Urban Meyer’s opinion has never wavered about how important spring games are to his program.
In a time where some Division I schools have seen low figures for their respective intrasquad scrimmages — LSU leads in attendance figures for schools that have already had their spring game with 18,565 attendees, while Michigan is second with 15,000 — Meyer has said time and time again how important the Spring Game is to him and his staff as they evaluate players.
And now, he wants as many people in the stands Saturday as there would be for any other game.
“I hope it’s 106,000,” Meyer said. “I don’t think it probably will be, but I’d love to see a great crowd out there because we appreciate that.”
Meyer said he and his staff put a lot of weight on the game, and do not consider it just “another practice.”
“We’ll throw the ball a lot (Saturday),” Meyer said. “And I want to see who can stand up and make a play in front of the crowd. I’ve had players that are really fast and athletic that have great skill that just can’t get it done when the lights are on.”
OSU’s coach again raved about redshirt-freshman cornerback Eli Apple, who had the black stripe removed from his helmet at Saturday’s Student Appreciation Day, signaling that he’s finally a member of the team.
“(He) had another good day today,” Meyer said of Apple. “The fortunate thing is Eli Apple got his black stripe off, the negative is that it took him (so long).”
Meyer also mentioned a quartet of true freshmen — H-back Curtis Samuel, linebacker Raekwon McMillan, kicker Sean Nuernberger and wide receiver Johnnie Dixon — are all “officially in the mix” for playing time after having good springs, but a couple older players have been sitting out with academic issues.
Those two are redshirt-senior running back Rod Smith and junior defensive lineman Jamal Marcus, the latter of which started against Clemson in the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl and recorded six tackles.
“(Marcus) practiced the first half (of spring practice) and he’s struggling academically too, so we pulled him out,” Meyer said.
Meyer didn’t say either player was suspended for their academic troubles, but did say that Smith has “got a tough load right now, he’s gotta pass these three classes.”
As far as the quarterback situation is concerned, for the first time since he got to campus in 2010, senior Braxton Miller is not going to participate in the scrimmage because of recent shoulder surgery.
Enter redshirt-sophomore Cardale Jones, who has been running with the first team offense all spring in Miller’s absence.
Meyer again reiterated Jones’ growth in maturity and development as a football player, saying it is difficult for him to see with how Jones was when Meyer arrived in 2012.
“Completely different player than he was, still not ready to take it,” Meyer said of Jones. “Very functional guy that cares, tries to lead. It’s hard to believe, I think he’s like 21 or something, 22 years old … (But) he’s 14 going on 22. But I’m really pleased with where he’s at.”
Meyer said the format of the Spring Game won’t change much compared to the first two he’s conducted at OSU. The teams will be drafted Thursday and led by cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs and running backs coach Stan Drayton.
No matter who’s lining up against whom, Meyer said the day is big for him as a coach to see where players stand.
“I get a lot of evaluation (done),” Meyer said. “We’ll grade the tape, and I want to see who’s going to make plays.”
Start time is set for approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium.