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Ohio State football: 6 areas to watch in Saturday's spring game

Apr. 12—COLUMBUS — While spring game scores do not matter much, the outcome of individual battles all over the field could go a long way toward determining how good Ohio State football can be in 2024.

Head coach Ryan Day said more than 50,000 tickets had been sold by midweek, and those fans can expect to see an offense-defense scrimmage.

Starters will play, but they will not tackle to the ground.

Once the veterans go to the bench, expect the real action to start as Day said the second and third units will be full-go.

With the Buckeyes set to conclude spring practice at noon Saturday at Ohio Stadium, here are six areas to watch:

1. The ends against the tackles

This has evolved into one of the key battles in any football game, and Ohio State has interesting matchups across the board.

Usually it tips in favor of the defense in spring games because of a dearth of depth at tackle, but seeing the second- and third-team ends get after it might be a good thing in the long run for Ohio State fans because pass rush depth is a key area to watch this spring.

Ends Mitchell Melton, Kenyatta Jackson and Caden Curry should provide good competition for the likes of Tegra Tshabola, Zen Michalski, George Fitzpatrick and others.

2. C.J. Hicks and Sonny Styles against everyone

Head coach Ryan Day said Hicks and Styles, who are competing to start at Will linebacker and could share the field when the Buckeyes use a 4-3 defense, have been disrupting the offense this spring, something fans of recruiting have been waiting anxiously to hear.

Such athletes at linebacker could unlock another level of play for Jim Knowles' defense, so fans should look forward to seeing them in person.

3. Receivers against the secondary

This is typically one of the best areas to watch in a spring game because teams don't run the ball much, and the perimeter players can go at it more like a real game than most other positions.

The intrigue is even higher this year as true freshman Jeremiah Smith could lead a group of talented but unproven receivers against a young cornerback group that includes Springfield grad Aaron Scott Jr., who will be making his first appearance in uniform at Ohio Stadium.

4. The quarterbacks against the defense

Day also credited Knowles for making life tough on the offense in general as he matched wits with new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly in practice.

It is up to the quarterbacks to decipher what Knowles' crew is up to on each snap, though spring game game plans might be fairly tame.

Of course, quarterback is a key position this spring and the one fans will watch most closely all afternoon.

Kansas State transfer Will Howard and five-star freshmen Julian Sayin and Air Noland all make their Ohio Stadium debuts while Devin Brown and Lincoln Kienholz look to show they can do much more than they did in the Cotton Bowl loss to Missouri.

5. Young running backs

Don't expect to see much, if any, of TreVeyon Henderson or Mississippi transfer Quinshon Judkins, but Saturday should be a chance for freshmen running backs James Peoples and Sam Williams-Dixon to show what they can do.

T.C. Caffey, a walk-on from Hubbard, Ohio, also has been the subject of praise from his head coach this spring and could be part of the rotation this fall.

6. The last line of defense

Safety has flown under the radar to a certain extent this spring with quarterbacks, cornerbacks, linebackers and the lines hogging most of the headlines.

No doubt fans will want to see Caleb Downs in an Ohio State uniform, but the All-American transfer from Alabama might be in the group that doesn't play a lot.

Depth is a question mark at this position, especially with Lakota West grad Malik Hartford nursing an injury.

With the quarterbacks under scrutiny, the safeties could have a chance to steal the show.

SATURDAY'S GAME

Ohio State Spring Game, Noon, Fox