and maybe watch the '02 National Championship a dozen or so times.


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