VIDEO: Ohio State's redshirt freshmen skill players star in spring game
Everybody knew that Ohio State’s redshirt freshmen were going to be on full display Saturday.
Any time a team loses nine underclassmen to the draft, chances are that some second-year players are going to be competing for starting jobs. That much was obvious heading into Saturday.
With 100,000 people watching, the young Buckeye skill players did just that. It seemed like every time a big play was made, it was by one of the Buckeye redshirt freshmen.
Mike Weber had his moments, as did Torrance Gibson. Even Joe Burrow out-performed J.T. Barrett in the first half. Those three guys were responsible for seven touchdowns. For Ohio State, in this offseason of turnover, that was a key early sign.
For Weber, Saturday was a prime opportunity to establish himself as the new lead back. Bri’onte Dunn was a late scratch, which meant that the backfield was Weber’s.
He took advantage of that.
Weber performed like the highly touted back many expected to see during 2015. Dare I say that his lower-body strength was reminiscent of a former Buckeye running back whose named rhymes with Efekiel Felliott?
Weber had two scores and finished the day with 38 yards on eight carries. He showed a burst the Buckeye fans have become accustomed to seeing out the backfield.
Still, he has plenty of room for improvement as a pass-blocker. And even if Weber had delivered a perfect performance, he wasn’t about to win the job over an inactive Dunn. But Weber might’ve asserted himself as the fan favorite heading into the summer.
Speaking of hype, there will surely be plenty of that surrounding Gibson after his effort Saturday. He hauled in six catches, two of which for touchdowns. The former quarterback even got a chance to throw a pass on a trick play (he threw it into about eight defenders and it was luckily tipped incomplete).
Gibson might’ve once been recruited to be the quarterback of the future, but everything he did on Saturday showed that he’s ready to make an impact at receiver. He made tough catches in traffic, showed an ability to run after the catch and he got open. Given Ohio State’s turnover at receiver, Gibson has as good a shot as anyone to carve out a major role for this new-look offense.
Urban Meyer said before Saturday that he was going to feature the passing game a lot more, and the former four-star athlete reaped the benefits of that. He might not be completely polished yet, but his year-to-year improvement was on full display Saturday.
“Got a long way to go. I hope so. He’s a freak!” Meyer said. “But he’s gotta go get the ball. He’s 6-4, whatever he is, and he’s got a 35-inch vertical jump, and we’re going to teach him how to use that thing.”
The guy throwing the ball to Gibson didn’t look so bad himself. One of the big questions coming into 2016 wasn’t about the starting quarterback. For the first time, it’s J.T. Barrett and only J.T. Barrett.
But you couldn’t help but be impressed with Burrow.
The former four-star signal-caller was plenty effective as a passer. He threw three touchdown passes and diced up an inexperienced Buckeye secondary when he had time to throw. With the way Burrow was abused on the first series, it appeared that it was going to be a long day for him.
Instead, he settled in, hung in the pocket and make some big-time throws:
That was exactly what Burrow needed to do with the hype for incoming four-star freshman Dwayne Haskins already building. You can bet Burrow took notice of Meyer’s comment that Haskins is the best quarterback recruit he’s ever had.
Even if he didn’t, he certainly showed that he’s not going to concede the backup quarterback job. Last time I checked, backup quarterbacks are pretty important in Columbus.
“Joe Burrow has been coming on,” Meyer said. “He was a guy that last year I had my concerns last season, just arm strength to release, twitch, ability to run the ball, because you have to do that. He’s gotten better and better. He’s a grinder. He comes from a really good family, that’s tough people, and you can see him start to go grow.”
Saturday was about Meyer’s young talent playing in front of 100,000 people and doing what he said — growing. He knows that he’s going to have to rely on second-year players perhaps more than he’s ever had to at Ohio State or anywhere else in his career.
Meyer was asked about those three and their growth on Saturday. His answer said it all.
“I do see it, and I’m going to go home — I’m very pleased. I’m good,” Meyer said. “I will probably watch the film and get sick to my stomach but, no, what I saw today was the future is bright at Ohio State. There is a gap there a little bit, whenever you lose nine juniors, there is a gap. It’s like missing a recruiting class. When you lose that many players, the most I think we lost was six one year. That’s six premiere players you’re losing, so you get that gap and someone’s gotta — and it’s up to the staff to get there — because there is a lot of talent.
“Just gotta push ’em up a year.”