Ohio State Spring Football is As Tough a Predictor As a State of Ohio Spring

On Monday it was about 70 degrees here in the capital city.

Sunny and warm and basically just the kind of day that makes you take a deep breath of that beautiful second day of spring air, smile, and think “ah ha, nice try, but I’m an Ohioan and not a complete idiot. I ‘ll get my jacket out.’

And behold! A forecast of possible snow showers a mere five days later and lows in the teens for the weekend.

Complaining about mercurial weather is one of the Three Official Midwestern Artforms, along with folkstyle wrestling and casseroles involving creamed mushroom soup. It is something so incredibly ingrained in our social consciousness that it’s actually kind of irritating when the climate actually cooperates for more than a few days at a time because we lose the one topic that isn’t exhausting to talk about with a stranger while you’ re in the checkout line at Kroger. The good news is that anthropogenic climate change means that we’ll have a permanent source of scuttlebutt for the next, oh, several hundred years, but the bad news is that for whatever reason we have a difficult applying this logic to other, more important things, like football. Also bad: anthropogenic climate change.

Anyway, it’s still fun and easy to get excited about Spring Football, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Guys just bein’ guys and tossing the ol’ pigskin around, even on a pro day, is a reminder that football is good, Ohio State football is really good, and certain returning Ohio State football players are really, really, really good. It’s enough to make even the most seasoned vets sentimental and your average fan unreasonably excited for the games that count to get started in about five months.

What can’t really be accounted for is what the team will actually look like once those games get started. Spring football is just as unpredictable as spring itself. Even barring injury, the dirty little secret about these practices is that they tell us much less about the eventual makeup of the football team than we want to know.

Here’s an Eleven Warriors spring practice report from 2011, written by a big dumb idiot who clearly doesn’t know anything:

I think the tight end as a major part of the passing game is here to stay. Both Stoneburner and Fragel were targeted early and often, and I think their role is going to be essentially the Dane Sanzenbachers of the team, in that they will be the safety net for any QB in trouble.

It’s probably fair to note that report did have some hits (a few correct observations about Braxton Miller, an unsettled defense, etc.), and said big dumb idiot pales in comparison in terms of expertise to the actual, competent, professional writers Eleven Warriors has covering the team in 2022. Today, you’ll get a much more in-depth and educated approach to the game than you did over a decade ago from a guy who had to drive around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center three times looking for the entrance.

But maybe better observations, analysis, and even on-field video make it even harder to make the distinction between the signal of reality and the noise of your heart. If you love Ohio State football or even if it’s just the Greek Chorus to your life in the fall, it becomes incredibly difficult to not get excited about it, to make predictions about starters and schemes, and to renew your hope that an incoming defensive coordinator revives the Silver Bullets.

That defense will likely be the focal point for Ohio State in the coming months. Words like “I think it’s gonna be a big change” coming from a guy like Jack Sawyer are exactly what people want to hear, and also exactly what sets the narrative for next season. It enshrines the attitude that comes with bringing in Jim Knowles to run the defense: Silver Bullets or bust. Is that realistic in just one offseason? Well… yeah. It’s Ohio State.

But it’s also spring! And ultimately while it’s understandable to want to be able to see into the future, a perfect narrative that ends with a national championship for the Buckeyes, we also know that it is never that easy (take, for example, the last time Ohio State won a national championship). The ride is what makes it fun and interesting, and this is just the beginning.

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