Having just returned to the creature comforts of my Victorian Village apartment from the 85 degree hot box on the banks of the Olentangy, I thought I'd give a quick sketch of this afternoon's Scarlet & Gray game; one of six Big Ten spring contests today.
The Best Damn Fans in the Land. An all-time record breaking crowd of 95,722 braved the blue skies, and 85 degree temperatures to pack the hot box Horseshoe to within 10,000 seats of capacity -- toppling Alabama's 2007 mark (92,138).
Pryor the Passer? No kidding. After a 2008 season saved by his gazelle-like glides to the outside, Terrelle showed he's come quite a way in the offseason. Standing firm in the backfield, Pryor routinely relied on his legs to evade pocket collapses, before planting his feet, turning on his hips, and delivering surprisingly sharp spirals to a number of incipient targets, like Taurian Washington (4 catches, 92 yards, 1 TD), who pulled in a 44-yard touchdown completion.
In just two quarters of play Pryor was 13-18 racking up a career high 191 yards in the air for the Gray. Sure, it was against a mixed first and second string defense, but his progress can't be discounted.
Shake and Bake. This team is athletic and (gasp!) quick. There's a noticible difference in explosiveness, particularly:
- Sophomore WR Lamaar Thomas, who handled kick return duties for the Scarlet. Although Thomas bobbled two easy catches early on, his presence on special teams was powerful -- his small figure (5-11, 186) allowed him to knife through coverages in a seemingly invincible canter.
- Junior RB Brandon Saine (55 yards, 6 carries). Saine, who enjoyed an outstanding freshman debut -- only to wallow through injuries in 2008, appears to be back on his feet -- taking his first carry from scrimmage 17 yards untouched into the Scarlet secondary.
- Senior WR Ray Small (4 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD). After dropping his first attempt -- to the frustration of the crowd -- Small was elusive and decisive on skinny post routes. His best reception, a 43 yard touchdown grab, was fluid and balanced. Small seems to be in much better control of his body than last season.
Still, not everyone showboated. I came away a little disappointed with:
- Sophomore WR DeVier Posey (5 catches, 46 yards), who failed to support a struggling scarlet pass game. While he pulled down several short slants from Second String QB Joe Bauserman, he was often outpaced in traffic, losing tight throws off his hands.
- Junior Thaddeus Gibson, who led a scarlet defensive line that was ripped open more than once, providing easy daylight for Dan Herron and Brandon Saine. Although, to be fair, Gibson did step up in the third-quarter, assisting in several tackles for losses.
Where Have You Been? Fifth-year senior RB Marcus Williams (94 yards, 6 carries).
Overall, this was a surprisingly encouraging performance for the new Buckeye offense. After watching three different receivers (James Jackson, Ray Small, Taurian Washington) amass over 50 yards, and one more come close (DeVier Posey), I'm cautiously optimistic that this team might have the receiver corps to present a more dynamic attack.
A pass presence would be a Godsend, as the running corps continues to look solid -- although predisposed to the outside lanes.
(More on this when I drop Ohio State's 2009 Spring Preview installment later this week).