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Ohio State’s Tracy Sprinkle looks to bounce back after injury

After suffering a season-ending injury in 2016, Sprinkle seems primed for a big season.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Notre Dame vs Ohio State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“As far as doing drills and running and anything in the weight room, it’s very good. But we haven’t put the pads on and gotten physical yet.”

- Tracy Sprinkle via Bill Rabinowitz, The Columbus Dispatch

Only into the first game of the 2016 season, Ohio State defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle suffered a torn right patellar tendon against Bowling Green which would sideline him for the rest of the season. Just like that, a promising candidate for a breakout year was taken off of the field. But now, Sprinkle says he’s back to “95 percent” health, with the five percent only coming from the unknown. Having yet to take the field with pads and get in the trenches once again, there’s still a feeling out process to be had with his knee. Until he feels that contact, he might not trust his knee to not fold under any real pressure.

Though he went down in his first career start for the Buckeyes, Sprinkle should still be plenty active this season in his senior year. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has already made it a point to say that Sprinkle will be vital to the line’s success in both stopping the run and getting to the quarterback. With Sprinkle healthy and given one more shot at making an impact, it’s not hard to imagine a season where Sprinkle is successful with his teammates giving him support.

“[Big Ten Ultimate Road Trip] Week 1 (Aug. 31/Sept. 2) -- Ohio State at Indiana”

- Dan Murphy, ESPN

It might seem like football season is still a ways off. And all things relative, it still kind of is. But we’re about to be entering July, and that means only about two more months until play kicks off. For the Buckeyes, they get the early game of opening weekend, starting against Indiana on a Thursday. And that’s the site of Dan Murphy’s pick for the Big Ten Ultimate Road Trip. With Ohio State playing in Bloomington, there are several reasons to tune in other than the Buckeyes back to being on the gridiron.

First, there’s the new offense to look forward to. J.T. Barrett is back at quarterback and Mike Weber still leads the charge at running back. But the real difference is likely going to be from a passing game standpoint, where new offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson has been preparing this team all offseason to make vast improvements from last season. Then, Wilson himself is making his debut as the offensive coordinator for the Buckeyes at the place he was the head coach of for several seasons with the Hoosiers. In all, it should be considered must-watch TV when Aug. 31 rolls around.

“He [J.T. Barrett] had more carries than Weber did last year (205 to 182 for Weber). That's 16 per game. In 2014 with Elliott, Barrett had 171 carries in 12 games, about 14 a game.”

- Steve Helwagen, Bucknuts

Over the past several seasons at Ohio State a frequent point of discussion and debate has been how many carries the quarterback should be held to per game. Urban Meyer’s teams have almost always featured many quarterback runs and it’s been an integral part of his offense during all of his coaching stops. Here in Columbus, we’ve seen what Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett, and Cardale Jones have been capable of when running the football, it opens up the defense for attacking through the air. But when two of those quarterbacks faced several injuries because of their running ability, often times the coaching staff has had to limit the amount of times they run the ball with the quarterback.

So now the question entering 2017 is how much should Barrett run the ball during games? As you can see in the quote above, Barrett had more carries than the running back, Mike Weber, did and Steve Helwagen would like to cut that down this season if possible. The magic number in question might be 10 for Helwagen but what does the Ohio State coaching staff think? It will be up to Urban Meyer and Kevin Wilson to make the final call, but it could be worth watching as the season progresses. In previous seasons, the team gets more reliant on the quarterback running the ball the later the Buckeyes get into the season.