Thomas Bradley / Campus editor
When the Scarlet and Gray teams face off in the Spring Game Saturday, the passing and blocking advantages give the Scarlet Team the edge for securing victory.
The coaching staff was divided into Scarlet and Gray teams, which in turn drafted rosters to play against each other Saturday. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman will lead Scarlet along with assistant coaches Everett Withers, Mike Vrabel, and Tim Hinton. Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell will coach Gray, with Kerry Coombs, Ed Warinner, Stan Drayton and Zach Smith assisting him.
Braxton Miller, the rising sophomore starting quarterback of the Buckeyes, was drafted to the Scarlet roster. The quarterbacks for the Gray roster will be rising redshirt junior Kenny Guiton and incoming freshman Cardale Jones.
As a true freshman, Miller showed his ability to be a dynamic dual-threat quarterback. While Miller had his ups and downs last season, this will be his first opportunity to take the field and show his progression with Herman leading the offense.
Guiton had a strong Spring Game performance last season, completing 11 of 21 pass attempts for 167 yards and two touchdowns. That said, he is not the true playmaker that Miller is, and having him gives Scarlet a big advantage in the game.
Additionally, the Scarlet team has a much more experienced offensive line. Four of this year’s five expected starters – rising redshirt junior Jack Mewhort, rising redshirt junior Corey Linsley, rising senior Reid Fragel and rising redshirt junior Marcus Hall – are on the Scarlet roster. The Gray roster includes rising junior guard Andrew Norwell, a returning starter from last season, but rising sophomore Antonio Underwood is the only other offensive lineman on their roster with any playing experience.
Gray has an edge at the offensive skill positions. The top five returning receivers from last season – rising sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith, rising redshirt senior tight end Jake Stoneburner, rising junior wide receiver Corey Brown, rising redshirt sophomore wide receiver Verlon Reed, and rising senior running back Jordan Hall – are all on the Gray roster. That said, their success as receivers will rely upon Guiton’s ability to pass the ball, and Miller is the much more talented passer. Rising junior running back Carlos Hyde and redshirt junior Chris Fields highlight the skill position talent on the Scarlet roster.
Scarlet is also loaded with much of OSU’s top defensive talent.
The roster is led by rising junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, a massive, athletic defensive tackle who emerged as a star last season with 10 tackles for loss. Their roster also features possibly the most talented linebacker on the roster, rising sophomore Ryan Shazier, who played tremendously when he earned time in the starting lineup late last season. The Scarlet roster also features three of last year’s four starters from the secondary: rising redshirt junior safety C.J. Barnett, junior safety Christian Bryant and rising senior cornerback Travis Howard.
Rising senior defensive end John Simon, who was a third-team AP All-American last season, will lead the Gray defense up front. Rising redshirt junior Adam Bellamy and rising redshirt senior Garrett Goebel are returning starters on the Gray defensive line, and the wild card for them up front could be senior Nathan Williams, a talented pass-rusher who missed the entire 2011 season with injury.
However, while Gray might have an edge in comparing defensive lines, Scarlet has the edge among linebackers and defensive backs. The Gray roster only has two returning starters among the defensive back seven: rising redshirt senior linebacker Etienne Sabino and rising redshirt sophomore Bradley Roby.
Additionally, the Scarlet roster will have a clear edge in kicking field goals with rising junior Drew Basil. Rising senior punter Ben Buchanan will give Gray an edge in the field position battle, but Miller showed last season that he has the ability to drive the team to points from poor field position.
As OSU is still learning the offense, I expect their defensive talent to have the better success in this game. That said, I expect Miller to lead the Scarlet offense to more breakthroughs, and therefore a Spring Game victory.
Score Prediction: Scarlet 20, Gray 14