Ohio’s springtime game is fast approaching, and it’s scheduled for Saturday (April 16). The Big Ten Network will broadcast the event on TV, hundreds of thousands will watch at least part of the game, and tens of thousands more will attend. It’s a great opportunity for fans to have a live (sort of) brawl at The Shoe – when they can’t attend matches – and it will give us a preview of new players, new coaches, new defensive tactics, etc. …it would also be meaningless, far from Dwayne Haskins’ planned homage and meaning.
The typical spring game—whether played in Columbus, Athens, or Tuscaloosa—is more of an event for fans to appreciate than anything else, and we’re grateful for that. We really are. We love watching the Buckeyes! Or any football game, in my case. But let’s not pretend that these in-group quarrels carry too much weight. Movement is controlled, and more or less directed by coaches – not by players on the field.
Very little has been revealed about the team we’ll see in the fall, as split rosters make it nearly impossible to predict the depth chart on either side of the ball. Top players see a limited number of reps and are protected at all costs, in order to maintain health and/or avoid potential injuries… A knee or ankle mistake would earn a spot in Ryan Day’s kennel right away.
There will be players on the field leaving Columbus before the start of the season. The others will be missing, due to the fact that they are not students at Ohio State yet. And coaches don’t want to guide their hand(s) in certain positions, so they view this as just another opportunity to experiment with players and positions – albeit on TV, in front of thousands of fans.
The same things are achieved during closed door practices. Just like the ones played in Ann Arbor or Austin, OSU’s springtime run is direct training on doping…more than a walkthrough, but it’s not a remote indicator of what we’ll eventually see in the fall. Appreciate it for what it is, but don’t lose sleep if Stroud throws a ball or Trevon Henderson fumbles the ball.
While there are certainly examples of players taking off in the spring and that momentum continuing into the fall (Stroud and JSN did well in the spring game last year), there have been many — if not more — instances of brawling. ) exaggerate it. The past year provided a lot of evidence.
In the 2021 game, Marcus Crowley led all quarterbacks with a 29-yard rushing yard and tied for the lead. Austin Kutcher (not the guy from “The ’70s Show”) received 43 yards. Steel Chambers finished with four ten-yard and TD buggies. Yes, the same Steel Chambers who is likely to start at full-back in 2022! a
Of course I pick certain stats, and there probably wasn’t much hype around these guys to begin with, but you can do this exercise on an annual basis.
In defense, Jack Sawyer had three sacks in the 2021 game, causing some to portray him as the next Bossa brother. Ryan Watts looked like a threat to steal key playing time in the corner, and Craig Young was a viable contender for the bullet position initially. How did it all end?
I’m optimistic about Sawyer, and I think he’ll have real competition this season, but Watts and Young rarely saw the pitch before moving on. I don’t intend to call any of these guys or belittle their accomplishments, but instead point out how little unaddressed melee in the spring translates into the real end product we see months later.
All of this doesn’t mean we should ditch the Spring Games or pre-season events entirely. As I mentioned, they are generally great for fans. It gives coaches a different environment to observe players (although I would still argue that staff gain very little insight during these events), and there are players who gain confidence or gain extra reps as a result of their performance. All the best, all is great. Play spring games forever..but what if there were alternatives? Alternatives that appeal to fans and provide valuable actors and experience for players. who – which It is what I will care about.
During the spring window, I’d like to see some kind of skill challenge. Similar to what the NFL currently holds before the Pro Bowl, Ohio State (or any other team) can open their stadium and offer cheap tickets for a friendly competition among their teammates. Stroud vs. Kyle McCord in a distance throw? Involve me. Are Emeka Egbuka and Denzel Burke racing through an obstacle course? Feed it to me. All of this is crowned with a defensive line versus an offensive line of tug-of-war. It looks great, doesn’t it?
I know the Buckeyes do some great things on their Student Appreciation Day, but the skill challenge at The Shoe will be a reminder of the old NFL Quarterback Challenge—which was incredibly popular and even spawned a video game. The risk of injury is also low here, unless you’re Carson Palmer, who is used to falling flat on his face.
If a skill challenge isn’t in the cards, how about a melee against an in-state opponent or tri-state area? Keep it on during the summer when the world is hungry for sports, and connect with the teams you don’t cross with. Admittedly, the risk of infection is high here, so this is probably much less likely to happen. But it’s fairly common in the NFL.
When pro teams look for a different challenge during camp, they conduct cross-training with other teams that are either in the region or on the upcoming pre-season schedule. This is a way to mix it up with the players, and measure their team against the real competition. Intrasquad brawls can only tell you so much, and you risk being defeated by the same players and the same appearance.
Ohio State can schedule another Ohio team that isn’t already on the schedule, or venture out of state and call Marshall or Western Kentucky. Playing the Dayton or Youngstown State Buckeyes might not give a great read to their team due to the level of competition, but scheduling a small school within state lines will certainly appeal to fans and shake up the monotony of facing their teammates on a daily basis. No need for references and/or flags here. Coaches of both teams can dictate speed and play, breaking up into smaller drills or training sessions if they see fit. Low risk, low return? certainly. But again I would like to ask: What is the use of football from the two-touch game that took place in April?
Maybe I’m just Debbie Downer here; I know a lot of people look forward to the spring game in Ohio every year. But I think this is just a byproduct of (our fans) love for the Buckeyes. We haven’t seen them play since New Years Eve. We get bits and pieces of procedure and information from practices, but we’re all eagerly anticipating what this team will look like next season.
Spring Game gives us a sneak peek into that…except that it doesn’t really do that. All I’m saying is, let’s take a look at some alternatives. I know senior officials are reading this, so think a little about the obstacle course. Schedule the Buckeyes to play a reduced brawl against the best high school players in Ohio State. Let’s get nuts!
Until then… Yes, I’ll watch the Spring Match. Go bucks! On both sides!