CINCINNATI — The Ohio State spring game took place 250 miles south of Elyria, but there was plenty of Pioneers flavor to Saturday’s event.
Nearly every play featured a former Elyria High standout as redshirt sophomore Chase Farris started at right tackle and true freshman Tracy Sprinkle started at defensive tackle for the Scarlet team, which beat the Gray team 31-14 at Paul Brown Stadium.
“It was amazing to play in front of all these fans and in front of my family,” Sprinkle said. “These guys are like my brothers now, so it’s a great thing.”
Farris and Sprinkle already shared a bond as former high school teammates, and now get to root each other on in front of 100,000 fans.
“There’s nothing like having a hometown player down here, and to share this with,” Farris said.
“Just the experience … to have him on the same team and to play on the same field with me once again.”
Farris redshirted his freshman season due to a knee injury, then was listed as the No. 2 right guard on last year’s depth chart. He saw action several times and earned a varsity letter.
Sprinkle was supposed to still be at Elyria High, but completed his coursework so he could graduate in December, enroll at Ohio State in January and practice in the spring. He couldn’t be happier.
“It’s a great experience, playing with the top players in the world and being coached by the top coaches … it’s a great thing,” he said.
Sprinkle stayed in touch with Farris and got tips throughout the recruitment process last year. The advice hasn’t stopped with Sprinkle’s arrival on campus.
“I just showed him the dos and don’ts, and make sure he’s where he needs to be,” Farris said. “It’s almost like being a big brother.”
To a 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive lineman?
“He’s filled out a lot since high school, but then again that was two years ago,” Farris said. “He’s come a long way and now he’s doing his thing.”
Farris (6-4, 300 pounds) is doing his thing, too, and is one of the top two players in the mix for a starting job at right tackle. It appears he’s battling true sophomore Taylor Decker (6-7, 315), but it also appears neither player has blown away the coaching staff.
“The one glaring weakness is that fifth spoke of the offensive line, we have a legitimate concern,” coach Urban Meyer said. “I feel good about four of the five starters, and unless we get that fixed, there goes the best offense in the Big Ten.”
Meyer put Farris in the right tackle position and Decker at left tackle — for injured starter Jack Mewhort — and both had issues Saturday. Farris gave up several sacks, and Decker was flagged for a false start.
“You can’t play with four linemen. So one of those young players has to step up, and so far they haven’t this spring,” Meyer said. “They’ve showed signs, but I didn’t say they need to show signs. To be the best offense in the Big Ten, you have to have five guys upfront … which we had last year.”
Sprinkle doesn’t have the pressure of competing for a starting spot just three month into his Ohio State career, but he very well might grab a spot on the second team at defensive tackle. He started in the middle of the line for Scarlet and finished with three tackle assists. He was also used on field goal block, with Farris on the field goal team.
The Pioneers’ presence helps everyone who wants to brag about Elyria High’s football prowess. The school already boasts Vic Janowicz, who won the Heisman Trophy while playing for the Buckeyes.
“It feels good, it feels real good to have two guys out here putting Elyria on the map,” Sprinkle said. “We got down here and people didn’t even know where Elyria is … but they will soon.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.