April 13, 2013

Breaking down Ohio State's spring game

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CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Ohio State's 15th and final spring practice of the preseason came and went on Saturday- a spring game exhibition held inside of the Cincinnati Bengals' Paul Brown Stadium. The Scarlet squad got the best of the Gray by a score off 31-14, as the Buckeyes will now take a break from official football activities until the start of August's fall camp.



After the game, Ohio State players and coaches helped break down Saturday's spring practice finale.




Turning point



Spring games are hardly defined by their final scores, after all they're essentially glorified scrimmages, but Saturday's first half did feature a competitive matchup between what was basically the Buckeyes first-team units. Led by OSU's first-team offense, the Scarlet jumped out to a 14-7 lead, with the deciding score being a three-yard touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to Corey Brown.



"Just placing the ball where it needed to be placed," Miller said of the touchdown pass. "It's hard to defend."



Miller's back-shoulder touchdown toss was the type of play that he spent the better part of this offseason perfecting, while spending time in San Diego, Calif. working with noted quarterback specialist George Whitfield, Jr.



"I just know how the plays develop and where the players are going to be," Miller said. "I just move around the pocket knowing where the guys are going to be."




Numbers don't lie



For the first time in 28 years, Ohio State is replacing all four of its starters on the defensive line from a season ago, although you wouldn't know it by watching Saturday's scrimmage. Comprised mostly of the Buckeyes' expected starters, the Gray squad tallied nine sacks on Saturday, including a combined seven from sophomore defensive linemen Adolphus Washington (4) and Noah Spence (3).



"Adolphus Washington has really raised his level of play. He's a legitimate player, he's a starter at Ohio State," Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer said. "You saw him today just have his way with our offensive line."



Granted that the Scarlet team wasn't at full strength up front on its offensive line, the pressure provided by the Gray's front four was much-welcomed for an Ohio State team that is replacing six of its starting front-seven from 2012.



"I saw what you saw," Meyer said. "I am very pleased with Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington."



Buckeyes' Best



Behind Ohio State's front four, linebacker Curtis Grant had an impressive outing for the Gray team, tallying a game-high 10 tackles in his new role as the Buckeyes' starting middle linebacker. The junior-to-be is hoping to enjoy a breakout season in 2013, a year after losing his starting job three games into his sophomore season.



"Curtis Grant's the starting middle linebacker at Ohio State. He solidified that today," Meyer said. "He's a fully-engaged player right now, which I take my hat off to him."



Offensively, the Buckeyes didn't receive anything as impressive as Michael Thomas' 12-catch outing from a year ago, although Miller did somewhat steal the show with his improved passing performance. Completing passes of 49 and 42 yards, Miller looked impressive throwing the deep ball, an area in which he struggled throughout his sophomore season.



"I still got to do some little things. Watch the film, fix my mistakes," Miller said. "The playmakers- we get the ball in their hands and make the guys better."



Cause for concern



While Saturday's spring game was played without starters Jack Mewhort and Corey Linsley, the Buckeyes' offensive line looked less than stellar on Saturday, with a total of 11 sacks being given up in the game. Both candidates to replace Reid Fragel at right tackle- Taylor Decker and Chase Farris- struggled at times, in a position battle that will likely spill over into fall camp.



"The one glaring weakness is that fifth spoke on the offensive line," Meyer said. "We have a legitimate concern, and that's who that player is."



With expectations of being the best offensive unit in the conference, Meyer admitted that he'd like to see more from his right tackle position moving forward.



"I feel good about four of the five starters (on the offensive line). Unless we get that fixed, there goes the best offense in the Big Ten," Meyer said. "Because you can't play with four linemen. So one of those young players has got to step up. And they haven't this spring."



Urban Dictionary



Despite losing 15 bowl practices last season due to NCAA violations committed by members of the 2010 team, Meyer feels as though the Buckeyes have made progress this offseason while making up for lost time. The second-year OSU coach admitted that his team still has work to do on its own until the start of the season, but is pleased with where it stands at the end of spring practice.



"I think we're on track. I think we're halfway caught up," Meyer said. "We were 15 down. You can whine about it, complain about it, blame people I guess, but we don't do that. We just say let's just go forward and catch up somehow. I think we're halfway home. If we can pick up those eight practices between now and our first game, I think we'll be fine."







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