CINCINNATI — Ohio State will make concessions to the spring in today’s Scarlet and Gray game at Paul Brown Stadium.
There will be four, 10-minute quarters, fair catches on all punts, and no kickoffs. And, for the love of Brutus, the black no-contact jerseys the quarterbacks will wear mean no contact.
After a spring marked by rattling hits on Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes’ mascot — linebacker David Perkins leveled the ball-carrying Brutus during a practice open to students last weekend — coach Urban Meyer said he will be on guard for overly ambitious rushers.
"I’m going to have a baseball bat," he said, smiling.
As usual, though, this dressed-up intrasquad scrimmage will be more than just the last of the Buckeyes’ 15 spring practices.
Meyer wants to see how those who are fighting for starting jobs respond to the spotlight, and today will provide it. Though the Buckeyes will play before a smaller-than-usual spring crowd, the school still expects the 66,000-seat Paul Brown Stadium to be well over half full. About 30,000 tickets have been sold.
"That’s one thing that’s unique to Ohio State and maybe five or six other programs," Meyer said, "You can really play [the spring game] in a big-time environment and see who will showcase."
If Meyer gets his wish, the scrimmage will show improvement in a passing game that ranked 101st nationally last season — he vowed a throw-heavy contest despite forecasts of strong winds — and lend clarity to the team’s top position battles.
A largely settled offense still features an oversized question mark at right tackle, with sophomores Taylor Decker and Chase Farris vying to join a line that returns four starters with a combined 80 starts, while several spots on defense remain for the taking.
The Buckeyes are replacing six of seven starters on their front seven, with junior linebacker Ryan Shazier the only holdover. Among those counted to assume leading roles include former five-star recruits, sophomore defensive linemen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington.
Yet nothing is settled. For many, the competition continues today.
“A lot of times [the game] makes or breaks in terms of if we have enough trust to play you in the [regular season]," Meyer said. "We attack spring a little different than most programs. When we’re done with spring, that’s the way it’s going to be in the fall. Of course, things change at times, but very rarely.
"In the fall we’re trying to win a game. In the spring we’re trying to identify the depth chart, not taking into consideration the freshmen that will show up here in June. I want the mentality here at Ohio State to be that spring football is when you go earn a spot.”
ENCROACHMENT: Wonder what first-year Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville thinks about OSU invading the Bearcats’ backyard?
“I’m gonna come over and watch, see what they got,” Tuberville told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We play them next year . It’ll be good for the city, bring a lot of people in. It doesn’t bother me.”
Though Ohio State and UC rarely compete for the same level of recruit, OSU assistant Kerry Coombs, a Cincinnati native who spent five seasons on the Bearcats’ staff, doubts he would be as welcoming.
"I would say it would be challeging for us if I was there, for many reasons, and I understand that," he said. "I get that. At the same time, we here can’t worry about that."
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.