Spring game takeaways: Ohio State's do-over, Michigan's setback, USC's hype
Taking a closer look at what went down during the biggest weekend of spring football games yet
I wish I had more football for you.
But when every sentence of every spring game evaluation has to begin with "quarterbacks weren't allowed to be tackled," well, here we go again.
The Overhyping of Spring.
The games themselves are more events -- jury-rigged for television and fan experience -- than strategy. In fact, coaches go out of their way not to show anything of substance. Especially when opponent scouting begins with firing up the cable box.
But here we are already wrapping up the spring of 2017. There were 27 spring games last Saturday. There are a season-high 32 this coming Saturday. Sprinkle in six week-day games this week and that means in an eight-day span more than half of FBS will have played a spring game.
Some observations from the weekend …
Ohio State Buckeyes
Urban Meyer is driven to prove the shutout loss to Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff Semifinal was an anomaly.
That starts with stretching the field with an offense that couldn't last New Year's Eve. New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson oversaw an offense Saturday that threw six touchdown passes of at least 18 yards.
The quarterbacks of the present ( J.T. Barrett ) and future (five-star prospect Tate Martell) played briefly. The go-deep philosophy extended all the way to the halftime sideshow when .
Do not be distracted. In case you missed it, Barrett's inability to throw effectively mid-range and deep was painfully obvious by the end of the season.
But every season is a do-over for the Buckeyes. They're going on three years removed from their last national championship. The defensive line should be one of the nation's best. Barrett will be better. The Bucks should be favored again to win the Big Ten.
🏈👀DOUBLE TAKE🏈👀— Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) April 15, 2017
J.T. Barrett starts 5-6 for 52 yds & caps Gray's opening drive with this TD toss to A.J. Alexander https://t.co/p9onsG9mdJ
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The rap on new coach P.J. Fleck has little to do with his coaching ability. Some in his profession don't like his, well, personality. Call it self-promotion or call it the attitude of your average 36-year old in 2017, Fleck is who is he is.
"I have a lot more fun [despite what] people can talk shit about," Fleck told me last week.
You should not be surprised, then, to learn Minnesota's first-year coach is getting his own reality show. Right now, it's four episodes and it's on ESPN.
"It's a day in the life," Fleck said. "It's 'Hard Knocks'-ish. It's a mixture of a lot of things. People say, 'He has his own reality show.' It's not the case."
The reality is this: Fleck was the hottest young coach available for the Gophers. They couldn't afford not to get him. Minnesota also won nine games last season. So Fleck isn't walking into a bare cupboard. However, this is the Big Ten where everything begins up front. Fleck says he there is a dearth of linemen -- offense and defense. There are no freshman or sophomore defensive tackles -- and only one junior.
"Usually you have 17 or 18 [total]," Fleck said.
"It's like somebody decided to stop recruiting and blow this thing up," said a source close to the program.
So when the conversation drifts to a quarterback battle for 2017, it shouldn't. At least at first. Nor should it be about fans being asked to bring an oar to the spring. (Fleck spent $50,000 of his own money to secure the rights to his inspirational slogan "Row The Boat.")
This isn't Western Michigan going 13-0 in the MAC. Fleck will soon find out this is big boy football in the Big Ten.
I texted Tom Herman recently to ask why he was taking a look at former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire.
"Just kicking the tires on whatever is out there," Herman thumbed back.
In other words, sophomore Shane Buechele and freshman Sam Ehlinger are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Depth is needed, especially with those two having a bit of an injury history. In Saturday's spring game, Buechele threw for 369 yards and accounted for three touchdowns. Herman would not name him the starter for the fall.
Is Texas' coach still in the market for some depth?
There is a limit to Jim Harbaugh's power. Michigan's spring game was shown on a tape-delayed basis because Ohio State's was shown live. That only tape-delayed the disappointment in Wilton Speight . Michigan's quarterback completed only 9 of 26 against a quality defense. Harbaugh says Speight is the starter, so he'll have to do a lot to lose the job.
Southern California Trojans
This is what spring games look like when you've got a Heisman Trophy front-runner at quarterback.
Sam Darnold threw six times, went to the sideline and rested. What's the use of risking his health against teammates? Specific mention was made at the Coliseum of Mississippi State Bulldogs 's Jonathan Abram that .
USC is going to start the season in the top 10. It is used to lofty preseason expectations, but it's time to bring on the real thing. Less than 15,000 fans showed up.
What in the name of Heisman hype was Bobby Petrino doing?
His superstar Heisman-winning quarterback not only played but played a lot. In 2 ½ quarters on Saturday, Lamar Jackson threw for 346 yards and accounted for four touchdown.
Perhaps the idea of all that action was to get quality balls in the quality hands of redshirt freshman Dez Fitzpatrick (nine catches, 176 yards, two touchdowns).
Fitzpatrick was one of 17 redshirts who sat out last season. Perhaps the Cardinals aren't done yet after ending the season with a three-game losing streak.
Their only loss in the nation's best conference last season -- the ACC -- was to national champion Clemson.
Maybe I'm missing something, but something is missing in the evaluation of Nebraska coach Mike Riley. He has won 10 of his last 14 games. Riley just got done posting his first nine-win season at Nebraska. (There have been eight seasons of at least nine wins since 2008.)
With Tulane Green Wave transfer Tanner Lee (13-of-19 passing), Nebraska may actually get better at quarterback after losing senior starter Tommy Armstrong Jr. Not to mention the Huskers are in the "easier" of the Big Ten's divisions, the West.
Mike Riley (15-11 going into his third season) isn't plateauing, he's getting better. But isn't everyone in the spring?
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