NCAA Football

USC Football: 10 Players to Watch in USC Spring Game

USC hosts its spring game on Saturday, and with it comes the culmination of the early work Steve Sarkisian and his new team have put in to preparing for the 2014 season. It also marks the final showing for a handful of Trojans that have been competing for time in the limelight.

While most position battles will reopen again when injured veterans and fresh, new talent are available during fall camp, the impression left in the spring game could go a long way in boosting one's name up the depth chart.

Broken down by head-to-head position battles, here's a preview of 10 Trojans to keep an eye on during Saturday's spring game. 

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USC Football: 10 Players to Watch in USC Spring Game

USC hosts its spring game on Saturday, and with it comes the culmination of the early work Steve Sarkisian and his new team have put in to preparing for the 2014 season...

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Arkansas Football: 5 Newcomers Who Will Have the Biggest Impacts in 2014

It's no secret that head coach Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks are in the midst of a serious rebuilding project.

It's scary to think that the Hogs have to start the 2014 season on the road against the national runner-ups in the Auburn Tigers, but that's the reality of the situation. That means spring and fall practices are going to be that much more important in order to improve in all facets and prepare for a real test to open the season.

Because Arkansas is thin at a lot of positions, it also means that the Razorbacks need newcomers to step up and play impact roles.

Which new faces are going to have the biggest impacts in 2014? Here we break down the five first-year Hogs that will play the biggest roles in Bielema's second year.

 

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Tennessee Football: Top Performers from the Volunteers' Spring Game

While it's impossible to ignore the glaring questions facing the Tennessee Volunteers, it wasn't difficult for head coach Butch Jones to put a spring-ending positive spin on how far the team has come.

The Vols are a young, inexperienced work in progress, but if they get some serious help on defense, there are enough offensive weapons about which to get excited.

That was evident during Saturday's Orange and White Game, and Jones even cracked a smile a few times in discussing a month of practice where tons got accomplished, his team grew up and no major injuries were incurred.

"I left here a year ago at this time obviously very concerned about our throw game and big splash plays and that kind of showed itself last season, and that's in the past," Jones said. "I'm very encouraged by what I see, but we have a long way to go."

Jones, of course, went on to note the team's deficiencies—such as tackling, defensive depth and turnovers—but those are concerns for another day.

The spring finale was about the playmakers who emerged, and there were plenty. Let's examine Saturday's stars.

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand.

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Ohio State Spring Game: Biggest Takeaways from Buckeyes' Intra-Squad Tilt

It is a testament to the popularity of Ohio State football in central Ohio that the Buckeyes’ spring game, which is truly just a glorified practice, drew more than 60,000 fans even though the tickets were being sold for $20 apiece up until the night before the game.

For context, the majority of schools do not charge fans for admittance to the spring game.

However, there were bigger takeaways to be made from the game than the fact that people love Ohio State football. The Gray squad topped the Scarlet one 17-7 in a contest that did not feature Braxton Miller due to injury.

According to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors, head coach Urban Meyer appeared far more interested in individual performances than who won the game:

I’m not trying to evaluate an offense. Who cares? There are guys out there who will never play or they’re not ready to play now. [Sports information director] Jerry [Emig] handed me these stats. I’m not sure what to do with these. I don’t care.

What I do care about is who’s physically going to make the plays. It was almost like an individual game today. That’s what I wanted to watch. I wanted to see who’s going to compete, who’s going to make plays and who’s going to fit the team concept because we all know what we saw out there. That’s not a team. That’s not the Ohio State Buckeyes. 

Even though Meyer wasn’t particularly impressed with the performance, there were some conclusions that could be made. Here are a few of them.

 

Braxton Miller Needs to Stay Healthy

Miller did not play in the spring game because he is still recovering from shoulder surgery. Backups Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett battled it out instead.

Neither made much of an impression, as Jones finished 14-of-31 for 126 yards and Barrett went 17-of-33 for 151 yards. There were no passing touchdowns on the day, which is somewhat concerning considering the secondary’s talent was dispersed between the two rosters—and safety Vonn Bell isn’t even healthy.

If Miller were to get hurt this season, there doesn’t appear to be a Kenny Guiton waiting in the wings.

Both Jones and Barrett flashed potential, particularly with their legs, but Guiton had a certain command of the offense when called upon. He saved Ohio State on multiple occasions in the past two seasons.

Barrett is only a redshirt freshman and presents more of a long-term solution than Jones, but don’t be surprised if Jones wins the backup job by August. Barrett didn’t do enough in the spring game to overcome the experience edge that Jones currently holds.

 

The 2nd Cornerback Position Is up for Grabs

Ohio State’s biggest weakness last year was its secondary.

The pass defense ultimately proved crippling in the Orange Bowl when Clemson scored 40 points, and watching the Buckeyes try to defend a screen pass against archrival Michigan was painful.

All-Big Ten player Bradley Roby is no longer around at cornerback, which means the second spot is up for grabs across from Doran Grant. Eli Apple and Armani Reeves both played significant minutes in the spring game and impressed throughout.

Apple and Reeves both broke up passes, although it was Apple who dropped a near interception. Ultimately, Apple looked slightly more impressive than Reeves thanks to his physicality and speed, but Reeves has more experience in the Buckeyes’ system.

Neither separated himself from the other, although the silver lining is neither struggled enough to fall in the pecking order either. Expect to see plenty of both when the season rolls around, although the starting job will likely be decided in camp.

It is also worth mentioning that incredibly talented incoming freshman Marshon Lattimore could work his way into the rotation as well.

 

Carlos Hyde Will be Replaced by a Committee

Miller drew many of the headlines when it came to Ohio State’s electric offense last season, but Carlos Hyde was the wrecking ball that made the engine go.

In fact, had the Buckeyes given Hyde the ball more in the losses to Michigan State and Clemson, they very well could have won both games. How effectively Ohio State replaces his production will go a long way toward determining how the season unfolds from an offensive perspective.

There is plenty of talent at the running back position, and if the spring game proved anything, it was that there will likely be a committee of ball-carriers this season.

Bri’onte Dunn finished with 35 yards and a touchdown on six carries while Warren Ball impressed with 55 yards and a touchdown. Curtis Samuel is a speedster who showed flashes of his potential (although he failed to get into the end zone from the 2-yard line on multiple occasions when running between the tackles), and Rod Smith is a physical bruiser who didn’t play. 

Land-Grant Holy Land and Rowland pointed out that Smith missed the spring game and hasn’t been practicing lately:

That’s not even mentioning Ezekiel Elliott, who didn’t break out on any runs in the spring game but could have the inside track for the starting job.

Elliott showed his explosive speed and power during garbage time on a number of occasions last year and may have the best combination of elusiveness and the ability to pick up tough yardage through the middle of anyone on the roster.

There may not be a Hyde on Ohio State this season, but there are still plenty of capable running backs in the stable.

 

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Big Ten Football: 5 Teams Having the Best Spring Camp

We're in the home stretch of spring football in the Big Ten, and there's been plenty to talk about thus far.  All eyes are—per usual—on the big players in the conference.  But with programs like Michigan continuing to show signs of struggling, we wondered about the other end of the spectrum.

There are many things that go into a successful spring camp.  Certainly coaches and fans want to see some improvement and maturation from the players on the field.  But the overall mentality of the program moving forward can be equally important, as we'll point out.

We're not quite finished with spring football yet, but we're close enough to determine the five Big Ten programs having the best spring camp—and we're giving you a sneak peek.

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Texas Football: 7 Players to Watch in the Longhorns' Spring Game

David Ash's fractured foot will place much of the spotlight on Tyrone Swoopes, but the sophomore quarterback is just one of several Longhorns that are must-see in Saturday's Orange-White Game.

This is the program's first spring game under new coach Charlie Strong, and therefore our first real look at the direction he is taking it. There's been plenty of talk about toughness and culture change, but few have been able to physically see the difference. 

