Patrick Maks is back, this time, checking in from the Ohio State Scarlet and Grey game. For his take on the onset of spring ball, you’ll want to click here. For his take on this past weekend, read on and as always, do enjoy.
Credit: John Kuntz / The Plain Dealer
As Urban Meyer led Ohio State on to the field in the Horseshoe Saturday afternoon, I half expected dramatic theme music a la “Friday Night Lights” — or the Imperial March depending the way you look at it — to play over the loud speakers.
Unfortunately for those in attendance, that didn’t happen.
The thing is, though, it didn’t need to.
The sight of Meyer, clad in white like some sort of redeeming, righteous knight, running out of the tunnel for the first time as the Buckeyes’ head coach, was on its own dramatic enough.
In what has been a year of on- and off-the-field struggles, the excitement Meyer brought to Saturday and this entire spring has been nothing short of refreshing for a program that’s gone through so much change in such a short amount of time. And before a crowd of more than 81, 000 who decided to brave incredibly dreary, chilly Columbus weather, Meyer validated that excitement and gave fans more than just a little bit of hope to cling on to until August.
On a macro level, Meyer is a rock star at OSU, and he should be. Whether or not he ever wins a national championship as a Buckeye, Meyer’s already a college football Hall-of-Famer. Really, the man has nothing left to prove. This, however, hasn’t stopped the 47-year-old from rebuilding one of college football’s blue bloods back into the Big Ten and national power that it had been for a decade.
One way to do this is by repairing the broken hearts that Buckeye fans have felt since losing the 2010 season, former coach Jim Tressel and the good graces of the NCAA. Meyer’s gone to some pretty incredible lengths to mend the heartbreak. After an open practice drew more than 3,000 students, faculty and fans in what was truly a touching moment of unity across “Buckeye Nation,” it’s safe to say he’s winning that particular battle.
Another way to put OSU back on top of the college football world is to actually, you know, win on the field — which, likely, is a significantly taller order than winning back the hearts of already notoriously loyal Buckeyes fans. Yet after one of the most hyped springs in recent memory, Meyer is on his way to doing exactly that.
It’s crazy how an offense of nearly the same cast as last year can look as radically different (and improved) as it did in the Spring Game. Quarterbacks Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton combined to throw for 40-55 passes for 443 yards. On the first drive of the game, Miller led the Scarlet team to a touchdown and, in the process, managed to complete all four passes during the series. A 4-4 string may not sound overwhelmingly impressive, but Miller, who struggled to throw the ball at times last season, finished the day 24-31 for 258 yards.
To be fair, it’s clear Miller has a long way to go before he’s close to Meyer’s standards of what an elite quarterback looks like. In what was an otherwise solid day, Miller had an awful interception that was gift-wrapped and air mailed to cornerback Adam Griffin and nearly threw at least two other interceptions.
The story of the game, though, was early enrollee wide receiver Michael Thomas. I’m not sure if it’s a good or bad thing, but Thomas’ 12 receptions for 131 yards were two shy of any OSU receiver’s total all of last season.
Even though Meyer explained that his offense will be much more balanced than it was Saturday, watching OSU just absolutely let it rip all afternoon has got to be exciting if you’re a Buckeyes fan.
And while I hate to keep using the word “exciting” to describe OSU’s spring, that’s exactly what it was — all the way down to the last play Saturday.
It’s clear that OSU has made some giant strides in becoming a vastly improved team. At the same time, Saturday’s performance was far from a finished product. In fact, Meyer said his guys will need to have the “best offseason in the history of college football” to get to where they want to be.
No pressure, right?
Fortunately for Meyer, it seems he’s well on his way to building a program in his own image. Saturday was just a glimpse.
— While running back Jordan Hall (among others) was kept out as a precaution, Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith and Bri’onte Dunn battled it out on the ground for a spot in Meyer’s vaunted spread offense. Meyer said, right now, the depth chart goes Hall, Hyde, Smith and Dunn.
— On defense, sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier was a monster — the kid is just absolutely a playmaker and literally all over the field. His seven-tackle, one-sack, two-tackles-for-a-loss performance doesn’t even do him justice. Shazier seems like one of those guys who just likes to go out there and see how many souls he can eviscerate by the time the clock strikes zero.
— Additionally, even though defensive lineman John Simon saw very limited action, sophomore Michael Bennett did a really nice job of improving his stock for next season.
— Meyer’s been pretty blunt on who he thinks the playmakers on his team are. Jordan Hall, Jake Stoneburner, Carlos Hyde, Philly Brown, Michael Thomas and Devin Smith all made the cut in that order.
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