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Football: What we learned about Ohio State from the Spring Game

Ohio State redshirt senior offensive lineman Brady Taylor (79) protects redshirt junior quarterback Joe Burrow in the first half of the 2018 Spring Game in Ohio Stadium April 14. Gray beat Scarlet 37-14. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Ohio State entered spring practice with one focal question: who will take snaps at quarterback in the fall? But it had many other questions to answer, including who will be snapping the ball to the yet-to-be-determined quarterback.

Here are five things we learned after the Spring Game.

Luke Farrell enters summer as starting tight end

Last season, Rashod Berry backed up Marcus Baugh. The now-redshirt junior Berry entered the spring with the first shot at replacing the now-graduated Baugh, but he could not hold off redshirt sophomore Luke Farrell.

“As of we finished spring practice, [Farrell will] be the starting tight end at Ohio State,” head coach Urban Meyer said following the Spring Game. “He had a very good spring.”

Despite the declaration of confidence, Meyer stopped short of declaring the former four-star prospect as the Week 1 starter. He said Farrell has earned the right to call himself the starter for now, but must retain the position in the fall. Berry, who did not play in the Spring Game due to suffering two “stingers,” and redshirt sophomore Jake Hausmann will make a run for the job.

But Farrell’s stiffest competition might come from incoming freshman Jeremy Ruckert. The second-ranked tight end in the 2018 class by the 247Sports composite rankings, Ruckert might be the most talented player at his position the moment he steps on campus.

No answer at linebacker, but that’s not necessarily a negative

The Buckeyes have an abundance of possibilities on the second level of their defense. Not only do they have many different players ready to step up, but many of their linebackers can play both inside or outside.

Though redshirt sophomore Tuf Borland suffered an Achilles injury early in the spring, he seems to be the only player expected to be in the starting rotation at middle linebacker. Baron Browning, Keandre Jones, Malik Harrison and Pete Werner each played substantial snaps in the Spring Game and have a shot to start. Dante Booker had shoulder surgery and missed spring practice, but will have a chance at reclaiming a spot. He’s started the opening week the past two seasons but lost his role due to injury each year.

Despite lacking a starter at two linebacker spots, neither defensive coordinator Greg Schiano nor Meyer seemed overly concerned about entering the summer without much clarity.

“I think the hard thing is going to be to decide who the three starting linebackers are. Because we’re going to move guys around to get the three best guys on the field to start the game,” Schiano said after the Spring Game. “I have a feeling that we may even be able to play more than three, the way guys have worked this spring. Now if they continue to excel, there’s no rule that says you can’t play more than three.”

The youthful group of linebackers could take a page from the cornerbacks and rotate more than the three starters.

Brady Taylor: the Billy Price replacement

The past two centers at Ohio State — Billy Price and Pat Elflein — won the Rimington Trophy, awarded to the best center in the nation. Though Price’s replacement will not be expected to be the country’s best, a precedence of excellence has been set.

After the Spring Game, Meyer revealed his decision on who will have the first shot in the fall with the first team.

“Brady Taylor is leaving spring ball as our starting center,” Meyer said. “I’m not saying that’s the way it is for the fall yet, but it’s pretty close. He did very good.”

A redshirt senior, Taylor has a wealth of experience. Early in spring practice, Meyer expressed concern about the center position, but Taylor played well enough for the head coach to make the decision of Taylor over redshirt freshman Josh Myers by the end of camp.

Thayer Munford left tackle?

A two-year starter at right tackle, it made sense that Isaiah Prince would slide over to man left tackle as a senior. But it might not be that simple.

Sophomore Thayer Munford lined up at left tackle while Prince was right tackle during the opening drive for the first-team offense during the Spring Game. They stayed at the positions for a while before Prince played a single series as left tackle.

After the scrimmage, Meyer said Ohio State has not chosen which player will play either tackle spot.

“We’ve done both and that decision hasn’t been made yet,” Meyer said. “But Isaiah’s been playing a lot of left too. And I think we’re just trying to get that rotation, who’s going to be the third tackle.”

Jaylen Harris nearing receiver rotation

All six of Ohio State’s starting receivers from last season returned, minimizing the possibility that younger wideouts would be able to earn playing time. But earlier in the spring, wide receivers coach Zach Smith emphatically stated the best players would play regardless of their experience levels.

Sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Harris has made a case to break the crowded rotation this spring. He ended it with a three-catch, 39-yard performance in the Spring Game and caught a touchdown from Dwayne Haskins.

“He had some plays today and he had a very productive spring,” Meyer said. “I’d imagine he’s very close to being in the rotation.”

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