Even with the quarterback debate on hold for a few months, the game offers valuable insight. Questions surrounding the safety position, who has stepped up to replace the departed starters and how the offensive line will shape up all get their first semblance of an answer when the team takes the field.

Be sure to watch Tyrone Swoopes, but the performances of Daje Johnson and Josh Turner will be just as important to next season's results.

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Miami Football: Top Performers from the Hurricanes' Spring Game

The Miami Hurricanes capped off the official opening of the 2014 season with the annual spring game, and a few players stood out as the top performers.

Though quarterback play was thoroughly unimpressive, a couple of offensive players picked up the slack for the 'Canes.

Defensively, a team leader and an emerging sophomore shined, helping their unit knock off the offense and win the non-traditional scrimmage 61-60.

Miami returns 13 starters, but each top performer did not start a majority of games at their position last season, which is an encouraging sign for the upcoming campaign. 

 

Gus Edwards, Running Back

Sophomore Gus Edwards, a seemingly forgotten running back, thrust himself into the picture as a top backup for the 2014 season.

Duke Johnson and Joe Yearby have been sidelined because of injury, so Edwards was tasked with carrying a starter's load of reps. Long story short, he rose to the occasion.

After seeing his performance in the spring game, it's clear Miami will have an even deeper backfield next year.

Edwards unleashed an upgraded, physical running style, bullying the first defender in his path throughout the day. Save for a fantastic de-cleating hit by linebacker Denzel Perryman, Edwards consistently bested potential tacklers.

He was easily one of the top performers, finishing the scrimmage with 70 yards on 19 carries. The 3.7 yards per carry average may not be overwhelming, but Edwards improved at the point of contact, accelerating through defenders for a few yards after contact.

Consequently, it would not be surprising for head coach Al Golden to list Edwards and Yearby as co-No. 2 running backs in 2014.

 

Malcolm Lewis, Wide Receiver

His first collegiate season was cut short due to a horrific ankle break, but Malcolm Lewis worked hard to get back on the field last year.

However, even after a triumphant return during the 2013 spring game, Lewis was hampered by ankle and groin injuries in 2013 and rarely saw significant action.

The 'Canes have been eagerly awaiting a healthy Lewis, and he looked great on Saturday.

During the 11-on-11 session, the redshirt sophomore made three receptions for 36 yards and had a great connection with Kevin Olsen. Plus, in the previous drills, Lewis was running great routes over the middle of the field to get open.

Lewis again showed the talent of a starting slot receiver, and he will be an important target alongside Stacy Coley, Rashawn Scott, Herb Waters and Phillip Dorsett.

 

Dallas Crawford, Safety

Dallas Crawford was named the team's most improved defensive player, and his performance in the spring game solidified the award.

The junior defensive back started well, catching a gifted interception during the 9-on-9 session when Olsen sailed a pass over his intended target.

Soon after, Crawford smacked Perryman while trying to make a tackle, but the South Fort Myers product shook off the collision and ended the 11-on-11 with five stops.

Plus, Crawford did a superb job holding for an extra point and two field-goal attempts despite kicker Matt Goudis pushing a 46-yarder and hooking a 50-yard attempt.

It is highly unlikely that Deon Bush will lose the starting job to the former running back, but there is little doubt Crawford will be an important part of the Miami secondary in 2014.

 

Jamal Carter, Safety

Returning starter Rayshawn Jenkins being out certainly helped, but Jamal Carter earned the start at one safety position.

Earlier in the spring, Carter donned a black jersey as a leader of the defense. On Saturday, he showed that he was more than capable of stepping up and making plays.

The sophomore garnered the most attention after he smacked Walter Tucker—who had just trucked Antonio Crawford—and later halted Edwards on a near-explosive run.

Ultimately, Carter tied fellow safety Dallas Crawford with a team-high five tackles. Golden, as seen on CanesAllAccess, said Carter was one player who stood out during the scrimmage.

And after a injury- and mistake-riddled 2013 season for the safeties, Carter's emergence is yet another positive addition to the Miami secondary.

 

Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter: @Kenyon19_BR.

