Five things that are actually worth watching for in any spring game
Ok, so you’re making plans to watch the B1G spring games. Even though it’s just an offseason scrimmage, you’re excited to watch some football again.
But as a fan, it’s obviously a different viewing experience than a regular season game. Coaches can be on the field, a limited playbook is in use and you forget which player is on which team.
So what should you be watching for?
These five things:
-First guys on the field
Perhaps the most significant spring personnel statement a coach can make is with his depth chart. Any coach can blow off the “has anyone separated themselves?” question in spring practice by simply saying players are taking equal reps. The spring game forces a coach to actually make a decision about who he favors at a certain position. The quarterback battles are always most intriguing, especially when all of them are able to play.
The beauty of the spring game is that it provides more offseason depth chart questions answered than any practice in the spring or fall. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s set in stone. In fact, a spring game snub can provide the spark some guys need to improve and win a job in August. But at the very least, we’ll get a better idea of where guys stand.
-Late-season injury players
Everyone finishes the regular season banged up, some more than others. If a player has surgery after the season ends, chances are that you won’t see him in a spring game. But it’s always interesting to see the ones who are able to give it a go for the spring game.
Are they healed? Do they look like they’ve lost a step? Are they aggressive or are they tentative? That’s usually easier to spot with skill players than linemen. Often times, you’ll see an player who suffered a late-season injury take limited reps, even if they are at 100 percent. Still, it usually serves as a good indicator whether or not they’re back at the level they need to be or if they have more work to do over the summer.
-New coordinators/new schemes
This one might be limited to offense. Unless there’s a major base defense change, a limited playbook likely won’t show off a new defensive coordinator’s blitz patterns or coverages. A team like Penn State, however, will undergo an offensive makeover because of a new coordinator.
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The changes will be noticeable and for most fans, it’ll be their first time seeing what they look like. Maybe it’s an increased emphasis on the run. Maybe there’s more play-action. Maybe there’s more read-option. It would be strange to have a new offensive coordinator and not notice a few differences in a spring game.
There shouldn’t be many flags thrown in a spring game. Basic packages, limited crowd noise and over-coaching should prevent that from happening. Still, some teams will see their fair share of laundry. That can be the best early measure of how disciplined a team is.
It certainly isn’t encouraging to see a unit making unforced errors, offseason scrimmage or not. That isn’t to say that everyone should look like they’re in midseason form. But if there’s one thing you should be rooting for as a fan, it’s for as little noticeable mistakes as possible.
Ultimately, we’re talking about a spring scrimmage. We aren’t going to see starters play the full game, and for many teams, the established players will get fewer snaps than the reserves. Still, you want to see competitiveness on both sides of the ball. Sure, you want to see the spectacular offensive plays. Those are what stand out in an exhibition.
But it’s not a bad thing when both sides of the ball have their shining moments. Offseason improvement is in-house stuff. An offensive unit is only going to get better if it faces a defense that’s flying to the ball and capable of making things difficult on it. There needs to be some of that in a spring game, too. One-sided affairs aren’t fun in the fall and they aren’t fun in the spring, either.
Or maybe we should just hope for moments like this: