COLUMBUS — The show will go on in Columbus, albeit a couple hours earlier than planned.
Ohio State’s spring game will start at 11:45 a.m. Saturday in an attempt to avoid thunderstorms — rain remains likely — as 79,000 tickets already have been distributed for the game.
Ohio State defenders Tuf Borland, left, and Jordan Fuller, are two players whose roles have been decided, though Borland will not play Saturday because of an injury.
The reigning Big Ten champions have most of their answers at receiver, cornerback, and on both lines. But they will go into the game with a handful of positions still being contested. Ohio State likely will not make final decisions until the end of fall camp, but the spring game will be the biggest public showing at a few key places.
Quarterback: The first and most obvious place to watch is under center, where Ohio State maintains a legitimate three-man race to be the next starter is ongoing. The trio of Dwayne Haskins, Joe Burrow, and Tate Martell have seen varying amounts of time with the first team this spring, and Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said this week nothing has been decided on the quarterback depth chart.
VIDEO: OSU spring game
Ohio State’s past actions have the greatest weight — it was Haskins, not Burrow, who replaced an injured J.T. Barrett at Michigan last season — but Meyer and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day have said all spring the competition is too close to call.
If all three remain on the roster through the summer, the race will continue through training camp. But the game presents a chance for one of the three to finish the spring with a slim lead for the No. 1 spot.
Linebacker: Tuf Borland is Ohio State’s middle linebacker of the future, but he’s out until at least September with an Achilles injury. Borland’s availability for the start of the season is in doubt, former starter Dante Booker is recovering from shoulder surgery, and the rotation at linebacker is a free-for-all.
Justin Hilliard has taken over at middle linebacker for the time being, and the former five-star recruit finally is healthy. Meyer said he is a big fan of Hilliard, who could force his way onto the field with continued growth this offseason.
The Buckeyes also have been encouraged by outside linebackers Keandre Jones and Malik Harrison, and Pete Werner has made strides this spring.
Also keep an eye on St. John’s Jesuit graduate Dallas Gant (wearing No. 19), who enrolled early in January but already worked his way onto the second team at linebacker. Meyer hopes Gant will play special teams as a true freshman.
Safety: Jordan Fuller, if healthy, is a lock to start at one of the safety positions. His partner on the back end of the defense is not as clear.
Watch for sophomore Isaiah Pryor, about whom teammates have raved this spring. Pryor has the slight edge over a host of competitors at safety, but Ohio State’s coaches undoubtedly want to see Pryor succeed in a game situation. Pryor is a good candidate for OSU’s breakout player in 2018.
Center: The past two Ohio State centers won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. No pressure, Brady Taylor.
The redshirt junior is the favorite the anchor Ohio State’s line, but he has not played much as he has waited his turn behind NFL-caliber talents on the line. Now is his time. A healthy crowd in Columbus will provide the closest thing to a game atmosphere, and Taylor’s calls along the line will face their biggest test yet.
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