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The NFL Comparison for Top 10 QB Recruits from Class of 2015

NFL comparisons are always fun, as they give people a chance to see which popular professional players stud recruits most likely resemble.

Quarterbacks are up, and the 2015 class has a great set of passing prospects. While many comparisons can be made, the focus will just be on the 10 best quarterback recruits in the country.

A passer in California plays similarly to an NFL quarterback not far from his home, while his rival looks like an NFC South field general on tape. Also, another 2015 quarterback recruit has similar skills to a passer who just won the Super Bowl.

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Top 2015 College Football Recruit Each Pac-12 Coach Covets the Most

Things are going to be fascinating in the Pac-12 for years to come. The league is stacked with terrific head coaches who covet many of the same recruits, so the recruiting trail is going to be quite competitive.

UCLA head coach Jim Mora has already landed his most coveted prospect, while Washington head coach Chris Petersen digs an offensive tackle.

Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre has identified a playmaker in a dual-threat quarterback, plus Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez loves a speedy linebacker.

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Top 2015 College Football Recruit Each Pac-12 Coach Covets the Most

Things are going to be fascinating in the Pac -12 for years to come. The league is stacked with terrific head coaches who covet many of the same recruits, so the recruiting trail is going to be quite competitive...

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Michigan Football: Realistic Expectations for Derrick Green in 2014

Derrick Green’s steady creep is due for a jump into overdrive.

In 2013, he showed a few streaks that justified his lofty 4-star ranking (No. 8 RB) from 247Sports. Now a sophomore, the 6’0”, 230-pound former Hermitage High (Richmond, Va.) standout is expected to either lead or get out of the way.

That’s just how things are, and if Green is to be the next (great) Michigan running back, he must accelerate his pace or risk being passed by fellow sophomore DeVeon Smith, who also entered Ann Arbor with a 4-star grade (No. 15 RB).

While under Doug Nussmeier’s control, the Michigan offense has undergone a few subtle, but meaningful, adjustments. Since yanking the keys from Al Borges, Nussmeier has paraded a simpler style—one that worked well in the SEC and one that will work well in the Big Ten.

His reputation for crafting ideal pro-style attacks and developing blue chips into Saturday heroes speaks for itself.

Green, who was offered by Alabama (and Nussmeier), should benefit from the change. Borges’ calls didn’t seem to accentuate the strengths of his roster. Instead of giving the ball to one of four potential suitors, Borges stuck with senior Fitzgerald Toussaint, whose mighty struggle to reach the line of scrimmage was one of many thorns in the side of Team 134.

Nussmeier likes to keep productive, fresh legs on the field. When fresh, Green was productive; he should see the field plenty of times in the backfield this fall.

Here’s what to expect.

 

Getting Going

After a quick launch in Week 1, Green seemed destined for more as the schedule unfolded.

But that didn’t happen.

Apparently 11 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown vs. Central Michigan didn’t impress Brady Hoke’s staff enough to order more totes the next week. Green waited until Oct. 5 against Minnesota before getting double-digit attempts.

Michigan defeated the Gophers 42-13, and the frosh finished with 10 carries for 23 yards and a touchdown. Yeah, the yards weren’t great, but scoring never hurts.

Green’s not one of those jet-like imports. He needs a little space—and perhaps a split second longer—before reaching full speed. In that regard, he’s more like an American muscle car.

The first couple test drives were fine. But the more Borges hit the gas, the more Green produced—and that was made clear by his late-season bursts vs. Northwestern (19 carries, 79 yards) and Ohio State (12 carries for 47 yards).

With his belts tightened and oil changed, Green’s been in the garage long enough. Look for Nussmeier to hop in the driver’s seat, turn up the radio and cruise with the sophomore all the way to the playoffs. That, in all likelihood, is the plan.

Michigan has a nice backfield. But it’s Green’s year until someone—such as Smith—says otherwise. Even if he’s not the “featured back,” he’ll have a prominent role in Nussmeier’s system.

