Ohio State’s 2022 spring practice schedule is set to conclude with the annual spring game on Saturday, marking a significant milestone in the long, arduous trudge toward the return of football.
During his press conference on Thursday, head coach Ryan Day offered some insight on what Buckeye fans can expect to see during the glorified scrimmage, as well as where his team stands coming out of the spring.
Unlike in years past, when Ohio State would conduct a draft to establish the scarlet and gray rosters for the game, Day said on Thursday that roster construction would be as simple as all offensive and defensive players being on opposite sidelines. Under past formats, certain players would often have to switch teams during the game in order for the coaching staff to maximize the number of repetitions those players would receive.
“I think that we are a little light in the offensive line, so in order to keep it where we can roll guys (in and out of the game) with depth and not running guys across the field, we’ll be more organized,” Day said. “I think this is a better way to control who’s in the game. Also, it allows us to have a couple (series) where we’re going to do some thud and not tackle during the game.
“Although it’s not going to be scarlet versus gray, we’re still going to get just as many reps. But it allows us to mix and match guys and have guys play (solely) for the offense and defense, whereas if it was scarlet and gray, we would need them to play on both sides of the ball. It just becomes, logistically, a little harder to manage.”
Perhaps most notable among the details Day shared about how the spring game will be played is that tackling will be included, a change from recent years when injury prevention trumped the need to get live tackling repetitions. Day said the first few series, which will likely include the more established players, won’t be tackling situations, but the game will “quickly” move into fully live snaps.
Asked why he feels the need to permit tackling during the game, Day said his team needs to continue building a toughness that will be critical to its ultimate success. And with Ohio State’s schedule featuring a significant challenge in week one, there’s no time to waste.
“I just think we need to play the game this year,” Day said. “We gotta go out there and tackle and play. I think it will be good for a lot of our guys to do that. The first game of the year we play Notre Dame at home, and we have to be ready to roll. Once you get into the preseason, you start getting closer and closer to that first game, and you start to really hold your breath because you don’t want to lose guys. But we also have to tackle, we have to play physical, we have to be tough. If we want to reach our goals this year, we’re going to have to be that way, so we’ll do that on Saturday.”
All eyes figure to be on the Ohio State defense on Saturday as fans get their first opportunity to see new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ 4-2-5 scheme. After a dreadful showing last season that led to a complete overhaul of the defensive coaching staff, Knowles has spent the spring installing his system while trying to identify the playmakers he hopes can return the Silver Bullets to respectability.
However, while Day has certainly received an extended glimpse into what the defense will look like in September, he cautioned those watching on Saturday not to expect much complexity out of Knowles just yet.
“He’s not going to do a whole lot of his stuff during this game,” Day said. “It’s going to be about fundamentals, running around to the football, and playing hard. We’ve seen throughout these first 13 practices the multiple looks, the confidence, how well these guys play, and how decisive they are out there … It’ll be very, very basic (on Saturday), but it’s good for our guys to get in front of the crowd and play and have some fun.”
The spring game will begin at 12 p.m. and will be televised live on Big Ten Network.