Year one of the Urban Meyer era was one part excitement, one part anticipation, and zero parts pressure, as the Buckeyes were given a one year bowl ban and were ineligible to participate in the Big Ten Championship Game.
This year, add the pressure ingredient – and throw in an extra heaping teaspoon of it. Buoyed by two dynamite recruiting classes and last season's unexpected 12-0 run, Buckeye fans are expecting great things this year, and we'll get our first glimpse of what to expect today at Paul Brown Stadium.
Here are some things to look for as we get to see the 2013 Buckeyes for the first time.
Braxton Miller and his accuracy
No, that's not a band he plays in at the Newport during the off season. For all the accolades Miller has received as a runner, he's just average, at best, as a passer. He worked with famed QB guru George Whitfield, Jr., in the off-season, and both Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman have been raving about his improved footwork and accuracy so far. Let's see how it translates in a quasi-game atmosphere.
Who's going to catch it?
I don't think this question can be fully answered by close of business this afternoon, but we will have some clues. I say not answered fully because some of the most highly publicized recruits of the 2013 class won't be on campus until fall practice starts, and you have to think guys like Jalin Marshall, James Clark, and Corey Smith will be contributors as freshman. But I also ride the fence a bit because the two top receivers from last year, Devin Smith and Corey ‘Philly' Brown, are back. And if what we're reading about the practices are to be believed, they've both stepped up their game, along with Michael Thomas.
Who is the new RT?
The only real battle on the offensive line looks to be a right tackle between Taylor Decker and Chase Ferris. I think that Decker has the inside track on this, as Meyer has said a lot of positive things about him this off-season, but he has yet to officially win the job. I still say Decker is the starter come the season opener, but it's not settled yet. Keep an eye on this position today.
How does the defensive line look?
The big haul in the 2012 recruiting class was along the defensive line, and guys like Spence and Adolphus Washington made some significant contributions last year. With the entire starting defensive line from last season gone, it's time for Washington and Spence to step up. They both looked very good in limited roles last year, and both are getting strong reviews so far this spring. One of the trademarks of a Meyer coached team is speed coming off the edge, and Spence and Washington will probably be the bookend starters.
On the inside, I'm going to be watching not only who starts, but what kind of rotation we'll see. I would expect Joel Hale and Michael Bennett to get some run, but Chris Carter and Tommy Schutt should see a lot of playing time as well. There's a ton of talent along the defensive line, even with Se'Von Pittman leaving the team, how these guys are rotated in and out and used in certain situations and packages will be fascinating to observe.
So, about the linebackers...
The key group for the defense heading into the Spring Game is the linebacking corps. Outside of Ryan Shazier, there are a lot of questions, and not a lot of answers. Curtis Grant came to OSU as the #1 LB recruit in the country, but has yet to tap into his potential. Right now, he's the starting Mike linebacker, and Joshua Perry looks to be the starter on the outside opposite Shazier. For Grant, he was briefly moved to defensive end in the off-season, then back to middle linebacker. Meyer said after Thursday's practice that he's ‘finally seeing it', and is the team's starter.
Well, the secondary seems pretty set, though, right?
Yeah, for the most part it is. Travis Howard is gone, but both safeties (C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant) and Bradley Roby all return, with Doran Grant the other outside starter and Tyvis Powell the early clubhouse leader for the ‘Star' position (essentially the nickel slot guy). If you believe Internet message board scuttlebutt, both freshman early enrollee CB's Eli Apple and Cameron Burrows have been impressive, and they should get a lot of time today. Can they unseat Grant or Powell? I don't know. Meyer has named Grant as one of the defensive guys that have really stood out so far this Spring, so they seem to have an uphill climb. But with Roby out due to a minor shoulder injury, we should get to see a lot of the down roster guys, to include Archie Griffin's son Adam, and we should have a better idea by sundown.
Is Brutus Buckeye okay? After taking a video game de-cleating at the Student Appreciation Day practice, Brutus has not been seen in public, and we all hope he's okay. #Pray4BrutusBuckeye.
How will this all play out in the Queen City?
There were mixed reviews when it was announced that the Spring Game would be held in Paul Brown Stadium. But this is all a part of Meyer's grand plan to conquer the college football recruiting world, and look for more Spring Game road shows in coming years. Personally, I'm excited to see how it all works out, and hopefully it will help re-build some bridges into Cincitucky.
Finally, football is back, albeit in an exhibition form. I love baseball, don't get me wrong, but football is king, and it's good to see The King return, if only for a couple hours. Enjoy the Spring game, and we'll have updates, highlights, and all you could possibly need right here on LGHL.