 

Stat Break

In 2013, Michigan ran the ball 498 times, averaged 125.7 yards per game and finished with the No. 11 rushing offense in the league. Green had 83 of those carries for 270 yards. 

Toussaint had 185 carries for 648 yards and 13 touchdowns. At the very least, Green could, and should, hit those numbers this fall. 

 

Maturation

When it comes to teaching Michigan running backs, there aren’t many—if any—better than coach Fred Jackson, who has more than 20 years of experience with the Wolverines.

As one of the most respected position coaches in the Big Ten, Jackson’s opinion matters.

Earlier this month, he said the following about Green during an interview with WTKA-Ann Arbor radio (via MLive.com’s Nick Baumgardner):

When you think about his speed, he could always run, but now you see flashes of that speed. I see a man who has more confidence because he's lighter. He's running with more conviction. He's running with more ability to make tight cuts.

Right now, because he lost that weight, he's going to make a tremendous difference for us this fall.

This past fall, in light of a Green-less backfield, complaints began to mount. He was either out of shape and/or lazy, or Michigan (Borges) hadn't a clue on how to showcase its ball-carrier. 

Yeah, he was a few Twinkies over the limit. Who hasn't been there? But lazy?! Nope. He had to learn a few lessons before earning an endorsement from the staff, which had to get things straight before counting on a true freshman to carry the load. 

Sounds like everyone finally got it. 

 

Healthy Competition

As mentioned above, Smith is the other No. 1 back to follow this season. Honestly, Michigan has a good problem. There aren't many programs in the Big Ten that can match Team 135's potential Green-Smith punch. 

As Smith improves, so will Green. Greatness pushes greatness, or at least that's how it should be. 

Expect the first few weeks to be a test. If Green can carry over his late 2013 momentum into early 2014, he'll reach the top of the depth chart. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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Oklahoma State Football: 8 2014 Breakout Candidates

With spring practices concluding on April 11, now is the time to look back over the last few weeks and try to get an idea of which Oklahoma State players are going to become impact players this fall.

It's still very early in the process; however, through just 15 practices, players have started to emerge on both sides of the ball that look like breakout candidates for 2014.

Who are the eight players that could see themselves become the next stars at Oklahoma State? Read on to find out.

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Top 2015 College Football Recruit Each Big 12 Coach Covets the Most

Big 12 coaches are no strangers when it comes to coveting recruits on the trail. All of them hustle around the country to get the best talent they can find.

This year will be no different, as it figures to be an interesting recruiting cycle in the league in the Midwest. Charlie Strong is now the head coach at Texas, and a 5-star cornerback is his primary recruiting target.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis would love to pair a 4-star running back with a stud runner he signed last year, and Baylor's offensive-minded Art Briles is looking to add another weapon to his high-scoring unit.

 

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Grading UGA's Post-Spring Depth Chart

The Bulldogs played their spring game on Saturday, but spring practice is not over yet.

They still have one more week of practices, and after that, they will break until August for the start of preseason practice.

The one thing fans saw during G-Day is what the starting lineup is going to look like. There will be some minor changes once the new signees come in this fall, but for the most part, the No. 1 and No. 2 units will look the same going into preseason camp.

So here are grades to hand out for the Bulldogs' post-spring depth chart.

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OSU's Braxton Miller Makes Fun of Michigan's Spring Game Attendance on Twitter

The rivalry between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines is so intense that the two sides will find any excuse to talk smack to the other.

Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller decided to take a shot at the Wolverines over Twitter, tweeting out a picture of tweets from both schools that compared their spring game attendances. 

While Michigan had 15,000 fans at its game, the Buckeyes had more than 61,000 people at theirs. 

[Twitter, h/t For the Win]

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Georgia Football: Top 5 Performers from the Bulldogs' Spring Game

The Georgia Bulldogs held their annual G-Day spring game Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 46,073 fans at Sanford Stadium.

While many in attendance and watching from home were most intrigued by the new defensive coaching staff, a number of players on both sides of the ball stood out in the intrasquad scrimmage.

Here are the five performers who performed at the highest level Saturday.

