Early on, the Ohio State spring game looked like it would be Saturday snoozer.
Neither offense gained much traction let alone came close to scoring in the first quarter, but that was only setting the stage for a wild second that provided some answers and more questions about what the 2019 Buckeyes might be able to accomplish.
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Here are five things to know about the Gray’s 35-17 win over the Scarlet and the team with spring football complete for another year:
1. Overall, Ryan Day was happy with what he saw.
The first-year head coach was upbeat but realistic about what his team accomplished in practices that began in early March.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’ve got a good team I think,” Day said. “This is part of the season. We think of it as offseason, summer and preseason so we’ll just keep building from here, but there are a lot of good pieces, a lot of good leadership starting to form out there.
“We tried to get a lot of the older guys out early so it’s hard to tell, but the overall spring was excellent. It was really good. I thought we got tougher, and it was a physical spring.”
2. The quarterbacks were up and down.
Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin both had turns running the Gray, which contained the first-team offense and second-team defense.
Fields, a transfer from Georgia, completed only 4 of 13 passes but he offered some hints at his raw ability, never more than on a 98-yard touchdown pass to Binjimen Victor.
He also showed off his running ability with a 30-yard scamper in the second half, though for the most part the quarterbacks were kept hemmed in by the rules, which forbade tackling.
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Baldwin, a redshirt freshman from Texas, was more efficient, completing 9 of 15 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown for the Gray. He also took snaps for the Scarlet (with the second team offense) and was 11 for 21 for 127 yards and another touchdown, but two of his passes were intercepted.
“Sometimes it’s hard when you’re not in the tackle situation,” Day said. “Is it a sack? Is it not when you break out. Justin can create on the edge a little bit so we didn’t get to see that as much. I thought Matthew made a couple of really nice throws down the field. We turned the ball over a couple times, which is good for the defense, so we’ll keep looking at it but I though both had positive days.”
3. The coach is not inclined to name a starter yet.
“I’m gonna keep looking at it,” Day said. “I know everybody wants to know but I don’t think right now we’re going to make a decision on that. We’ll continue through preseason.”
Baldwin wasn’t brought to the postgame interview room, but Fields said all the right things when it comes to the race to be “QB1.”
“I know being named the starter is not my decision,” said Fields, who was the No. 2 quarterback at Georgia last season. “That’s coach’s decision, so whatever he has in store, I’m here for the team. That’s what it is.”
4. There were several standouts on defense.
As is often the case in spring games because of a dearth of scholarship offensive linemen, the defensive line had a big day.
Fields was “sacked” (though not actually tackled, per the rules) four times while Baldwin and third-stringer Chris Chugunov were sacked twice apiece.
Tyreke Smith, a sophomore-to-be who created lots of buzz over the past month, was credited with 1.5 sacks for the Scarlet side while Zaid Hamdan, a redshirt freshman from Mason, also had 1.5 sacks. Davon Hamilton, Javontae Jean-Baptiste, Noah Potter, Haskell Garrett and Antwan Jackson all had one sack apiece.
Safeties Amir Riep and Jahsen Wint were standouts in the secondary with Riep’s early interception setting up the first touchdown of the day and Wint pulling down two enemy passes.
Jean-Baptiste, a four-star recruit in the 2018 class who redshirted in the fall, had a game-high five tackles.
5. What’s next?
Ohio State is done with what amounts to real football activity until late July when preseason camp starts.
The assistant coaches are scheduled to meet with the media to assess the spring on a day to be determined this week, and then there are not likely to be many interview opportunities until Day and a trio of players head to Chicago for the annual Big Ten Media Days on July 18-19.
In the mean time, director of strength and conditioning Mickey Marotti essentially runs the team through workouts, but much of the onus on development falls on the players to lead their groups.
The regular season begins Aug. 31 with a visit from Florida Atlantic.
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