COLUMBUS — There has been plenty of time for the realization to sink in, but it still figures to sting on Saturday afternoon when Ohio State isn’t in the Horseshoe.
Spring football has been canceled for nearly a month after the Buckeyes got in just three of the scheduled 15 workouts they were allotted in March and April. The last one of them might not be the most relevant anymore, but the closing exhibition was still a chance to get reps in Ohio Stadium, it provided a glimpse at the potential on the roster — and it was a celebration of the program with its fans in the stands.
There are obviously far more pressing concerns in the world than a spring without football. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be disappointment when an annual event on the calendar is snatched away by a pandemic, even if Ohio State is still looking for silver linings as it responds to the setback.
“Our aim is that in situations like this, when you go through tough times, when you go through adversity, character shows,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “That’s a big part of who we’re recruiting. That’s where the family and the character of these kids can really help out in times like this.
“I think in the end it’s going to help us.”
That’s a task for later down the road for the Buckeyes. For now, Lettermen Row is going to just pretend like everything is normal and that the spring game was going on as scheduled on Saturday. So, here are five Bold Predictions for what would have happened in the scrimmage.
Austin Ward: C.J. Stroud turns in best passing performance
There wasn’t going to be much to prove for Justin Fields to do this weekend, so the Heisman Trophy favorite would probably have been limited to a series or two. The Buckeyes would have been much more interested in seeing what backups Gunnar Hoak, C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller could do in the setting — particularly when it comes to the true freshmen. The sample size was admittedly small on the opening day of camp, but Stroud really caught the eye with his ability to deliver the football, flashes of athleticism and confidence leading the attack. All of that figured to grow during the next month, and while Hoak is a veteran and Miller surely would have had his bright days as well, the pick here is that Stroud eventually becomes the backup for the Buckeyes.
Jeremy Birmingham: Julian Fleming poised to steal Ohio State show
Ohio State had a number of young players working to make a splash at the 2020 spring game but none would have shined more than Julian Fleming, the country’s top-ranked 2020 receiver prospect. The Buckeyes would be airing the ball out all over the field trying to get both freshman quarterbacks and Gunnar Hoak comfortable with the offense — and because of the lack of running backs available — and Fleming’s size, speed and physicality would have been the thing to watch against Ohio State’s backup defensive backs, all trying to learn a new system themselves. Fleming would have been the talk of Columbus, like Garrett Wilson was last spring, and set himself up for a major role in the 2020 season.
Tim May: Garrett Wilson was going to add to highlight reel
Think about it. What spectacular catch do you remember most from last year’s spring game? What grab do you remember most from the Buckeyes’ pilfered loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal? That’s right – Garrett Wilson going (way) up and over to gain a grip, shades of Terry Glenn. That’s why, despite the excitement that accompanied the matriculation of the four outstanding receivers of the 2020 class enrolling early at Ohio State, fostering forward thinking of how they could augment the offense in the fall, it says here that Wilson – now a sophomore – was primed to have a hell of a spring and its accompanying climax game. His robust approach, whether it was in a quarterbacks-and-receivers throwing session in February or in the first three spring practices, revealed a spectacular player yearning to be better. The spring game would have been his stage to establish he is indeed the next go-to man for one of college football’s more prolific offenses.
Spencer Holbrook: Jameson Williams would put on speedy show
Jameson Williams came to Ohio State boasting Ted Ginn-like speed. He would’ve showed that off in the spring game, catching two touchdown passes on short catches, which turned into long runs. The sophomore wide receiver had a little bit of drop issues last season in his appearances, but another season with Brian Hartline will cure those concerns. Williams figures to be a playmaker for the Buckeyes this season, and it all starts with a dazzling spring game performance.
Will Crall: Lejond Cavazos would nab interception in Horseshoe
Lejond Cavazos would have made a splashy debut in the Shoe, making at least one interception in the spring game. Cavazos comes to Ohio State from IMG Academy in Florida, where he played against the best competition in the country. According to my Lettermen Row colleagues Austin Ward and Birm, he was impressive during an open practice before everything was shut down due to the coronavirus. The defensive backfield depth chart is wide open, which would have given Cavazos a wealth of experience with the first and second string units. Despite missing these valuable reps, I think that Kerry Coombs will work his magic and make Cavazos a regular at corner during the 2020 season.