COLUMBUS – After Ohio State’s spring football game on Saturday, coach Urban Meyer recited a list of 13 players he said have locked up starting positions for next season.
But very few of those front line players were seen on the field when the Gray team, quarterbacked by freshman J.T. Barrett, outscored the Scarlet team, quarterbacked by last season’s No. 3 QB Cardale Jones, 17-7.
If this were a baseball game, it would have been the last day of spring training when the veterans have already packed their bags and left town.
Veterans like offensive linemen Taylor Decker, wide receiver Dontre Wilson and the entire starting defensive line never played. Quarterback Braxton Miller and tight end Jeff Heuerman were out with injuries. And most of the starters who did see action were on the field for only a handful of snaps.
“It’s a chance to see some young guys who, to be quite honest, I don’t know how much they will play,” Meyer said. “It’s a chance to let some guys play and catch a pass in Ohio Stadium, or whatever.”
The first big play of the day emphasized the tone that would carry through the rest of the game.
Three and a half minutes into the first quarter, the Scarlet team’s Rashad Frazier scored his team’s only touchdown when he sacked Barrett, forced a fumble and recovered the ball in the end zone.
Frazier, a fifth-year senior from Middletown, did not play last season because of an injury. He sat out the 2012 season after transferring from Purdue and did not see the field in two seasons with the Boilermakers.
Barrett completed 17 of 33 passes for 151 yards and Jones was 14 of 31 for 126 yards. Neither quarterback threw for a touchdown.
Warren Ball (8 carries for 55 yards) and Bri’onte Dunn (6 carries for 35 yards), both on the Gray squad, were the leading rushers.
Michael Thomas, a 2012 spring game monster with 12 catches, led the Gray with six catches and junior college transfer Corey Smith had five catches for the Scarlet.
Defensively, redshirt freshman lineman Tyquan Lewis had two sacks for the Gray and redshirt freshman Chris Worley had a team-high nine tackles for the Scarlet.
Meyer said that linebacker Josh Perry, safety Tyvis Powell, nickel back Armani Reeves, cornerback Doran Grant and defensive linemen Joey Bosa, Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Michael Bennett will go into fall practice as starters.
Offensively, Miller at quarterback, Taylor Decker and Pat Elflein on the line, and time-sharing tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett, have earned Meyer’s stamp of approval as starters.
One of the players the crowd of 61,058 on Saturday were most anxious to see was freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan, ranked as a 5-star prospect when he signed in February.
McMillan didn’t disappoint, delivering a big play on a stop at the goal line, among his five tackles. He has played his way into the linebacker rotation and is battling Curtis Grant, last year’s starter at middle linebacker, for that job, Meyer said.
The OSU coach said he is “not ready to anoint a starter” at running back from among Ezekiel Elliott, freshman Curtis Samuel, Bri’onte Dunn, Warren Ball and Rod Smith. He also didn’t name any starters at receiver, even though senior Devin Smith caught 44 passes last season.
“I can’t name one who is going to start, which is concerning, but also somewhat comforting because I can name about six that are good candidates,” Meyer said about OSU’s receivers.
Maybe the liveliest moment of the afternoon came at halftime when five students lined up against OSU receivers James Clark and Wilson and cornerback Grant in a 40-yard sprint to determine the fastest man on campus.
Senior criminology major Malcolm Branson appeared to beat the field, but it was called a tie between him and Grant and in a second race, Grant came out ahead.
Asked if Branson got him in the first race, Grant said, “He probably did.
“It was very much fun. The whole team was around, the whole stadium was watching. You know, fastest man on campus.”