COLUMBUS — The goals for Ohio State were modest as it wrapped up spring camp.
Stay healthy. Welcome fans back to the Horseshoe. Stay healthy. Get a few competitive reps for the freshmen. Stay healthy. See how the quarterbacks responded in Ohio Stadium with a crowd watching while staying healthy.
The Buckeyes accomplished their mission on Saturday with the closing scrimmage on a gorgeous afternoon, even if the 15 practices as a whole left the program with a handful of new injuries and a few unanswered questions about the roster. But either way it was clear once again that Ohio State will have one of the most talented squads from top to bottom in the country, and it will have plenty to feel good about heading into the offseason.
â€œThe No. 1 goal is to come out of this thing healthy,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “I thought we did that. We kept guys for the most part upright, but I held my breath on a couple plays. We had a really physical spring. I would say it was great to get out there and get in the stadium and play, but Iâ€™d say the most exciting part was getting back in the stadium and seeing the Best Damn Band In The Land.
“It made me feel like we were back in the Shoe again with a full crowd. Having some fans around, it felt almost normal out there today.”
How many will be back in the building by September when Oregon comes to town? That is another question that doesn’t have a definitive answer as the Buckeyes wrapped up with Practice No. 15 and prepare for the grind of summer conditioning. And as Lettermen Row starts to look ahead with camp in the rearview, here are five more areas of intrigue for the reigning Big Ten champions.
Is C.J. Stroud the guy for Ohio State?
The competition will spill over into training camp, just as the Buckeyes always intended. Based on the talent of all three quarterbacks fighting for the job, there was no reason for Ohio State to rush to a decision. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a leader in the race at this point, and C.J. Stroud will take the same lead he had coming into March with him when practice resumes in August. Kyle McCord certainly impressed and looked ahead of schedule for an early enrollee at the most important position on the field, and he made it clear why Ohio State has consistently included him in the mix to claim the top spot on the depth chart. Jack Miller had a shakier scrimmage after an early interception, but he still has the ability to be a potential championship-caliber quarterback. It’s Stroud, though, who has been at the head of the line since winning the backup job last season — and it would qualify as an upset now if he’s not the starter for the Buckeyes at Minnesota in September.
Can Buckeyes land linebacker help in portal?
Give credit to long snapper Roen McCullough for both his willingness to pinch-hit at linebacker in front of a crowd in the Horseshoe and his ability to actually hold his own there. Yes, injuries put Ohio State in that tough spot where they needed to borrow from a special-teams ace to just fill out a two-deep in the middle of the defense. But it’s still staggering to see a program with such a tradition at the position look so thin, even if it was just a spring game and with the likelihood that a couple key guys will be healthy by fall. No matter what, the Buckeyes were always expected to be active in the transfer portal looking for an experienced hand to bolster a unit that lost its top-four contributors from last season. Saturday made it clear why that’s a major priority for Ohio State, and the attention will now shift to what could be a critical recruitment against Alabama for Henry To’o To’o. The former Tennessee linebacker could be the most impactful player on the market, and the Buckeyes appear to have a real shot at bringing him into the fold.
How will running back race play out for Buckeyes?
Master Teague didn’t play on Saturday, and the Buckeyes really didn’t need the veteran tailback to do much work anyway. Ohio State knows what it has in the physical, freight-train rusher, so there wasn’t much Teague could prove in spring even if he hadn’t been limited physically. If the program already has an idea of where the ceiling is for Teague, that made the chance to take closer looks at Marcus Crowley, Miyan Williams and TreVeyon Henderson even more valuable. Odds are the eventual lead back for the Buckeyes will come from that trio, and all bring different skills to the table. Crowley appears to have his cutting ability and confidence back, Williams flashed his upside late last season and Henderson is doing everything he can to validate the five-star expectations. Spring camp didn’t settle the battle, but it definitely offered a glimpse at where it’s heading.
How much will Jack Sawyer play as freshman for Ohio State?
The Buckeyes always suspected that Jack Sawyer could be the next pass-rushing prodigy off the assembly line, and a prolific spring is only going to ramp up the expectations for the five-star freshman. Now, it’s important to remember that the scrimmage on Saturday wasn’t live and that Sawyer wasn’t matched up against the top tackles in the program. The Buckeyes also have veterans with NFL potential already on hand, and having Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith around means there’s not exactly a pressing need for Sawyer to jump right into the lineup. But the young defensive end clearly arrived ready to roll for the Buckeyes, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he’s not in the rotation and giving the Rushmen a boost by September. The black stripe came off quickly, and Sawyer is proving he was worth the hype.
Does Ohio State have nation’s best receiving corps?
Good luck finding a better collection of talent anywhere than what the Buckeyes have assembled at wide receiver. So, maybe this question already does have an answer, but it’s worth figuring out just how Brian Hartline will use his overflowing, loaded depth chart when the season opens. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson give the Buckeyes the best one-two punch in the country, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jameson Williams and a healthy Julian Fleming are right there pushing for targets. But it’s the addition of game-ready freshmen Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka that really elevate the Buckeyes into rare air at receiver, and it’s always a delicate balancing act to when that many potential stars are all trying to get their hands on one football. Hartline and the Buckeyes have managed this kind of situation several times before with success. If they do it again, it might not make any difference who wins the quarterback job.