Friday, April 22, 2011

Ohio State Spring Football 2011: 5 Questions And 5 Answers On What to Watch For

Ohio State's annual spring game -- one of the last to be played among FBS schools -- takes place this Saturday afternoon at 1:30 PM in Ohio Stadium, and can be seen on the Big Ten Network if you can't make it to the stadium. This annual spring scrimmage is taking on a new format -- offense vs. defense -- instead of a split-squad scrimmage as is the norm.

And for fans and the media that have been hungry from some spring practice updates that we haven't gotten much of, this is a good chance to get an early look at the team we will see during the 2011 season.

But what exactly should Buckeye fans be watching for?

How Much Will The Weather Affect Play?

For the third time in the past four springs, rain is in the forecast, along with a flash flood watch for the Columbus area. The amount of rain can certainly have an effect on how Jim Tressel wants his offense to operate, as they may run the football more than throw it.

And in a situation where the battle for the starting job at QB, at least temporary, is the biggest question mark around the Buckeyes, this is the worst type of weather to have.

Wet weather affects the grip of the ball from everyone to the center to the QB throwing it, and the receivers that need to catch it.

It might not be a downpour, but consistent rainfall would certainly have an impact on the playcalling of the offensive coaches in the game.

Which Running Back(s) Will Get The Most Carries?

The starting job at RB may or may not be a lock for Dan Herron starting October 8 at Nebraska. The first five games, however, will have quite an interesting playing-time battle.

All eyes will be on the two young studs in the elusive Jordan Hall and lightning fast Jaamal Berry.

The two young backs anchored the No. 5 kickoff return average unit in the country, and saw plenty of carries as well last year.

Some conjecture that the starting job will come down to those two due to experience, but redshirt freshman Roderick Smith has drawn rave reviews from the coaches, his teammates, and other media members.

Whoever gets the most carries between Hall, Berry and Smith, and whomever takes the most advantage of those opportunities will certainly have the inside track to starting the season as the No. 1 back.

How Will The Running Backs Fit Into The Passing Game?

New WR coach Stan Drayton, formerly the running backs coach at Florida, was brought in to help make the passing game more explosive.

His biggest contribution to date would be something that Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid would be proud of -- the screen pass.

The OSU offense has rarely used screens, but the lack of depth at the WR position and the strength at the RB position makes this an intriguing addition to the passing game.

If Drayton has high hopes for any player in the screen attack, it's Hall, whom Drayton likens to a poor man's Percy Harvin, quite a high praise for the elusive back.

While Hall lacks the overall pure speed of Harvin, his elusiveness and burst do make him a formidable target out of the backfield. A la Brandon Saine last season, Hall may also line up on occasion in the slot.

Hall's versatility might mean that the OSU offense can have a back in the backfield and another out wide as a receiver. In year's past, the Buckeyes have been called predictable but these additional wrinkles in the offensive game plan will provide some much-needed punch to start off the 2011 season that will begin without Terrelle Pryor and three other offensive starters.

Who Will Emerge As The Seven New Defensive Starters?

The concern most Buckeye fans have pushed slightly aside due to the suspensions from Tattoogate is the fact that the defense must replace seven starters.

While most of the players vying for starting gigs have some experience on the field, some battles are still very much worth your attention.

The thing that should be noted most is who comes out with the first-team defense and who are the first players off the bench. Those players will be among the most likely to be inline for a starting role on the OSU defense this fall.

The new starters will have earned the job because of the tough competition. That competition is why most people say the OSU defense doesn't rebuild -- it reloads.

Be sure to keep a close eye on the LB and CB positions where four of five starting jobs are up for grabs.

Which QB (If Any) Shines In Pryor's Absence?

The biggest storyline of Saturday's spring scrimmage is which of the four QBs vying for the starting job -- Joe Bauserman, Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham and Braxton Miller -- makes a statement?

By various accounts, the competition has been interesting to watch, as the early favorite to start (Bauserman), has been shaky at best -- throwing multiple interceptions in the spring practices.

In addition, Miller has reportedly turned out to be worth the praise given to a five-star recruit and has grown through every practice as he continues to grasp the offense.

But don't discount Guiton and Graham just yet as both have done pretty well at times for themselves. Guiton was strong in the spring game a year ago and Graham has quietly impressed the staff throughout the 2011 spring session.

While the depth chart at QB is expected to likely be Bauserman, Guiton, Graham, then Miller, any one of the four could be named the starter come the fall. With a strong showing on Saturday, Miller will have the fanbase buzzing more than they are already. Unfortunately for them, they don't get the final decision on who starts, or it would almost undoubtedly be Miller.

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Original article by Tim Beilik - BlockONation Featured Contributor

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