' Thank goodness that we’re able to get some people in the stands.' OSU spring game a step toward normal

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra

Ohio State spring football games tend to be overblown affairs. They’re glorified scrimmages in which starters often make only cameo appearances and not much meaning can be gleaned.

This year, though, the spring game will feel like a salve.

For the first time since 2019, there will be more flesh than cardboard at Ohio Stadium. After a 2020 season in which the only spectators were players’ and coaches’ families, the Horseshoe will be about one-fifth full for Saturday’s scrimmage.

Just fewer than 20,000 spectators will be permitted for the final of the Buckeyes’ 15 permitted spring practices. The cardboard cutouts that were intended to give the stadium a semblance of atmosphere a year ago won’t be missed. The Ohio State marching band, which did not perform at the stadium last season, will have a halftime show.

Ohio State players will relish the opportunity to sing Carmen Ohio with fans in the stands after Saturday's spring game, as they did after the 2019 scrimmage in Ohio Stadium.

“Oh, it’s really exciting,” senior defensive tackle Haskell Garrett said. “We’re happy for it to have Buckeye Nation back in the stadium. It’s a little bit different. Having your family in the stadium is awesome. But having Buckeye Nation, having fans back in there so that they can experience what we experience, is even more enticing.”

And that’s from a player not expected to play on Saturday. Garrett, who had a breakthrough season a year ago, is rehabilitating from an injury.

Eyes on Ohio State quarterbacks during spring game

Most of the focus Saturday will be on the quarterbacks, each of whom will be throwing their first passes in the Horseshoe.

C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller would have made their debut last year as true freshmen, but the 2020 spring game was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and neither attempted a pass during the season in limited action behind Justin Fields. They are competing with early-enrollee freshman Kyle McCord.

Coach Ryan Day has been careful not to tip his hand about whether any of the QBs has nudged ahead of the others. The quarterbacks themselves have been muted. Ohio State has not made them available for interviews and doesn’t plan to on Saturday.

As is typical, quarterbacks will be off-limits for hitting. On Saturday, nobody will be tackling.

“We’ve actually done a good amount of tackling this spring, more than I can ever remember,” Day said Thursday on WBNS-FM. “Three or four practices we’ve had 60-plus snaps, guys getting tackled to the ground and live scrimmages because we’re so far behind fundamentally coming off of last year.”

Ohio State won't tackle on Saturday

Day said he wants to minimize the injury risk on Saturday so the Buckeyes’ hitting will consist of “thuds.”

If tackling were to be allowed, that would have added more insight to the running back picture. Master Teague III is the incumbent, but several runners are pushing hard behind him, including Miyan Williams, Marcus Crowley, TreVeyon Henderson, Steele Chambers and Evan Pryor.

On defense, the line is deep, experienced and talented, but questions abound regarding the linebackers and secondary. The top four linebackers from last year are awaiting the NFL draft, and projected starting cornerbacks Sevyn Banks and Cam Brown are rehabbing from injuries. That leaves opportunities for those in the back seven to make an impression heading into the summer.

Team Buckeye, Team Brutus

The roster will be divided into Team Buckeye, coached by offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, and Team Brutus, coached by defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs. Miller and walk-on Jagger LaRoe will be the Team Buckeye quarterbacks. Stroud, McCord and walk-on J.P. Andrade will take the snaps for Team Brutus.

Offensive players will wear scarlet jerseys and defensive ones gray. The first half consists of two 10-minute quarters. The second half will be untimed and will be more of an offense vs. defense scrimmage.

As is the case with the quarterbacks, Saturday will be the first game in the Horseshoe with fans for many of the Buckeyes.

“It’s going to be an adjustment phase again,” Day said. “We had to adjust with no fans and then we kind of got used to that, and now we have to adjust to having fans again.

“It’s fun, though. Thank goodness that we’re able to get some people in the stands. I’m looking forward to having our guys play in front of a crowd and get back to some normalcy here. I know our guys are excited about it. Our guys love that. They’re all show-offs.”

Tickets are sold out. The game will televised by the Big Ten Network.

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Ohio State spring game

When: Noon Saturday

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)