COLUMBUS - Spring football is a time for coaches to be ultra cautious with their most proven commodities.
It's kind of like the guy who only drives that 1972 Corvette T-top on sunny days in the summer, when showing off really matters. Or the scratch golfer who tests and tinkers with other clubs on the practice range, but tucks the Callaway Hyper X driver in his bag when it's time to play for money.
Ohio State completes its spring football practice with today's Scarlet and Gray game, scheduled for a 1:30 start in Ohio Stadium, and a number of head coach Jim Tressel's best players will not take part - some recovering from surgery, and others sitting it out simply as a precaution to avoid aggravating an existing injury.
That situation has afforded Tressel and the rest of the OSU coaching staff a prolonged look at some of their younger, less experienced players, and Tressel said he wants to see them in game-type circumstances today.
"We feel obliged to put the players in pressure situations," Tressel said. "Our guys would be bored if we didn't."
Those not taking part in the contact work this spring, or today's spring game, include senior offensive linemen Steve Rehring and Ben Person, junior running back Beanie Wells, senior wide receiver Brian Robiskie, junior defensive lineman Rob Rose, and highly touted incoming freshmen linemen Michael Brewster and Michael Adams.
Senior quarterback Todd Boeckman will play in the spring game, but he will be wearing a yellow jersey, making him off-limits to contact.
While that group of players has been under Tressel's protective in-house custody, others have used the opportunity to possibly enhance their stock. Toledo Central Catholic graduate Dane Sanzenbacher, who had 12 receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown last season as a freshman, has impressed his position coach, Darrell Hazell.
"We've got some young guys, like Taurian Washington and Dane Sanzenbacher. Dane played some last year, but he has taken his game to another level," Hazell said.
"He is where he is supposed to be all the time in the passing game. He never makes any mistakes and he is extremely consistent catching the football. I am really pleased with where he is right now."
With an increased number of reps while Robiskie has been sideline, Sanzenbacher has also earned some additional respect from junior starter Brian Hartline.
"Dane is doing a really good job for us this spring," Hartline said. "He is staying consistent, working hard and playing fast. He is keeping balance and becoming very comfortable with his role on the team."
Robiskie, who led the Buckeyes with 55 catches for 935 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2007, said his role as a spectator during a portion of the spring practice period has been difficult, but he has tried to spend the time teaching Sanzenbacher and the rest of the younger Ohio State receivers.
"It has been really tough, and I have really worked on trying to be more of a leader and it is hard when you have to sit back and watch," Robiskie said. "I like working with the younger guys. I'm not that much of a vocal guy, but when the young guys just keep asking you stuff you grow into that vocal leader."
GAME FORMAT: The spring game will be played in four 11-minute quarters, with the new clock rules for the 2008 season in effect, including the 40-second play clock.
LACROSSE WARMUP: The football game will follow the Ohio State men's lacrosse game against Denver, which begins at 11 a.m. in the Horseshoe.
GAME DATA: Tickets for the OSU spring game are $5 and they will be available at the north end of the stadium starting at 9 a.m., cash sales only. One ticket gets admission for both the lacrosse and football games. Children age 6 and under will be admitted free. The gates at Ohio Stadium will open at 10 a.m. All parking lots except the East and West stadium lots will be open for general parking. Former Ohio State stars Mike Tomczak and Cris Carter will be the honorary captains for the Scarlet and Gray game.
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