Just because the ball is flying doesn’t mean the day is going to be exciting. Such was the case today in the Ohio State spring game — 64 passes were thrown by backup quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, with only 31 caught, and for no touchdowns. But with at least 11 eventual starters sitting out, it was a typical spring game. That said, the defense left the field feeling a lot better about itself than it did on Jan. 3 after the loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Aggression does that.
Barrett completed 17 of 33 passes for 151 yards, and he ran for another 21, despite wearing a no-contact black jersey, as did Jones. Although coach Urban Meyer has said that Jones established himself as the backup to Braxton Miller throughout the spring, Barrett had the better game. He led the Gray on two impressive scoring drives, with Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball running in for the only offensive touchdowns. Linebacker Chris Worley made nine tackles, as he and Darron Lee continue to compete to start, and freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan lived up to the hype with two huge plays near the goal line for the Gray.
Senior walk-on defensive end Rashad Frazier scored the game’s other touchdown with a big play on Barrett, forcing a fumble with a hit in the end zone and then pouncing on the ball for the Scarlet. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis was a force for the Gray and helped McMillan on a goal-line stop of freshman running back Curtis Samuel on fourth down from the 2-yard line. Just like the year before in the spring game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, receiver Michael Thomas came up with catches, leading the way with six for the Gray, including a one-handed grab along the sideline. Corey Smith gained 72 yards on his five catches for the Scarlet.
Meyer promised a lot of passing, and that was the case. The defenses were limited in the gambits they could run with their front seven. There were quite a few passes over the middle in the intermediate zone, something you didn’t see much of last season. But with the quarterbacks handicapped by that black jersey, the few option plays left more to the imagination of what could come. As for the defense, press coverage on the outside was emphasized, just as it had been all spring, and it was effective.
The only two starters to have been named on the offensive line, tackle Taylor Decker and guard Pat Elflein, sat out on Meyer’s orders. But so did all four returning starters on the defensive line, so it was wannabe starters on both sides going against one another. The defensive line mostly held sway, and Meyer pointed out the obvious: There is a long way to go in rebuilding the offensive line.
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Freshman kicker Sean Nuernberger, an early enrollee, was 7 of 8 in impromptu field-goal competitions with senior Kyle Clinton (4 of 8) as they seek to replace Drew Basil.
Receiver Dontre Wilson and cornerback Doran Grant did not take part because of dings they suffered late in spring drills, Meyer said. No player was reported injured during the game.
It will have to be a big one for the offensive line headed toward preseason camp in August. Or maybe the depth on the defensive front four is just that good. What seemed to disappoint Meyer was that none of the receivers, such as highly touted freshman Johnnie Dixon, or running backs seized the day by making a huge play. Maybe that will come in the fall, when quarterback Braxton Miller is back running the show.