Written By T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
Spring Game Recaps
Teams around the B1G continue to wrap up Spring Football with Spring Game festivities. A national record was set, optimism abounds and Hoosier Huddle has all the information you need from a busy Saturday of action around the Midwest.
Ohio State Buckeyes-
Ohio State football has a passionate fan base. We’ve known that for a long time. However, Urban Meyer has come to Columbus and taken things to another level. Nearly 100,000 fans (a national Spring Game record) packed the Horseshoe to see the Gray squad knock off the Scarlet squad, 17-14 behind some gorgeous deep balls from Cardale Jones.
-Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett sat out the Spring Game as both recover from injuries and surgery. That meant the spotlight was shining brightly on the 3rd man in the QB battle, Cardale Jones. Jones went 19-42 for 304 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs. He has a ridiculously strong arm and is an absolutely tank when he decides to run the ball (which didn’t really occur on Saturday). However, Jones did throw 2 INTs and if he is loose with the ball, the more experienced Miller or Barrett might end up beating him out for playing time. Make no mistake though, Cardale Jones is perfectly capable of leading the Buckeyes offense to a great season if he’s chosen to. Ohio State’s offense on Saturday consisted of mostly long balls and deep slants, presumably to put on a show for the massive crowd and to give their young receiving corps some “live action” experience on deep passes. Urban Meyer knew Jones wasn’t great on Saturday but he was pleased with the Spring as a whole, “Yeah, that wasn’t a Cardale day. He played behind a makeshift offensive line. I can give you a bunch of excuses, but he’s got to be much sharper than that. For the Spring, I’d give him a very good Spring, though. You didn’t necessarily see it today.”
-Speaking of the young receiving corps, Corey Smith looked very dangerous (caught a 58-yard TD and a 37-yard TD and showcased breakaway speed), Noah Brown looks like he is going to be really good and Terry McLaurin caught a deep touchdown pass from backup QB Stephen Collier. 17-year old Paris Campbell showed off his lightning speed that has gotten him attention during Spring practices. Campbell could see some action this Fall at either receiver or H-back (to spell Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson). Ohio State does have some question marks at WR but I am very confident they have plenty of answers for those questions.
-I’ve seen most of the B1G play their Spring Games. I attempt not to come into those games with any preconceived notions (it’s impossible but I try) and I try not to jump to any conclusions and take everything with a “grain of salt”. That being said, Ohio State has the most talent in the conference and it’s not particularly close. The Buckeyes are the champs until proven otherwise and everyone else is playing for second (in my opinion).
Penn State Nittany Lions-
For the first 15 minutes of the Penn State Spring Game broadcast, I was watching a National Championship caliber squad…unfortunately for Penn State fans, that’s because the B1G Network was still showing Ohio State’s Spring Game and Penn State’s game was joined in progress. Terrible jokes aside, there’s a lot to be excited about in State College as James Franklin continues to recruit well and raises the talent level for the Nittany Lions. On Saturday, Team Blue knocked off Team White by a score of 17-7 and Penn State suffered no injuries which according to James Franklin, was the most important thing that happened.
-Akeel Lynch is ready to star at running back. Lynch (nicknamed the Canadian Destroyer) is 6’0”/220 pounds and he looked pretty explosive and agile with the ball. He finished with 9 carries for 50 yards and I think he’ll be the clear cut #1 back for Penn State this coming season.
-The passing game was fairly conservative but a few Penn State receivers had pretty nice days. Saeed Blacknall had 6 catches for 71 yards and Geno Lewis finished with 6 catches for 61 yards. DaeSean Hamilton only had 2 catches but his talent is obvious when you watch him run routes and get off the line quickly.
-The strength of this Penn State squad will be the defense. I think they’ll have one of the 3 or 4 best defenses in the league and the unit looked dominant against the #2 offense (as you would expect). Former IU commit Tommy Stevens played a little bit and struggled to get anything going against the #1 defense.
-Penn State’s largest weakness last season and biggest concern heading into this season was the play of the offensive line. The concerns are still there and I don’t think they looked much improved on Saturday. JUCO transfer Paris Palmer is the new starter at left tackle and he looked a bit undersized and overmatched by the Penn State DEs.
Illinois Fighting Illini-
The offseason hasn’t been particularly kind to Illinois. Sophomore-to-be WR Mike Dudek (Illinois’ best offensive threat and Freshman All-American) tore his ACL in mid-April and will miss at least 6 months. Just before the Spring Game, the Illini announced that running back Dre Brown also tore his ACL in practice. The beat goes on though and on Saturday, the Illini took the field for their Spring Game and the Orange Team (mostly first-string guys) defeated the White Team, 44-41. The scoring was incredibly wonky, even for a Spring Game, as the White team was given 17 points to start each half.
-QB Wes Lunt looked really good with the 1st team offense (although there was hardly any pressure). Lunt is a really good pocket passer but it remains to be seen whether or not he can effectively move in the pocket when pressure arrives, something he didn’t have to deal with at all on Saturday. Lunt completed 17-26 for 236 yards and two TDs. In other QB news, Jeff George, Jr. (yes, that Jeff George), completed a 71-yard pass to Marchie Murdock for a score (the lone TD scored against the 1st team D).
-Defensive end Jihad Ward looked really explosive and he should be a threat for opposing offensive lines to deal with. Ward is probably the best player on Illinois’ defense and he looked like it on Saturday.
The first two Spring Games under Darrell Hazell were offensive struggles (14-0 and 12-7) that ended up foretelling poor seasons. Saturday’s Spring Game featured the unveiling of Purdue’s new alternate white helmets and a bit more offense than normal as the Black squad defeated the Gold squad, 28-23.
-The Boilers have been searching for an answer at QB and they will have a 3-man battle throughout the offseason and heading into Fall camp. I thought David Blough (16-22, 173 yards with 2 TD and 1 INT) looked the best of the three but Danny Etling (11-16, 148 with an INT) and Austin Appleby (10-18, 147 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT) had their moments as well. If I’m ranking them based only on the Spring Game (which would be foolish but I’ll do it, guess I’m a fool), I’d go Blough, Appleby and then Etling.
-I wasn’t particularly impressed by Purdue’s running backs. They have a lot to replace and the opportunity will be there for Markell Jones, D.J. Knox and Keyante Green but I didn’t they looked particularly effective on Saturday. They look capable and I think Knox is probably the scariest of the bunch because of his strength but I don’t think they’ll be nearly the threats that Hunt and Mostert were.
-DeAngelo Yancey had a nice TD grab and he’ll need to continue to produce like that for Purdue to be successful in 2015. Danny Anthrop sat out the Spring as he continues to recover from his ACL injury. No matter who the QB ends up being, they’ll need a healthy Anthrop and a more consistent DeAngelo Yancey plus production from a player like Cameron Posey.
-I continue to be impressed with Purdue’s linebackers. I think that unit could be the strength of their team. Ja’Whaun Bentley had an interception but I’m most impressed by the presence and physicality of their LBs.