Dienhart: Five observations from Ohio State spring game
Ohio State football
Ohio State continues to look for its championship mojo since winning the national title in 2014. The Buckeyes have come up short each of the last two years, failing to even play for the league title and getting eviscerated in the playoffs last year by Clemson.
Urban Meyer didn’t stand pat, as the staff has been shaken up. The offensive staff has a new look, as Meyer saw co-offensive coordinators Ed Warinner (Minnesota) and Tim Beck (Texas) leave. Meyer made a home-run hire in landing former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson. His playbook dovetails nicely with what Meyer likes to do. Meyer also brought in Ryan Day from the NFL as co-OC and quarterbacks coach. And Greg Schiano will be the lone defensive coordinator this season after Luke Fickell left to become head coach of Cincinnati. New to the defensive staff: LB coach Bill Davis, who coached in the NFL from 1992-2015.
Here are five observations from the spring game held last Saturday.
1. The secondary still needs work. No shock there, as the unit has lost three players who project as first-round draft picks: Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Malik Hooker. For most of the spring game, Buckeye pass-catchers found themselves with plenty of room to operate, partly due to the NFL Pro Bowl feel to much of the scrimmage. That is good for a wideout corps that has a lot to prove. But not so much so for a rebuilt secondary. Still, there is plenty of talent in players like Shaun Wade, Damon Arnette, Jr., Denzel Ward, Kendall Sheffield and Jeffrey Okudah. Give these guys time. And they may have time to develop playing behind a strong front seven. The Buckeye defensive line is loaded with talent and depth, as all four starters are back. This will take pressure off the defensive backs.
2. The receiving corps had its moments. There were six TD catches in the spring game. Johnnie Dixon, Terry McLaurin, K.J. Hill, Parris Campbell and Binjimen Victor are exciting talents. And keep an eye on Demario McCall and Austin Mack, too. Eric Glover-Williams could be a wild card, as the diminutive former defensive back has incredible moves. Maybe he can inject a scary element into an offense that hasn’t always produced up to its talent level. The wideouts haven’t distinguished themselves the last two years. That needs to change. In fact, more juice is needed in a passing game that ranked No. 81 in the nation last year. Having veteran QB J.T. Barrett back should help, but he needs to show chemistry with new coordinator Kevin Wilson.
3. This will be one of the top linebacking corps in the Big Ten. The starters appear set, with Chris Worley inside flanked by Dante Booker and Jerome Baker, a rising star. And keep an eye on Justin Hilliard. He made some nice plays on the afternoon and may be ready to play a key role after arriving on campus as a five-star recruit. Injuries have been one reason why Hilliard has been slow to realize his vast potential.
4. The offensive line should be better. The unit had its ups and downs in 2016, but it should benefit from any growing pains. The right guard slot should be watched, but OSU has a senior center in Billy Price. And tackles Jamarco Jones and Isaiah Prince look good, along with guard Michael Jordan, who started as a freshman last year.
5. There may not be a better defensive line in the Big Ten … or nation. The Buckeyes figure to line up Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard on the ends with Tracy Sprinkle and Michael Hill inside. Jalyn Holmes and Nick Bosa can sub in at end, with Robert Landers and Dre’Mont Jones inside. In fact, Jones could start over Sprinkle. This will be a ferocious unit.