Coming off an undefeated 12-0 season in 2012, one could perceive Ohio State to have little to worry about or work on during the 2013 spring practice period. Peer in a little closer, and one can speculate as to the areas that Coach Urban Meyer and his assistants will focus upon during the fifteen practices that will culminate with the spring game in Cincinnati on April 13th, 2013.
Below are some of the perceived areas of concentration, ranked from lowest priority to highest, as I am speculating rank in terms of importance for spring football ~
9. Special Teams: A sore spot for the past few seasons, Ohio State's special teams units had another mediocre to poor season in 2012. Three punts were blocked, and Purdue returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2012. Ohio State has recently designated Kerry Coombs as special teams coach, and one can expect a spirited and fiery approach from Coombs as he tries to improve this unit.
The reason I rank this low is because I expect many of the highly-touted freshmen recruits to be a part of this unit. Although Ohio State has a few early enrollees, I would predict many more freshmen to be included on the kickoff and punt return units, as well as protection units, once fall camp begins.
8. Keeping The Running Backs Happy: This is another area that will bear watching, not just through the spring, but throughout the 2013 season. Carlos Hyde returns for his senior season, and emerged as the primary ball-carrier during the stretch run of the 2012 season. Rod Smith, once considered a likely transfer, had some solid moments as a backup. Bri'onte Dunn, a highly-touted freshman, had few carries during the 2012 campaign. Warren Ball was redshirted in 2012, and should be fully recovered from his 2012 preseason surgery.
Compounding this issue is the return of Jordan Hall as a hybrid slot player. Hall will also earn carries, as well as quarterback Braxton Miller. Throw in true freshmen Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson, and Ezekiel Elliott, and you will see why I believe this could become an issue as it will become difficult to keep every player happy and involved in the offense.
7. Backup Quarterback Improvement: Braxton Miller is firmly entrenched as the starter, with rising senior Kenny Guiton, Jr. slated for the backup spot. Cardale Jones was redshirted last season, while early enrollee J.T. Barrett will participate in spring drills in a limited capacity as Barrett rehabilitates from a knee injury that he sustained during his senior season.
With Guiton established as the top backup, can Cardale Jones show enough this spring to warrant playing time during the 2013 season?
6. Wide Receiver Improvement: Corey "Philly" Brown, Devin Smith, and Evan Spencer all return with experience at the receiver spots. While Coach Meyer was pleased with the improvement of the group throughout the 2012 season, Coach Meyer made finding more speed at the receiver position a critical priority within the 2013 recruiting class.
With players such as Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith, and James Clark arriving in the fall, the returning players will need to use the spring to show the coaching staff that the veterans should still be heavily involved in the offense. This is an area that will rise in importance as the season approaches.
Part 2 will focus upon the top five questions and concerns for Ohio State as spring football begins.