COLUMBUS – Ohio State wraps up spring workouts Saturday with the annual spring game.
The format of the game will be offense against defense instead of the traditional Scarlet against Gray.
Kickoff is at 12:05 p.m., on the Big Ten Network and the Ohio State radio network with Paul Keels and Jim Lachey.
Here are 10 things to look for in the spring game:
1. There will be tackling in much of the game in a departure from recent years, OSU coach Ryan Day said during a press conference on Thursday.
“I think it is the right thing to do to tackle in this game. We still have a lot of young guys who need to go out there and play football. We’re going to do that,” he said.
“The first game of the year, we play Notre Dame at home. We have to be ready to roll.
“Once you start getting into the preseason and you get closer and closer to that first game, you start to really hold your breath because you don’t want to lose guys. But we have to tackle. We have to play physical. We have to play tough. If we want to reach our goals this year, we’re going to have to be that way and play that way. So, we’ll do that on Saturday.”
The exception will be the quarterbacks. There will be no tackling of the quarterbacks.
2. New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles was hired to bring changes and innovative ideas to the Buckeyes’ defense but you won’t see much of that on Saturday.
“He’s not going to do a whole lot of his stuff in this game,” Day said. “It will be about fundamentals. It will be very, very basic.”
3. What could be the most interesting position vs. position match-up in the game’s offense vs. defense format?
It might be OSU’s receivers against its cornerbacks. “When you look at Denzel (Burke) and Jordan (Hancock) and JK (Jakailin Johnson) and Cam (Brown) competing against our wideouts, those are fist fights every day,” Day said.
“If you can get open against those guys you can get open against a lot of guys in the country. If those guys can cover our wideouts, that’s a good sign for them,” he said.
4. Who is a player to watch? Wide receiver Julian Fleming. Can this be a moment when he makes a statement? Fleming, the No. 1-ranked receiver nationally in the 2020 recruiting class, has battled injuries most of his career at OSU.
Even though it’s just an exhibition, a big game Saturday could help put his career on an upward trajectory.
5. How many positions will Cade Stover play?
The answer is probably just one, tight end. But that is the third position the former Mr. Football from Lexington High School has played going into his junior season at Ohio State. He has also been a linebacker and a defensive end.
6. Who is not playing and who is not there?
Nine players, including tight end Mitch Rossi, defensive end Tyler Friday, running back Marcus Crowley, offensive lineman Josh Fryar and safety Lathan Ransom were unavailable for any of spring practice.
Safety Josh Proctor, who suffered a broken leg in the Oregon game last fall, could get on the field but not in any contact situations.
Kicker Noah Ruggles, who made 20 of 21 field goal attempts last season, was not with the team during spring practice but will return in the summer, Day said.
7. There will be several tributes to former OSU quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who died in an accident on a Florida interstate highway last Saturday.
There will be a DH decal on all of the players’ helmets. A moment of silence is scheduled before the national anthem and there will be a halftime video honoring Haskins.
The temporary memorial to Haskins created by fans on the north side of Ohio Stadium will be in place on Saturday.
8. How big will the crowd be? The temperature is predicted to be in the mid 50s with possible morning showers. Sunny conditions have brought out huge crowds in the recent past at OSU spring games, including 100,189 in 2016; 99,391 in 2015 and 95,272 in 2009.
9. The spring game is an important recruiting tool. A long list of players in the 2023 and 2024 recruiting classes are expected to be there.
Some of the top players who said they will be in Columbus this weekend include Nigel Smith, a 4-star defensive end from Melissa, Texas, in the 2023 class; Edwin Spillman, a 4-star linebacker from Nashville, Tenn., in the 2023 class; and possibly Dylan Raiola, a 5-star quarterback from Chandler, Ariz., in the 2024 class who is ranked No. 1 at his position nationally in 247sports.com’s composite ratings.
10. Will some players be headed to the transfer portal after spring practice?
The portal is a fact of life in college sports. And Ohio State currently has 89 scholarship players on its 2022 roster, four above the NCAA limit of 85.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau