B1G lessons learned over the weekend
A spring game isn’t always the best barometer for future success.
It’s difficult to project defensive standouts in a game where quarterbacks usually aren’t live. Packages are usually basic, and as a result, spring lacks the normal physicality we see in the fall.
Still, there were certain elements that stood out from the B1G’s slate of spring games last Saturday:
-Torrance Gibson is coming along quickly at WR
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A dynamic, mobile Ohio State quarterback made the switch to receiver and looked good doing it. But unlike Braxton Miller, Gibson has a 6-4 frame and four years of eligibility left to master the position.
Saturday showed that the redshirt freshman can definitely become a playmaker this year for the Buckeyes. He hauled in two touchdowns, but more important was the fact that he finished with six catches. For a guy still relatively new to the position, it’s important that he’s getting open with his route-running, and not just winning jump balls.
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Urban Meyer was quick to say that Gibson still has a long way to go to maximize his potential. But being called a “freak” by somebody who has seen his fair share of freaks isn’t a bad thing.
-Trace McSorley looks ready to run the offense
It was clear coming into Saturday that it was a legitimate battle between McSorley and redshirt freshman Tommy Stevens. But by the end of Saturday’s spring game, it was clear that McSorley is ready to take the opportunity and run with it.
What more could you have wanted to see out of McSorley? He completed 23 of 27 passes for 281 yards and four touchdowns. I understand that Penn State’s pass coverage is a work in progress right now, but McSorley looked like he knew Joe Moorhead’s new up-tempo offense like the back of his hand.
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This play shows McSorley’s understanding perfectly. His initial read was to hit the tailback on a swing pass. Instead, McSorley read that the linebacker picked him up, so he faked to him and stepped up in the pocket only to make a perfect in-stride throw to DeAndre Thompkins in the seam for a touchdown:
McSorley might not have the best arm or pro-style mechanics, but he appears to be a perfect fit in Moorhead’s offense. Stevens didn’t necessarily get a fair crack with the No. 1s, which is perhaps why James Franklin held off on heaping too much praise on McSorley. Franklin still believes this will be a battle to the end. It’s early, but what McSorley did on Saturday — without healthy scratch Saquon Barkley — proved that it’s his job to lose.
-Things might have gotten even worse for Purdue
It’s never good when you come into a spring game with eight healthy offensive linemen. Purdue’s offensive depth was limited to begin with. After watching D.J. Knox go down with what appeared to be a serious non-contact injury, that became an afterthought.
Darrell Hazell said he thought it was a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which would all but end Knox’s 2016 season. That would obviously be a major blow to a Purdue ground game that showed plenty of promise last year. There was hope that the combination of Knox and Markell Jones would give the Purdue offense something its lacked throughout the Hazell era — an identity.
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This offense doesn’t have much room for error. It was already relying heavily on two second-year starters. If Knox is indeed out for the year, Jones could have to take on an even bigger workload. On the bright side, Cameron Posey and DeAngelo Yancey are two capable wideouts that should see an uptick in production in Blough’s second year.
But losing a guy like Knox puts more pressure on everyone else to produce in what figures to be a make-or-break year for Hazell in West Lafayette.
-Maryland’s ground game might be better than advertised
Maybe I shouldn’t have assumed that Maryland’s ground game would take a step back without Brandon Ross, who led the B1G in yards per rush in 2015. The Terps showed on Saturday that they might have three or four backs worthy of regular work come September. Maryland’s leading returning rusher, Wes Brown, averaged five yards per carry while Virginia Tech transfer Trey Edmunds had 26 yards rushing.
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But it was the young Terps backs who impressed — and got the most work — on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore Ty Johnson ripped off a long 64-yard touchdown run and finished the day with 167 yards.
Surprisingly, the back who received the most work was true freshman Jake Funk. The former Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year got 15 carries in Walt Bell’s new offense.
The Terps want to run an up-tempo, spread offense, which would lead one to think that the mobile Perry Hills would be the best fit. Behind Maryland’s young but talented offensive line, this unit definitely has a strength heading into the summer.
-Patrick O’Brien still has a long way to go
If there was one player Nebraska fans couldn’t wait to see in the second half on Saturday, it was four-star 2016 quarterback Patrick O’Brien. The presumed quarterback of the future had plenty of eyes on him when it was finally his turn to take the field.
But by the final whistle, it was clear that O’Brien still has a significant learning curve ahead of him. O’Brien sailed his last pass and was picked off to end the game. It’s one play, and surely it won’t be the last time that he overthrows a receiver.
It was a reminder that O’Brien, even though he’s plenty talented and capable of being the starter of the future, should be in high school right now. Understandably, the game still hasn’t slowed down for him the way it has with Nebraska’s other signal-callers. That’s perfectly normal. More times than not, early enrollee quarterbacks struggle in spring games.
But for those hoping that he was possibly going to dazzle and threaten for the backup job, O’Brien won’t do that just yet.