The Ohio State Buckeyes started the spring practice season March 6 and finish it with the spring game at 11:45 a.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The start time of the game was moved up two hours on Friday because of concerns about the weather.
For the most part — not counting the handful of practices witnessed by the media or recruits — the team has practiced in private.
That changes in the final practice. The Buckeyes drew 100,189 fans in 2016. Last year, the number dipped to 80,134 because of renovations at Ohio Stadium, and construction will limit the crowd this year as well. Although there’s a threat of rain, temperatures will be in the 70s, and the Buckeyes expect to see a crowd of close to 79,000. All tickets were sold.
“It’s very exciting,” running back J.K. Dobbins said. “We’ve got the best fans in the world.”
Here are four things to know about the game:
1. Quarterback situation: For the first time since 2015, when J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones were competing for the job in the spring, Ohio State has an open quarterback competition.
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Dwayne Haskins is the favorite because he was the second-string quarterback last season and led Ohio State to a victory at Michigan when Barrett suffered an injury. However, according to everything Urban Meyer and his assistants have said this spring, Joe Burrow and Tate Martell are in the mix.
“You wish one would take it,” Meyer said, “but then again, you like having the day-to-day competition, which is what I’m seeing.”
2. Freshmen faces: Eight members of the 2018 recruiting class enrolled at Ohio State in January and will get to run out of the tunnel as Buckeyes for the first time: quarterback Matthew Baldwin; cornerbacks Sevyn Banks and Tyreke Johnson; linebacker Dallas Gant; offensive linemen Matthew Jones and Max Wray; running back Master Teague; and defensive tackle Tommy Togiai.
3. Inexperienced group: The linebacker group has been hit hard by departures and injuries. The Buckeyes already knew they were losing fifth-year senior Chris Worley. Then Jerome Baker, a redshirt junior last season, decided to enter the NFL Draft.
Tuf Borland, who was expected to start at middle linebacker, has been sidelined with an Achilles injury. Dante Booker, another player with starting experience, has been sidelined since undergoing shoulder surgery.
Linebackers coach Bill Davis, however, likes the group he’s had this spring, even if none of the players have started a game for the Buckeyes. Among the players who have improved are Malik Harrison, Baron Browning, Keandre Jones, Justin Hilliard and Pete Werner.
“I’m so excited about the group I’m working with,” Davis said. “These guys are talented. They’re all in. They are grinding. It matters to them. I’m excited about what’s going to happen. I have no worries. The next man is going to step up.”
4. Alums attending: A number of former Buckeyes will be at the game: Barrett, Worley, Billy Price, Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, Tracey Sprinkle, Denzel Ward, Jamarco Jones, Marcus Baugh, Damon Webb, Michael Thomas, Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker, Andrew Norwell, Joshua Perry, Trevon Forte, Cin’quan Haney, Michael Hill, Clay Raterman, Jackson Hayes, Eljaah Goins, Erick Smith and Zach Turnure.
Ryan Shazier, who is continuing to recover from a serious spinal injury, and Malcolm Jenkins will serve as honorary coaches.