COLUMBUS — Ohio State’s spring football game will be Saturday at Ohio Stadium. While spring games might sometimes seem like an antiquated relic from an earlier era, coaches like to see how young players react in front of crowds and fans like to watch spring games, so they’re not going away anytime soon.
What can be expected from OSU’s spring game? Here are some things to look for and some other things you won’t see:
Five things you will see at Ohio State’s spring game:
1. Ryan Day without the training wheels. Yes, he coached three games last season when Urban Meyer was suspended. No, the spring game is not anything like a regular-season game.
But this will be the first time Ohio State fans have seen him on the sideline as the man who has the final say. Following the incredible success Meyer had, his every move will be scrutinized. And that includes the spring game.
2. The starting quarterback for Ohio State in 2019. Justin Fields, a transfer from Georgia, is expected to win the job. But redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin, who spent last season observing practice from the sideline as he recovered from a high school knee injury, also is competing to be the starter, according to Day.
Fans will get to see both quarterbacks in action Saturday and decide if the competition is as close as Day portrays it.
3. Six of the newest Buckeyes, the 2019 recruits who enrolled early and went through spring practice, led by 5-star wide receiver Garrett Wilson and 5-star defensive lineman Zach Harrison will be in uniform.
With three of last year’s top four receivers gone, Wilson might have the best chance to have an impact early.
“I’ve seen him make plays downfield day in and day out,” Day said about Wilson. “His blocking is OK. He needs to get much better. He needs to get stronger. But he’s willing. He’s willing to stick his face in there and that’s 80 percent of it.”
4. Former and current Buckeyes will be honored. Defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones and offensive lineman Michael Jordan, both of whom have declared for the NFL draft, will be recognized for being named All-Americans during the game. Also, between the first and second quarter the 2018 team members will receive rings for winning the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl.
Undoubtedly the recruits and their families who will be attending the spring game are a large part of the target audience for these ceremonies.
5. By the end of the day, several players will have played for both teams. It happens every year at the spring game.
Five things you won’t see during Ohio State’s spring game:
1. Tackling. The Buckeyes’ spring game last year resembled a touch football game and it won’t be any different this year.
“I thought about it a lot and tackling in the spring game is a dangerous thing,” Day said earlier this week. “I just don’t think it is worth it to try to put these guys on the ground in the spring game.”
2. A 3 ½ hour-game. The spring game will be four 10-minute quarters and there will be a running clock in the second half.
3. Last year’s defense. In 2018 OSU’s defense disappointed and underachieved. A lot of the same players are back but defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and every one of last year’s defensive coaches other than defensive line coach Larry Johnson, is gone.
Change is coming. It would be surprising if any significant changes would be visible on Saturday, but Day talked about a new defensive scheme on Wednesday and was excited by the linebackers making more plays in spring practice than they had last season.
4. Starters like offensive lineman Thayer Munford and safety Jordan Fuller, and several other players who are rehabbing injuries. Also, healthy starters who have nothing to prove, like defensive lineman Chase Young, will make only token appearances if they play at all.
5. A full house. Construction on C Deck at Ohio Stadium means that only 76,000 seats will be available for the spring game. So the attendance will not approach the announced crowd of 100,189 in 2016 or 99,391 in 2015.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau