College football: Five things to look for in Ohio State’s spring game


By Jim Naveau - jnaveau@limanews.com



Ohio State concludes its spring football practice on Saturday with its annual spring game, or more accurately a practice with some elements of a football game in it, at Ohio Stadium with fans and the media allowed to watch.

Here are five things to look for in the spring game if you were lucky enough to get one of the 19,800 tickets for it or will watch it on the Big Ten Network:

• The quarterbacks. Anytime Ohio State has a competition to see who will be the starting quarterback that automatically becomes the No. 1 question about the Buckeyes.

This year the quarterback question is getting even more attention than usual for several reasons.

First on that list is that Justin Fields is certainly in the discussion of who is the best quarterback ever at Ohio State and replacing him won’t be easy.

The three players competing to replace him — redshirt freshmen C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller and incoming freshman Kyle McCord — are all 5-star or 4-star recruits, which adds to the interest in the quarterback battle.

And this is the first time fans will get to see them throw the ball. None of the three have ever thrown a pass in a college game.

Regardless of what happens in the spring game, don’t expect an announcement anytime soon from coach Ryan Day about who OSU’s starting quarterback in the fall will be.

Even Fields, who was light years ahead of the competition, wasn’t named the starter after the 2019 spring game. When Day was asked then if there was a leader for the starting quarterback job, he said, “I don’t really know. It’s a work in progress.”

• Who are some incoming freshmen to watch other than McCord?

1. Running back TreVeyon Henderson. 2. Wide receiver Emeka Egbuka. 3. Defensive end Jack Sawyer. 4. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. 5. Linebacker Reid Carrico.

Henderson was rated the No. 1 running back nationally in the 2021 recruiting class. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t play a significant role in OSU’s offense this season.

Ohio State added Egbuka, the No. 1 receiver recruit nationally in 2021, to a group that already included Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and three receivers ranked in the top 10 nationally in the 2020 recruiting class. Egbuka reportedly has been among the most advanced freshmen on offense during spring practice.

Sawyer is a 5-star defensive end who was ranked No. 3 nationally despite missing his senior season in high school because of an injury. Harrison is a 4-star recruit and the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison, so there will be much curiosity about what he can do.

Carrico has been one of the top freshmen on defense this spring and plays a position where a young player could force his way into the picture for playing time with a good spring and a good preseason because last year’s top four linebackers are gone.

• Are there defensive backs making plays and are there new things being tried in the defensive approach?

Pass defense was a struggle all season last year for OSU. It ranked No. 122 nationally in passing yards allowed and gave up 464 yards passing and five touchdown passes in the national championship game against Alabama.

With the two top returning cornerbacks, Sevyn Banks and Cam Brown, sitting out Saturday’s game because of injuries, young defensive backs like Ryan Watts, Lejond Cavazos and Lathan Ransom will have opportunities to make plays and make a good impression.

• Are the position changes some players have made a real thing or are they just spring experiments that will be forgotten by fall?

Gee Scott Jr., a former 4-star recruit at wide receiver, has been practicing as a tight end some of the time this spring. Demario McCall, a sixth-year player who has been tried at running back, wide receiver and kick returner, has practiced as a defensive back. Paris Johnson Jr. has moved from offensive tackle to guard. And Cade Stover, who was a defensive end, has become a tight end.

• Who might be headed for the transfer portal?

The days and weeks after the end of spring practice have produced some notable transfers in the past.

Two years ago, quarterback Matthew Baldwin realized he was not going to beat out Fields as the starter and transferred five days after the spring game. Three years ago, Urban Meyer told Joe Burrow he was going to make Dwayne Haskins the starting QB and Burrow decided to leave OSU three weeks after the spring game for LSU.

None of this year’s quarterbacks appears likely to move on this soon since two are redshirt freshmen and the other is an incoming freshman. But someone who sees limited playing time in his future at Ohio State at some other position could decide to enter the portal.

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By Jim Naveau

jnaveau@limanews.com

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

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