The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about how Ohio State will fill out depth chart in the backfield? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
Who’s the starting QB? Same for RB. That’s about it.
— DONALD (@tanelorncloud) January 14, 2021
At least some patience was required for the Ohio State early enrollees.
The new Buckeyes couldn’t hit the ground running quite as quickly as they would have wanted thanks to the quarantine period that followed their arrival on campus last week. But that slight delay is over now, and the real work can officially begin for a huge group of freshmen who clearly don’t like to waste time.
Technically the competition doesn’t really begin for about another month. But considering what exactly Ohio State is trying to replace with a superstar quarterback and a record-setting rusher now, there is no overstating how much urgency is being felt in the backfield with three new contenders jumping into the mix during winter workouts.
The Buckeyes evaluate every single thing that happens in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. So, if Kyle McCord is going to turn the quarterback battle into a three-way affair or TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor are going to make an instant impact at tailback, that process is already underway now. And those three might be the most closely-watched members of the new group of Buckeyes given how loaded the roster is elsewhere and how much production the program is losing at those two key offensive positions.
Ohio State has two guys with a year in the program under their belts at quarterback. Even without attempting any passes in games last season, that gives C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller a leg up over McCord heading into his transition from high school into the rigors of the program. The Buckeyes are certainly planning on letting all three jockey for the job and will likely be adding extra scrimmages in an effort to simulate more game reps for guys who don’t have many — or any — at this level. McCord’s five-star tools certainly suggest he can be a factor, but he’s still going to need to play catchup with a crash course in the playbook in order to make a real push against the presumptive favorite in Stroud when spring camp starts.
Making up ground shouldn’t be nearly as complicated at tailback, and there is a legitimate belief that Henderson can become a factor right away — even in a unit that is loaded with talent and guys with experience. The Buckeyes have a veteran presence thanks to the return of Master Teague, and he’ll again have a shot to claim that lead rushing role. But Ohio State has probably seen the ceiling for Teague, which is why there will be plenty of attention being paid to Henderson and Pryor alongside Miyan Williams and a healthy Marcus Crowley. That group has the potential to reach the kind of upside Trey Sermon provided during the stretch run for Ohio State last year, and Henderson’s five-star background brings back memories of the arrival of workhorses like Ezekiel Elliott and J.K. Dobbins.
Of course, the process is only just beginning for everybody, and strength coach Mickey Marotti has a knack for finding out in a hurry who has the ability to hack it in one of the most competitive environments in the country. The Buckeyes won’t have all the answers by the time spring camp starts, but they will certainly know plenty about the early enrollees by then.
The battle starts now.
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