COLUMBUS — The 81,112 fans at Ohio State’s 2012 Spring Game on Saturday got their first glimpse of the Buckeyes under new head coach Urban Meyer. And if cheers are indicative, the approval rating for the program is at 100 hundred percent.
Whether it was during the pregame circle drill, after Drew Basil’s 52-yard field goal attempt, or after one of Braxton Miller’s 24 pass completions, the cheers were frequent and numerous. The memory of a bowl ban, 6-7 season, and resignation of a former coach are ancient history.
And even more happy with fans at the end of spring practice is Meyer himself. He complemented several players in particular after the game for their progress in spring practice and praised the team’s overall attitude.
But as a self-admitted perfectionist, Meyer identified plenty of things the Buckeyes will have to work on in the offseason.
“We identified our issues, and we identified our strengths,” Meyer said. “I just told them that this has to be the best offseason in the history of college football. It has to happen.”
The stage for improvement on offense in the offseason was set with by both Braxton Miller and true freshman receiver Michael Thomas’ performance in the Spring Game. Miller, who is entering his sophomore season, threw for 258 yards and completed 24 of his 31 attempts and threw one interception on the Scarlet team. Thomas had 131 receiving yards on 12 catches on the day — just two receptions short of matching Ohio State’s individual team high for receptions from last season.
“I wanted to see someone reach up and make a play like a Michael Thomas and like a Braxton Miller,” Meyer said. “We just wanted to try and identify a playmaker… some guys (made some plays) and some guys didn’t.”
Meyer also praised Kenny Guiton’s performance on the Gray team. Guiton went 16-for-24 in passing for 185 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Guiton has emerged as a solid backup quarterback to Miller.
“Kenny Guiton is a much improved player,” Meyer said. “His arm strength is there, but he doesn’t let it go for some reason. His accuracy is not bad, but he doesn’t let it go. We have to figure out why.”
But it is Miller who was the main concern, and Meyer gave Miller a mixed review.
“He can pass the ball,” Meyer said. “Here’s the way I evaluate him. On (his) release, I’ll give him an A; he’s got a very good release. Arm strength, I’m probably going to say a B, but I’m very critical. Accuracy, a C or B, we’ve got to get him more accurate but he’s getting better. He had a very good spring, and a very productive spring.”
The Scarlet and Gray squads had a combined 55 pass plays on the day to 36 rushing attempts on offense, which Meyer did by design.
“We’re going to be very balanced offense,” Meyer said. “That was very imbalanced; however, that was done for a reason. You’re taking one of the worst passing teams in America a year ago, and we’ve got to find out if we can (pass). If you can’t be balanced, you won’t win.”
Meyer said he still questions Ohio State’s passing ability, but added he had improved opinions of some receivers as a result of spring practice. Meyer said he was particularly impressed with Thomas’ improvement. He said that Thomas, who is a cousin of former No. 1 NFL draft pick Keshawn Johnson, put in extra work with JUGS machine, which fires football to receivers to catch.
“He’s very talented,” Meyer said. “… He’s a kid that non-stop working. He’s our most dedicated receiver right now as a true freshman. I’m not surprised he had that kind of day today.”
Bryant Billing covers Ohio State football for The Springfield Paper. He shares occasional commentary and bonus features on Ohio State here on TopBillingSports.com.