The annual April ritual has come and gone for the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Spring Game brought over 60 thousand fans an Ohio Stadium undergoing renovations, and those in attendance got to see what new transfer quarterback Justin Fields could bring to the program. However, it took awhile for things to really heat up.
Even though the Gray team pulled out the double-digit victory, both sides gave us a glimpse of what year one of the Ryan Day era could bring. Let’s take a look at a few things we learned from the well attended scrimmage inside The ‘Shoe.
The Quarterback Showcase
We saw what Fields and Matthew Baldwin could bring to the table once the season truly gets underway in the fall. To open up the Spring Game, Fields started over Baldwin on Team Gray. You can read into that any way you want.
In the first series, Fields gave the ball to J.K. Dobbins on a read-option, and followed that up with a pass that fell incomplete. The final play of the drive was a glimpse of what Fields does best: running. Fields spun around the tackler, and was destined for a big gain, however, with two-hand touch rules applied for the scrimmage, he was marked down way short of the first down. For the game, he was “sacked” four times. I wonder how many of those would’ve been real sacks if this was, you know, a real game.
Fields would get his scoring moment though, with a rushing touchdown from five yards out midway through the second period. Not long after he broke the seal on his scoring days in an OSU uniform, he launched a TD pass to Binjimen Victor. This pass completion was the longest of the game, going for 98 yards.
Baldwin also got his opportunity to get points on the board. He hit Garrett Wilson for a spectacular catch in the end zone en route to an 20-of-36 mark in the pocket for both teams.
Chris Chugunov also saw action during the scrimmage. However, unlike the two quarterbacks in front of him, he struggled to find a rhythm. Chugunov was 3-of-10 for 81 yards, and threw an interception.
Overall, Baldwin had the best day in the air, throwing for a combined 246 yards across both teams. However, he had 36 pass attempts to get there. Best team performance from a QB belonged to Fields, as he put up 131 passing yards on a 4-of-13 afternoon. On the ground, the Georgia transfer had 38 yards on eight carries.
Was this “practice” a litmus test to determine how these QBs will do heading into fall camp? Not really. A lot of things change between now and then. And in the case of Fields, he’ll only get better as he spends more time around the program getting quality reps and learning the offense. The same can be said for Baldwin.
All of the QBs had moments that showed their potential, in addition to some that also made them look incredibly iffy. Chugunov and Baldwin lobbed interceptions and overthrew their targets; Fields had a few throws that were errant as well, though none were picked off.
I wouldn’t buy too much stock — in fact, I would buy any stock at all — in any of the quarterbacks at this point. We know Fields is going to be good, and Baldwin has potential, but I wouldn’t use this game as a datapoint.
All aboard the Wilson hype train
Jaelen Gill may have been the leading receiving target for Team Scarlet, but all eyes were on freshman sensation Garrett Wilson. The Texas standout came to Columbus with a hype train and a five-star recruiting ranking, and after Saturday, it’s safe to say that the train is still moving full speed ahead — and picking up passengers.
Wilson made a fantastic snag for the score via Baldwin, and really got the scoring kicked off. With the abundance of NFL Buckeye talent in attendance, it caught the eye of Ted Ginn Jr., who shared his thoughts on Wilson with BTN’s Bobby Carpenter.
Drawing comparisons to Michael Thomas this early in his Buckeye career is a very good sign for things to come. Zone 6 already has Victor, K.J. Hill and Austin Mack as the returning leaders, but this season could easily be the Garrett Wilson show — especially in the early going.
Now, a question to ask is how much of the offense will be predicated on the pass, as Fields can beat defenses on the ground. Combine Fields with Dobbins on the ground, and you have a very potent rushing attack. There’s only a finite amount of offensive plays that can be run, and a seemingly endless amount of wide receivers with talent.
I would love to see Wilson become the freshman sensation that takes the college football world by storm. He has the ability to do just that. But will he get the chances in a crowded wide receiver room?
The Interception Man
Even though Jahsen Wint played in 12 games last season, he didn’t put up a ton of numbers in the stat column. Twelve of his 22 unassisted tackles in 2018 came in the first four games of the season.
That was then, and this is now; and with the defensive scheme changing a bit from Urban Meyer to Day, things may improve for Wint. He snagged a pair of interceptions for Team Gray, with one of them being a flat-out brilliant break to the ball.
With both second-team units in play, Ohio State junior safety Jahsen Wint's second pick came against fifth-year senior quarterback Chris Chugunov. Wint made a heck of a play on the ball here, surging in front of redshirt freshman H-back Jaelen Gill for the turnover. pic.twitter.com/raqBMEXqP7— Garrett Stepien (@GarrettStepien) April 13, 2019
Last season, you could make a very serious case that scheme was a problem on OSU’s defense, especially from the Purdue game onward. With a new defensive mindset, guys like Wint could flourish when the snaps matter in the fall. The “Bullet” position being utilized by Day’s new defensive coaching staff has big potential to steer OSU’s pass defense to being one of the best in the country this season.
Now, like in the last section about Wilson, I’m going to play Devil’s advocate about Wint/the Bullet position. Sure, things looked good in the spring game, but look at a) who was throwing the ball and b) who was trying to receive the ball. Chugunov and Baldwin threw the interceptions, and Ellijah Gardiner and Gill were the intended targets. The interceptions are very nice to see in the stat box, but we have to take into account that this was the spring game against the second-team offense.
However, this does tell us that there’s real, visible potential on both sides of the ball for Ohio State. Now, we just have to get to Aug. 31, when the Buckeyes face Florida Atlantic to open the 2019-20 season. A season that, hopefully, ends with a win in the College Football Playoff National Championship game in New Orleans.