ANALYSIS: More takeaways from the Ohio State spring football game

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

As far as Ohio State spring games go, that was definitely one.

They ran us out of the press box early Saturday, and I had to make it home for a daddy-daughter dance anyway, so I did not have a lot of time for reflection.

With that said, here are my somewhat delayed reactions to my first view of the spring game with more thoughts to come as we get time to dissect what we saw Saturday afternoon and all of the spring:

1. The quarterbacks were certainly underwhelming.

That was the case last spring and many other spring games, but last fall quarterback play took a step back, so there is more reason to wonder what it means this time.

Completion percentages were high, though that is how most modern offenses are designed these days. Deep balls were noticeably absent, perhaps because of the defense and perhaps because the veteran quarterbacks were trying to be too careful. Maybe both.

Maybe it will take Will Howard or Devin Brown throwing caution to the wind in August to win the job, but then again they came out of Saturday looking better than Lincoln Kienholz, who threw a pair of interceptions.

(The presence of wind during the spring game and a Friday open practice in which the quarterbacks also weren’t anything to write home about is worth noting, too.)

2. On the bright side, the Buckeyes opened in the “Full House” T Formation.

Shoot, maybe that should be their base formation? Just kidding (mostly), plus new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly ruled it out anyway. And yet…

We don’t know if they have the line to become a team that declares it is going to run and dares the defense to stop it, but they have the backs.

Truthfully if they run a throwback offense, more likely it will be one from about 10 years ago than 60.

If the QBs are not as efficient playing from the pocket as fans have become accustomed to under Ran Day, they can at least run. Sort of like J.T. Barrett? Hmmm…

3. The scheme is definitely a work in progress.

As I’ve written before and’s Nathan Baird mentioned in a postgame question, running the quarterback can be an asset or a crutch for an offense. It got to be more the latter later in the Urban Meyer years, which is how Ryan Day got to Columbus in the first place. We’ll see if they can strike the right balance this year, if they have to.

During the annual Ohio State Football Coaches Clinic last week, Kelly gave a presentation on how to run wide zone, and linebackers coach James Laurinaitis mentioned they saw a lot more zone from the offense during spring practice.

That was somewhat surprising because Ohio State was already primarily a zone running team, and there was some thought Kelly would change that based on how he operated as head coach at UCLA.

Then Day said after the game they did not get that deep into schematics in the spring because Kelly only arrived late in the winter following the Bill O’Brien fiasco. The staff was more concerned with evaluating personnel so they could decide how to use it during the summer.

4. What of the receivers?

Another key to Meyer’s offense working was receivers who could win on the outside, which OSU didn’t have in 2016 and ‘17 but likely does this year.

Based on recruiting and the eye test, the Buckeyes are again talented at WR but uncertain how many of those guys are actually ready to play.

That is something else to be determined in August, but senior Emeka Egbuka and true freshman Jeremiah Smith might be enough if they can just contribute a game-breaking play or two a week.

Especially because…

5. Ohio State might not have to score many points anyhow with this defense.

The corners and the defensive line should make Jim Knowles’ job easy, though he is also tasked with keeping a lot of guys happy and healthy throughout the season. He also needs to strike a balance between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough, but everything is easier for a coach when you have this many veterans who know the defense.

He also mentioned again Mitchell Melton could be a guy who provides a certain amount of natural pass rush, implying the other veterans do not.

Every defensive coordinator’s dream is being able to get pressure with four guys because it lets you put more people in coverage and lessens the chance of mental mistakes.

Some young safeties flashed in the spring game, which is important because the starters are proven but depth was limited because of injuries to Lakota West grad Malik Hartford and Syracuse transfer Ja’Had Carter (who are expected to be back this summer).

How much Knowles can trust the safeties drastically impacts how much he will do schematically, but here again the talent, experience and depth at cornerback is huge.

For Knowles, being able to play 9 on 9 with the cornerbacks taking the outside receivers out of the game is also a great benefit schematically. He mentioned that Friday afternoon during the coaches clinic when he also showed attendees how he can draw up his defense to feature a middle safety who can roam around and clean up. He appears to have two guys who can do that in Lathan Ransom and Caleb Downs.

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