Ohio State’s spring game is 10 days away, and only then will fans get a glimpse of the progress that has been made mostly beyond the view of outsiders.
But as Ohio State completed the ninth of 15 spring practices, it is clear that coach Urban Meyer is pleased with the development of his team.
He still isn’t satisfied with the depth on the offensive line, he said Tuesday. Several positions remain too close to call. Still, Meyer said, positions of strength have gained additional fortification and question marks have plausible answers.
Leading the way, as expected, is the defensive line, which is loaded with talent and depth.
“As of now, it’s the strength of our team on defense,” Meyer said.
He called tight end the most improved position, despite the absence of returning starter Marcus Baugh, who’s rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
“A.J. Alexander is really coming on,” Meyer said. “Luke Farrell is a little ahead of (fellow redshirt freshman) Jake Hausmann, but they’re comparable.”
At quarterback, Meyer said redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow remains J.T. Barrett’s top backup, ahead of redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins and true freshman Tate Martell.
“Tate had his best day yet in the scrimmage (Saturday),” Meyer said. “Competition brings out the best in people.”
Referring to Cardale Jones’ heroics, Meyer added, “We all know what happened a couple years ago. All of a sudden, someone taps you on the shoulder and says go beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, and he did it.”
The emphasis on improving the deep passing game is paying off, Meyer said.
“The deep-ball percentage was the best we’ve had since we’ve been here last week,” he said. “We’ve been charting everything. J.T. and the boys did a really good job. We didn’t catch all of them, but as far as accuracy, it was 90 percent. That’s what we’re looking for.”
At running back, incumbent Mike Weber is clearly ahead, but Meyer is happy with the development of J.K. Dobbins and Demario McCall.
Meyer continued his praise of Parris Campbell, who has been playing the hybrid position, and said senior Terry McLaurin has also had a strong spring, as have Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack, K.J. Hill and Johnnie Dixon.
Demetrius Knox remains with the first unit at right guard on the offensive line, with Malcolm Pridgeon and an improved Matt Burrell providing competition. Meyer said he is disappointed that other linemen haven’t emerged more quickly.
At linebacker, where Chris Worley, Jerome Baker and Dante Booker are the projected starters, Justin Hilliard is making a push, Meyer said.
Safety Damon Webb is the only returning full-time starter in the secondary, and Meyer said he is much improved from a year ago. Erick Smith and Jordan Fuller are battling for the other safety spot.
Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette have the edge at cornerback, with several first-year players pushing them hard.