Editor’s note: The Ohio State football team will conclude its spring practices at noon Saturday in the annual spring game in Ohio Stadium.
The spring game is a game in name only, of course. For the most part it is a modified scrimmage, the last of the Buckeyes’ 15 permissible practices in the spring.
But first-year OSU coach Ryan Day and his assistants will be looking to see how their new team responds in a competitive setting — albeit against teammates — and in front of a large crowd.
Ohio State drew more than 100,000 fans for a spring game a few years ago, and more than 80,000 last year despite stadium renovations. The capacity for this year’s game will be about 76,000.
With that backdrop, in the days leading up to the spring game, The Dispatch will assess where the Buckeyes stand at key positions.
Today: Offensive line
Position coach: Greg Studrawa (fourth season).
Key losses: LG Malcolm Pridgeon (honorable mention All-Big Ten), C Michael Jordan (second-team All-Big Ten), RG Demetrius Knox (honorable mention All-Big Ten), RT Isaiah Prince (first-team All-Big Ten).
Key returnees: LT Thayer Munford (honorable mention All-Big Ten), RG Wyatt Davis, T/G Branden Bowen, T Josh Alabi
New to view: Josh Myers saw limited action last year and is the likely starter at center. Nicholas Petit-Frere redshirted as a five-star freshman last year and is looking to win the right tackle job in a battle with Bowen. Jonah Jackson, a graduate transfer from Rutgers who won’t arrive until the summer, is the favorite to start at left guard. Harry Miller is a five-star center who will push for time when he arrives after the spring, as will redshirt freshman Matthew Jones.
Unit ranking (on a 1-to-5 basis, 5 being the best): 3. It’s hard to assess a position in which the only returning full-time starter, Munford, didn’t practice this spring. The talent is there for this unit to be better than last year’s, but developing chemistry will be a challenge as the line must incorporate so many new pieces.
Stat that worked: Ohio State allowed only 23 sacks last year. That’s impressive considering that Buckeyes quarterbacks attempted 561 passes and starter Dwayne Haskins Jr. wasn’t particularly mobile. Quarterback front-runner Justin Fields is far more elusive than Haskins, so the sacks-allowed number shouldn’t go up much even with the inexperience on the line.
Stat that must change: Ohio State averaged only 4.2 yards per rush last year. Even with Haskins numbers (108 net yards in 79 carries) skewing that stat downward, it is undeniable that the run blocking last year was not up to OSU standards. J.K. Dobbins’ average slipped from 7.2 per carry as a freshman to 4.6 last year. Myers and Davis, in particular, should be strong run blockers, and it’s essential for the Buckeyes to get their running game untracked.
Notable: Munford won’t play in the spring game as he rehabs from a back injury. With Jackson not on campus, Gavin Cupp will have a chance to leave a lasting impression at left guard. The Buckeyes have only 11 linemen available during the spring, so depth has been a major issue and will affect what they can show in the spring game.