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Alabama Football: 5 Players to Watch in Tide's Spring Game

With Alabama’s spring game on tap for this weekend, Tide fans will get their first glimpse of what Nick Saban’s club has in store for the 2014 season.

Plenty of changes have been made in the offseason. From notable departures due to graduation and early entries to the NFL draft, plus the addition of new coaches such as offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, the Tide’s program has undergone its biggest period of transition since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa.

Which players should fans be watching closely as the action unfolds inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday afternoon?

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Shirtless Wisconsin Fan Has Epic Dance-off with LB Cadogan at Spring Game

This Wisconsin Badgers fan knows how to get down.

During the Badgers spring game, one fan was lucky enough to win a contest to perform in a dance-off in between the third and fourth quarters. 

The fan took on senior linebacker Sherard Cadogan and made the most of his opportunity, ripping off his shirt during the dance-off.

Regardless of what you think about his dance moves, it looks like the fan and the players had a fun time.

[BTN.com, h/t College Spun]

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Ohio State Football: Urban Meyer's 3 Biggest Concerns Post-Spring Practice

Spring practice is in the books for Ohio State, and with less than five months before the official start of the season, Urban Meyer has the Buckeyes primed for another title run.

Still, the Buckeyes are far from a finished product, and Saturday's spring game revealed a number of issues that need resolved.

These three in particular are top concerns for Meyer because they all have the potential to derail Ohio State's championship run.

 

The Offensive Line

In 2013, four senior starters along Ohio State's offensive line paved the way for one of the most successful offenses in school history. The Buckeyes averaged 308.6 rushing yards per game, which ranked fifth in the country.

Meyer needs to replace those four starters, a process that's only 25 percent complete going into summer conditioning.

The Buckeyes' sole returning starter, Taylor Decker, has made the switch from right tackle to left tackle. Pat Elflein—who played admirably for the suspended Marcus Hall late last season—has secured the right guard spot.

The other three openings have yet to be claimed, and that doesn't sit well with Meyer, according to Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer

“The offensive line, we got a lot of work to do,” Meyer said. “We've got to really go, we gotta really go from here.”

After the defenses piled up five sacks during the spring game without sending a single blitz, that urgency is easy to understand. 

 

Clarity at Wide Receiver

When Urban Meyer arrived at Ohio State, he described Ohio State's wide receiver corps as a "clown show." 

After three recruiting cycles in Columbus, Meyer has stockpiled a host of playmakers for the perimeter. The only challenge now is identifying who can contribute.

Of course, that's not entirely true as Dontre Wilson—the blazing sophomore from DeSoto, Texas—already snagged the starting H-back spot earlier this spring. Devin Smith has brought his track speed to the field as a starter for the last two seasons, something he's expected to do again in 2014.

Beyond that, though, is uncertainty.

Corey Brown was Ohio State's top receiver the last two years, and replacing his production is a tall order. Meyer is turning to a number of players such as Michael Thomas, Corey Smith and Johnnie Dixon to pick up the slack, but as the Buckeyes finished up spring drills, the unit has offered more questions than answers. 

 

The Backup Quarterback

With Braxton Miller recovering from shoulder surgery, Meyer got a long look at redshirt sophomore Cardale Jones and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett this spring.

It was a pivotal stretch for the Buckeyes, who must replace longtime backup Kenny Guiton. The cool-headed signal-caller saved Ohio State on multiple occasions, and with Miller's injury history, identifying a new safety net was a top priority.

Jones has surged ahead of Barrett, but neither looked impressive during Ohio State's spring game. Jones completed 14-of-31 passes for 126 yards, while Barrett was marginally better, connecting on 17 of his 33 passes for 151 yards.

Neither threw a touchdown pass in a scrimmage that featured 24 total points.

Even though Jones had a poor outing, Meyer won't let that soil what had been a promising spring.

The spring game showed that neither Jones or Barrett are close to operating at the level Guiton did as a reserve. The Buckeyes will need both to improve before the start of the 2014 season.

 

Unless otherwise noted, stats via Ohio State's official website.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. 
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.

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