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The weather in Columbus for Ohio State’s spring football game was gorgeous — sunny and 75 degrees. Too bad the experience didn’t match the weather.

It started with the ticket prices, which were quadrupled this year to $20. I know the money goes to charity and admittedly that’s pretty cheap compared to regular season tickets, but I just don’t like the trend that is being set.

Over the years in the annual spring ritual at Ohio Stadium, I have watched families bring their children or grandchildren for what could be one of the most exciting experiences in their young live. These toddlers, some barely able to walk, are wearing their dad’s favorite players’ souvenir jersey hanging down below their knees and were ready to see what this Ohio State football thing was all about.

It’s a day they typically will probably remember for the rest of their lives. At $5 a seat, the whole family can attend and have money left over for concessions. You raise it to $20, and it is still not too bad, but what’s next, $30 next year and so on?

OSU-FB1
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer
discusses the annual spring game at a
press conference.
(Press photo by Harold Hamilton/
HEHphotos.smugmug.com)

Apparently, Ohio State organizers eventually came to their senses and the price was lowered back down to $5, however, it was done 24 hours before the game. This late change may have reduced the attendance, which was about 61,000.

Maybe some stayed away as a protest? This was a pretty small crowd for this event on a beautiful day. After the game, however, some might even argue that $5 was too much for this glorified practice with 10-minute quarters and devoid of so many starters. Let’s hope that they don’t make the same mistake next year.

Starting several years ago, in order to help promote their other sports, the spring game is preceded by a lacrosse game. The fans that arrived early Saturday had a treat this year as they were able to see the OSU lacrosse team move from a 6-6 halftime tie to beat Michigan, 17-6.

The spring game format changed from last year’s “scrimmage” atmosphere to be more like a real game. That was the good part; unfortunately many of the starters did not play. Some were injured but many sat out because Coach Urban Meyer said he wanted to rest them. Really? The quality of play was not “Buckeye football,” according to Meyer. Anyone else who was watching would probably agree.

At his press conference, when handed the game statistics, Meyer said, “I don’t know what to do with these…there were guys out there who will never play or aren’t ready to play now.”

I guess that explains what we saw, but why? While quarterback Braxton Miller sat out because he is recovering from a shoulder injury, his backups were not impressive.

Cardale Jones, at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, is fast and reportedly has a cannon for an arm. He is clearly the heir apparent for Miller’s quarterback position but he didn’t show much Saturday, which was confirmed by Meyer after the game.

Meyer said, “Cardale was disappointing. He had some misses today but I’m not going to let that ruin his spring. He had a good spring.”

In the game, Cardale completed 14 passes (45 percent). J. T. Barrett, Cardale’s competitor, went 17 for 33 for about 51 percent.

The running game wasn’t much better. The leading rusher with 64 yards was Warren Ball, a sophomore running back. Second was Bri’onte Dunn with 38 yards. Each had one touchdown. The leading receiver was Michael Thomas with six receptions for 64 yards and no TDs. The leading defensive player was Chris Worley a freshman linebacker with nine tackles.

Meyer has high hopes for Cardale Jones, Bri’onte Dunn, Michael Thomas and Chris Worley. Also expected to have a bright future at Ohio State, perhaps as early as this fall, is Eli Apple, Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel and Warren Ball.

Someone who we haven’t heard much about but looked pretty good Saturday was Jayme Thompson, a freshman safety from Toledo Central Catholic. He started and played much of the game, made three tackles and knocked down a few passes. Interestingly, Tuesday after the game, he announced that he is transferring from OSU.


Where does it stack up?
This was the first year that I have watched a Buckeye Spring game and not come away with high expectations for the fall. I know that much of the talent never saw the field, but, along with Meyer’s negative comments, the situation worries me. I know that, like any good coach, Meyer will never admit that the team is ready and it always needs more work, but I’m still nervous.

While it is very hard to determine where the Buckeyes stack up, one thing that is clear is that they recognize that the pass defense needs to be the No. 1 priority in changing their defensive strategy.

Saturday, the corner backs were not playing back six or eight yards like they did nearly all of last year. Some would even say that this is what kept them from winning the Big Ten Championship and playing for a national championship last year. The problem was pretty evident early in the year and one wonders why it took the coaches, who are among the highest paid in college football, this long to recognize and try to correct the problem. The good news is that it is apparently being corrected and this fall there will be a different defense on the field.

Ohio State always has great talent and good coaches, so I guess one should not worry too much about the slipshod appearance at the spring game. When the team goes to Annapolis, Maryland to play Navy August 30, you can bet they will be ready.

Here are my thoughts on the spring football game: In my opinion, the purpose of the spring game should be to reward the players that have worked hard for a month. It’s not for the coaches “to get one last look” at the players they already had a month. Let the boys just have fun. Let them, especially the new recruits, see what it is like to be in “The Shoe” with tens of thousands of fans.

Second, the spring game is for the fans, including students who may not get to attend many fall games or just can’t wait for football to start and need an injection of spirit midyear. They can get excited about seeing the recruits and promising players for the fall.

Think of the little kids with eyes as big as quarters in awe at the magnificence of big time college sports. They are wearing their idol’s jersey, a cheerleader’s outfit or simply a string of buckeyes around their neck. Whatever your preference, I hope it doesn’t get ruined the way so many pro sports have. Keep the price down and keep it a family outing. Many schools, including some major programs, don’t even charge admission for the spring game.

(Harold Hamilton is a freelance photographer from Northwood who contributes to The Press Newspapers and was at the OSU Spring Game on a media credential request from The Press. His website is HEHphotos.smugmug.com.)

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