COLUMBUS - Spring football games are often dismissed as nothing more than glorified scrimmages or just another practice.
Quarterbacks are usually off limits to the defense. Players can end up playing for both teams. And many times the stars of the spring game will never see the field in the fall when the games mean something.
But spring games have a friend in Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. They have value and shouldn't be written off, he said earlier this week as he looked ahead to OSU's spring game this afternoon at Ohio Stadium.
Running, throwing, catching and playing defense in an empty stadium or in front of a tightly controlled audience of former players and friends of the program is one thing. But doing it front of a crowd is very different.
And that's why Meyer likes spring games.
"I want to see who can stand up and make a play in front of the crowd. I want to see who is going to make plays," he said.
"I hope it's 106,000," he said about the crowd he'd like to have observing the progress his team has made in spring practice.
If you make the trip to Columbus or watch the 1:30 p.m. spring game on the Big Ten Network, here are a few things to look for:
The running backs. Carlos Hyde had maybe the best season by an Ohio State running back since Eddie George's Heisman Trophy winning season in 1995 when he rushed for 1,521 yards despite sitting out the first two games.
Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott is the probable No. 1 back in the fall, but Meyer isn't ready to say that yet. In today's game, Bri'onte Dunn will be the No. 2 back, followed by freshman Curtis Samuel and Warren Ball.
Senior Rod Smith could be a factor in the fall but has not practiced recently because he has been taking care of some academic issues. When hasn't Smith been taking care of some issue during his four years in Columbus?
How will the offensive line look with four new starters and who will those starters be?
Right tackle Taylor Decker is the only returning starter. Guard Pat Elflein, who played most of the Michigan game and started in the Orange Bowl, has also earned a starting spot. But the other three positions will be up for grabs.
Considering the talent and depth Ohio State has on its defensive line, a solid effort by the offensive linemen against their own guys could be a reason for optimism. But if the defense dominates, the question marks about the offensive line would only increase.
The freshmen. Seven of Ohio State's 2014 recruits enrolled early and three, possibly four of those players have put themselves in position to get on the field in the fall.
Five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan was the player many people thought could make an immediate impact, especially with the departure of Ryan Shazier, who entered the NFL draft after his junior season. But tailback Curtis Samuel has probably been the freshman standout so far in spring practice.
Wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, kicker Sean Nuernberger, Samuel and McMillan appear to be the four freshmen to watch.
The defensive backs. If OSU's pass defense had been any bigger disaster last season, it would have had a Richter Scale number attached to it.
The Buckeyes say it will be different this year with a more aggressive attitude, more man-to-man press coverage and a new co-defensive coordinator, Chris Ash.
Backup quarterback Cardale Jones and how he handles one of his first times on the big stage.
With starter Braxton Miller sidelined all spring because of shoulder surgery, Jones has gotten a lot of practice time and emerged as the frontrunner to replace Kenny Guiton as Miller's backup.
Miller has a history of missing plays and missing games because of injuries large and small, so the No.2 quarterback has to be ready. Jones might be at the top of the list of players Meyer wants to see perform under pressure today.
The kickers. For the first time in a long time, there is no heir apparent as the place kicker for OSU. Walk-on Kyle Clinton and Nuernberger are competing for the job.
The size of the crowd. Spring games have always been a way for people who don't have access to Ohio State football tickets or find the price of going to a regular-season game a bit steep to give the family an OSU football experience.
Traditionally, weather has been the biggest factor in determining the size of a spring game crowd. But there might be a point where crowds like the 95,000 OSU drew for the 2009 spring game or the 81,000 who showed up in 2012 won't be repeated because the price has gotten too high.
The students vs. players race. Several OSU students, including four who had sub-4.6 times in the 40-yard dash in qualifiying races, are scheduled to run against some of the fastest Buckeyes, including Dontre Wilson, Devin Smith, James Clark and Dixon.