As we all inch closer toward the Regular Season, all the excitement and buzz surrounds the annual Scarlet Vs. Gray Spring Game. This is normally the time of the year where the entire roster receives a chance to “control their destiny”. This is the time for the relative unknowns to display their talent to a raucous crowd within the confines of The Shoe. It is a time for the young Buckeyes to show their coaches what they can bring to the table, whether it is as a starter, part-time starter or a rotation player, the time is now for them to put on a show for all to enjoy. Whether you are a die-hard Buckeye fan or a fan of another team, this will be a spectacle to enjoy and see. The future should be as bright as the sun and for the non-Buckeye fans, prepare to get scorched and pan-seared because this years team, albeit young and replacing a bevy of starters, should be their normally dangerous selves by the time the fall rolls around. Here is an in-depth look at our future Buckeye Football Team.
The Return of J.T. Barrett:
It has been a poorly kept secret, but… Although we had endured through a mass exodus at the Quarterback position, we still managed to retain one of the previous “Big Three”. That is a huge plus as the Buckeyes look to move forward with the heir apparent to the Buckeyes’ Quarterback Throne. J.T. Barrett or better known as Just Touchdowns Barrett chose to stay for at least one more season to lead the Buckeyes this fall through the grueling 2017 College Football Schedule, with road games at Oklahoma, at Wisconsin, at Penn State, at Maryland and at Michigan State. His experience on the road and as a starter would help ease the transition with this years offensive line, skill players and playmakers.
Barrett possesses big game experience and that is a major plus for the team. Barrett’s poise under pressure and familiarization with the offensive scheme will be the determining factor. After getting the starting nod from Coach Meyer after week 8 due to the sloppy play from former starter Cardale Jones. Let’s just say that the offense started humming and thoroughly destroyed the hapless Rutgers team at Piscataway. The team responded and huddled around J.T. Barrett and delivered their most resounding and prettiest win in recent memory. I expect this years offense to do the same, although it may take some time to adjust to the new personnel.
Barrett had somewhat of a hard time this spring with all of the more experienced players on the mend due to injuries suffered last season. Noah Brown (Broken Leg), Corey Brown (Broken Leg) and Curtis Samuel (Broken Foot) all chose to rest their bodies this time around, but don’t think that they won’t be huge factors for the Buckeyes this fall. They will be leaned on heavily for their experience during key moments and stretches of the season. Barrett finished the spring game 13 of 22 for no touchdowns and two interceptions. No need to push that worry button through, this is by no means any indication of what is in store for us this fall. He will revert back to the form and player that we all know and love.
Battle for #2:
Joey Burrow and Stephen Collier have been dueling for the designation as the backup quarterback at Ohio State. The spring game was used as a platform to audition for that role on the team. Burrow had the slight edge over Collier throughout the spring workouts and scrimmages. Now after the spring game, he extended his lead and he might have secured the starting role. Burrow led the Scarlett team over Barrett and Collier’s Grey team to a 28-17 victory. Burrow finished 14 of 23 for 196 yards and 3 touchdowns and a single interception to a leaping Jerome Baker. Burrow showed the poise and precision and even touch on his throws and Coach Meyer and company couldn’t be any happier. Collier finished 4 of 9 for 154 yards and an interception. Although the numbers were decent for Collier, it wasn’t as productive as Burrows day and for that Burrow secured the backup spot, for now. We all know that the Buckeyes are deep at just about every position and with the pending arrival of Dwayne Haskins, you can never count any Buckeye out. An opportunity will arise and whoever is in line will take full advantage of the opportunity.
So to conclude, the future at Quarterback is in good hands and is very bright. Once J.T. Barrett moves on, Burrow and Collier will surely step up and keep the tradition going. With Haskins from the 2016 Class and Clark from 2017 and potentially other Quarterback targets such as current Texas A & M commit Tate Martell (Arizona) and current Baylor commit Kellen Mond (Florida) constantly coming up inside of recruiting circles close to the Buckeyes, I think we will be set and that we are in good hands for years to come.
Saying Goodbye to a Legend:
After the stunning loss to Michigan State last season, Ezekiel Elliot let the coaching staff and the world that he wanted more carries to lead his team to victory. That did not happen and after the game he stated that there was no way that he would be coming back for another season in the Scarlet and Gray. Although disappointing, I feel that everything happens for a reason and Elliot got what he wanted and consistently ran down opposing defenses throats to cap his final season off as a Buckeye. Although he would be sorely missed, I feel that the current crop of Running Backs at Ohio State have the talent to carry the tradition of the bruising Running Back. Let’s look over the many options that the Buckeyes hope to unleash this season.
Baby ‘Los Running Wild:
Saying goodbye to Zeke was tough, but what better way to replace a legend with a Running Back who has the same body type and play style like another former Buckeye great, Carlos Hyde. Baby ‘Los or Mike Weber is better known for nearly flipping to TTUN in what was simply a misunderstanding between both parties as a former coach bolted for the NFL. That is done and over with and now we have this young and hungry Running Back who shined during the spring game. Weber finished with 38 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns inside of the red zone. He was quick, ran with determination and he ran with the power that we had grown accustomed to with Carlos Hyde. He currently is in a battle for the starting gig with upperclassman and our next player.
Five Star Redemption:
The stress of being a highly touted recruit, a Five Star Recruit as a matter of fact can be very difficult. Brionte’ Dunn was a player similar to previous players like Curtis Grant who never could live up to the hype. That is not by any means a slight to Dunn. He was slotted to be the lead back after Warren Ball transferred out. Dunn can be a solid back as previously seen during mop-up duty. He runs with authority, runs with power and is determined to reach pay dirt. The problem? He played behind Running Backs like Daniel “Boom” Herron, Carlos Hyde and Ezekiel Elliot. That is some tough sledding for a player who was so highly regarded in high school, but he stayed because he bought in and he will most like be in the rotation throughout the year. Whether it’s on spot duty or when games are out of hand look for him to follow the same path as fellow Five Star Curtis Grant. Although he suffered an injury to his ankle during spring practice, he was unable to suit up for the spring game. Regardless if he played or not, I feel that he will earn some snaps and opportunities.
Early Enrollee Turning Heads:
Being able to participate in the spring game not only gives you a head up on the competition, it gives you a chance to learn the playbook and earn a few snaps. It also gives you valuable face time with your peers and your coaches. Antonio Williams flipped his Wisconsin commitment and signed on with the Buckeyes late into the 2016 recruiting cycle. I couldn’t find any stats but I don’t think he did too bad. He is a true freshman and it will come with time. But in the classroom he is doing it the way it is supposed to be. Although he didn’t burst into the scene, he has made a positive impression on the coaching staff. I think Williams will earn some snaps sporadically throughout the season. He just has to be patient and trust the coaches and the process.
I think Weber will earn the starting nod. He showed that he is game ready and capable. Dunn will be the second Running Back and Williams will work until he earns the playing time he craves. It is no slight to the player. I wish there were enough carries to go around but none of these Running Backs will back down.