Columbus, Ohio — Last year at this time, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was coming off a national championship and enjoying an embarrassment of riches. This year’s spring game was all about auditioning inexperienced players and trying to build a depth chart for the fall.
With just six starters returning, Meyer needed to see how many of the young players would perform when playing full speed in the annual spring game Saturday — particularly quarterbacks Joe Burrow and Stephen Collier, one of whom will back up J.T. Barrett in the fall and likely succeed him when he moves on.
Burrow made a solid case for himself. He was 14 for 23 for 196 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Gray squad to a 28-17 victory over the Scarlet team in front of a record spring game crowd of 100,189 at Ohio Stadium Saturday.
Burrow, a former Ohio Mr. Football, played the entire game for the Gray, throwing a pair of scoring passes to fellow redshirt freshman receiver Torrance Gibson and another to sophomore Terry McLaurin.
“Joe Burrow has been coming on,” Meyer said. “He’s a guy that last year I had my concerns … He’s gotten better and better. He’s a grinder.”
Collier, a sophomore, played the second half for the Scarlet and was less impressive, completing 4 of 11 passes for 154 yards and an interception.
Getting a chance because of injuries to the Buckeyes’ three top pass-catchers this spring, McLaurin led all receivers with 111 yards on four catches, including a 47-yard TD pass from Burrow in the third quarter. Sophomore Parris Campbell caught three passes for 106 yards for the Scarlet.
Barrett, who came into the spring game at Ohio State as the undisputed starting quarterback for the first time, played the first half in a black no-contact jersey for the Scarlet team. The junior finished 13 for 22 for 102 yards and threw two interceptions, including one that safety Malik Hooker ran back 82 yards for a touchdown for the Gray.
Redshirt freshman Mike Weber, expected to battle senior Bri’onte Dunn to start at running back this fall, led all rushers with eight carries for 38 yards and two touchdowns for the Scarlet side. Dunn did not play.
Hooker was the performer of the day on defense with 10 total tackles and two interceptions.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys in the mix,” linebacker Dante Booker said. “We have them in the rotation so I feel like they got experience today playing in the stadium. We’ll continue working through the summer.”
Meyer said there’s a load of work to do before the Sept. 3 opener against Bowling Green.
“We wouldn’t win a lot of games right now,” he said. “But we don’t have to yet.”