Brittany Schock / Asst. photo editor
Saturday afternoon marked the beginning of a new era of Ohio State football. For the first time, Urban Meyer took the field at Ohio Stadium as head coach of the Buckeyes in front of a crowd of 81,112 people for the 2012 LiFE Sports Spring Game.
The intrasquad scrimmage finished with the Scarlet team defeating Gray, 20-14. The final score from the two sides of the divided roster does not carry much relevance, but the performances on the field presented OSU fans with a glimpse into how the team will look this fall.
Both offenses and defenses had their ups and downs, but there were a number of aspects from both teams that stood out in the four 10-minute quarters Saturday.
1. Michael Thomas could be the playmaker OSU lacked last season at wide receiver. Thomas enrolled during Winter Quarter as an incoming freshman, but he looks ready to begin making an impact in the passing offense from the team’s first game this fall. Thomas was sensational Saturday, finishing the game with 12 receptions for 131 yards. Last year’s leading receiver, rising sophomore Devin Smith, had 14 receptions and 294 yards for the entire season, and he played in 13 full games.
Thomas has good size at 6-foot-2 and is an effective route runner who has the lateral agility to be a difference-maker in space. Even when matched up against the Buckeyes’ best cornerback, rising redshirt sophomore Bradley Roby, he was making receptions on Saturday.
2. The offense should emphasize passing over rushing. Last year, OSU had more than twice as many rushing attempts as passing attempts. The Spring Game indicated that should change this fall.
The two teams combined had 55 passing attempts and 443 total passing yards, compared to only 35 rushing attempts and 89 total rushing yards. Meyer said after the game that OSU passed so much during the Spring Game because that’s what the team needed to work on. Regardless, the Buckeyes should pass more often, pairing a more experienced rising sophomore Braxton Miller under center with a more aggressive offensive game plan.
3. The Buckeyes plan to use the no-huddle offense this season. One of OSU’s deficiencies last season was their lack of a hurry-up offense. With an inexperienced freshman quarterback and an inefficient offensive system, the Buckeyes often drove down the field methodically, even late in a game.
This year, expect OSU to be able to run an efficient no-huddle offense. The Scarlet offense, led by Miller, came right out of the gate with this strategy, and drove 80 yards to score quickly in 2:17. If Miller can do this with the full OSU offense this fall, the Buckeyes will have much more success at scoring late in games when they need points, and keep opposing defenses on their heels.
4. Ryan Shazier is ready to be a star of the OSU defense. While rising senior captain defensive end John Simon should rightfully earn the majority of attention as the star of the OSU defense, opponents will also have to prepare for Shazier, a rising sophomore outside linebacker.
In Shazier’s first start last season against Penn State, he had 15 tackles. He also started the final two games of the season in which he had 18 total tackles. On Saturday, he stood out once again as a playmaker on the defense.
He had eight tackles, including two for loss, and was consistently around the football when he was on the field.
OSU is well-known for its history of great linebackers. With three years of eligibility remaining, Shazier has the time and talent to be the next great at the position.
5. The defensive line is the strength of the team. Simon barely played Saturday, and rising junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins did not play due to a knee injury. Even without the two best defensive linemen on the field, defense dominated the line of scrimmage.
The two teams combined for nine sacks on Saturday. Six-and-a-half of them came from defensive linemen, including two from rising sophomore Steve Miller and one-and-a-half from rising redshirt junior Adam Bellamy. Granted, many of these sacks came against reserves on the offensive line, but they nonetheless showed that the defensive line is deep with talent.