COLUMBUS — A big crowd to watch the Buckeyes in Ohio Stadium is nothing new. But when 95,722 fans show up for the spring game, it’s going to open eyes.
The huge throng of fans that showed up Saturday to take in Ohio State’s annual spring scrimmage made history as it was the biggest crowd ever to watch a college football team’s spring game.
While the size of the crowd certainly was impressive, there were many other notable items that emerged here Saturday.
The Gray team won 23-3, thanks in large part to the play of dynamic quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor’s freshman year in 2008 was filled with peaks and valleys. The valleys were mainly a result of struggles in the passing department.
It was evident Saturday that Pryor has gotten stronger, improved his footwork and throwing mechanics. Playing just two quarters, he threw the ball with command and accuracy in the windy conditions.
The Scarlet’s Daniel Herron looks for room to run as the Gray’s Brian Rolle (36) and Ross Homan (51) close in during Ohio State’s annual spring game Saturday in Ohio Stadium.
EXAMINER PHOTO | MATT HAMMOND
If Pryor has the freedom to use his considerable running and playmaking skills, the Buckeyes’offense this fall could be one of the best head coach Jim Tressel has had at OSU.
As expected, Danny Herron has emerged as the replacement for new Arizona Cardinal Chris Wells. Herron had a few strong runs Saturday and looks poised to be the Buckeyes’ top option in the ground game.
However, Brandon Saine may have something to say about that. Saine has been a pleasant surprise this spring. Finally healthy, Saine showed Saturday that he has the speed, elusiveness and pass catching ability to complement Herron as another weapon out of the backfield.
One of the big question marks for the 2009 Buckeyes will be finding replacements for departed wide receivers Brian Robiskie (a second-round draft pick by the Browns) and Brian Hartline (a fourth-round pick by the Miami Dolphins).
If Saturday was any indication, the Buckeyes still have some talented receivers for Pryor to work with.
At this point, the top three receivers appear to be sophomore Devier Posey, junior Dane Sanzenbacher and Small.
As a senior, the Buckeyes need Small to fulfill the considerable promise he showed coming out of Cleveland Glenville. He has always had the skills to be a difference maker, but inconsistency on the field and poor decision making off of it have plagued his career at Ohio State.
Small’s inconsistency again showed Saturday as he dropped a couple of passes before making a tremendous catch and run on Pryor’s second TD pass. If Small can shake his inconsistent stretches and stay out of Tressel’s doghouse in the fall, he will be a big cog in the OSU offense.
Like the offense, Ohio State’s defense lost a great deal of talent to the NFL draft. Three players from last year’s defense were drafted over the weekend, led by cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, a first-round pick by the New Orleans Saints.
However, it looks like defensive coordinator Jim Heacock still has plenty of talent in his cupboard.
For example, Solomon Thomas recorded seven sacks in the jersey scrimmage two weeks ago and looked fast coming off the edge Saturday. Thomas isn’t even expected to be a starter in the fall.
The Buckeyes must replace two linebackers after James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman graduated. Tyler Moeller, one of many candidates for a starting linebacker spot, was impressive Saturday. Though undersized to play linebacker, Moeller was all over the field making plays Saturday and should see a lot of time in the fall.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the big crowd Saturday was the intrigue of seeing a lot of new faces in bigger roles. If the new-look Buckeyes can make the big plays they did Saturday, both offensively and defensively, a fifth straight Big Ten title seems like a very realistic possibility.