After going a perfect 12-0 last season, Ohio State is ready to do more damage in 2013-14 with its bowl ban officially lifted.
The Buckeyes—who closed last season off with a 26-21 victory over rival Michigan—have lost some key players (including defensive linemen Johnathan Hankins and John Simon), but they still have dual-threat sensation Braxton Miller, as well as some talented players on the defensive line and in the receiving corps.
Here's a look at some of the most positive signs from Ohio State's spring game on April 13.
Braxton Miller's Development as a Passer
We all know what dual-threat Braxton Miller can do rushing the pigskin. He scampered for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
But if he can developing his passing skills, he could be nearly unstoppable next season. He averaged a respectable 8.0 yards per pass attempt in 2012—while tossing 15 touchdowns to six interceptions—but he could improve his accuracy.
Well, Miller went 16-of-25 for 217 yards and two touchdowns in Ohio State's spring game, leading the Scarlet team to a 31-14 victory. He did this in about three quarters against most of the probable starting defense (albeit minus stars Bradley Roby and Ryan Shazier).
Young Talent on Defensive Line
With defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive end John Simon departing for the NFL, there's been some concern that there will be a drop in production on the defensive line.
But in the Buckeyes' spring game, there were some notable developments on the line.
First of all, sophomore Adolphus Washington compiled four "sacks" in the game. Sophomore Noah Spence added three sacks. That's a considerable impact from the two youngsters.
Safety C.J. Barnett said after the game, via ESPN:
I think we made great strides this spring. There were a lot of questions coming into this season, especially on the defense with guys like John Simon graduating. It was important to see guys like Adolphus Washington step up and make some plays.
It's hard to see Ohio State's offense struggling much in 2013. If the defense can ramp up, the Buckeyes will be legitimate national championship contenders.
Development of Receiving Corps
Speaking of the offense, the receiving corps appears to be developing. Philly Brown, Devin Smith and Evan Spencer (three of Ohio State's top four receivers in 2012) all made big plays in this year's spring game.
Brown had five catches for 25 yards and a touchdown (according to ESPN). Miller connected with Smith for a 42-yard gain in the game, while hooking up with Spencer for a 49-yard gain, via Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer.
Beyond that, freshman Michael Thomas has been making waves in the spring. He had seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown on April 13. He has 19 catches for 210 yards in two spring games.
Meyer said, via the ESPN report:
I thought at times that Braxton Miller and a couple of the wideouts, Philly Brown in particular, did very well. It’s been a continuation of what started all spring and Philly Brown is turning into a legitimate All-Big Ten candidate at wide receiver for us, which we need.
With an improved passing game, who knows what the Buckeyes could be capable of. They averaged 37.2 points per game last season, 21st in the nation, despite ranking 105th in passing yards per game.