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Scarlet Sunrise: Ryan Day, Chip Kelly discuss progression of young QBs after spring game

IMG_7408by:Andy Backstrom04/15/24


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Ryan Day, Chip Kelly discuss progression of young QBs after spring game

Will Howard completed eight of his first nine passes. Devin Brown finished an efficient 5-of-7 with the longest completion of the spring game — a 25-yard dot to walk-on wideout David Adolph — plus a touchdown pass to another walk-on receiver, Brennen Schramm.

The other three Ohio State scholarship quarterbacks, all underclassmen, each threw an interception.

Jim Knowles’ takeaway-hungry defense picked off redshirt freshman Lincoln Kienholz twice: Cornerback Calvin Simpson-Hunt was in the right place at the right time to capitalize on an errant throw, and then safety Brenten “Inky” Jones secured a toe-tapping interception of Kienholz in the third quarter.

True freshmen Julian Sayin and Air Noland both gave the ball away, too. First-year safety Jaylen McClain used the wind to his advantage and undercut a Sayin pass intended for redshirt freshman wideout Bryson Rodgers in the second quarter. Dianté Griffin stepped in front of Noland’s end zone shot on the final play of the spring game for a walk-off interception at the goal line.

Still, it’s worth noting that both Sayin and Noland piloted touchdown drives. Granted he wasn’t facing the first-team defense, but Noland was the lone Ohio State quarterback to orchestrate back-to-back touchdown drives Saturday. He completed 5-of-7 passes for 47 yards and ran for 42 more yards on five carries.

New Buckeyes offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chip Kelly explained postgame how he’s always so impressed by early enrollees.

“When you look at Julian and Air and JJ (wide receiver Jeremiah Smith), they should be in the hot lunch line in high school, and they’re out here playing in front of 80,000 people. They’ve really progressed when you watch them in meetings and listen to them.

“Basically the whole concept here is we throw them in the deep end and see if they can swim. We didn’t baby anything. We don’t put the install in with ‘Hey, you guys are [installing this], we’re going to install this with the older players, and then you guys go sit at the kiddie table and we’re just going to do the really simple things with you.'”

Kelly added: “They get it all, and the more they can digest, the more when you’re in a room when you’re checking for understanding and asking questions and they can spit back to you, the more confidence you have when they get in there with the plays you can call for them.”

Kelly got all five scholarship quarterbacks work in spring ball, rolling each of them with the first-team offense at one point or another, and especially heavily rotating the foursome of Brown, Howard, Kienholz and Sayin.

That said, when Kienholz and Sayin experienced struggles in the exhibition, the Buckeyes’ staff made it a priority for them to establish a rhythm, even if that meant sticking to the horizontal game and short-to-intermediate throws in blustery conditions.

“When you’re doing everything for the first time, there’s certain things that you’re learning and you’re growing, and you want to make things easy for them,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “I don’t know what the wind ended up being, but it was gusting pretty good in there. So all it takes is a little bit of a gust of wind, and it’s in the DB’s hands, and that can rattle your confidence.”

Kienholz finished 10-of-17 for 71 yards with his two interceptions. Sayin also rounded out the day 10-of-17, although he tossed only one pick and clocked out with a team-high 85 passing yards. Sayin was sacked three times while Kienholz was brought down twice.

Unfortunately for Kienholz, his performance wasn’t the bounce-back effort he would have hoped for following his impossibly difficult Cotton Bowl appearance last December.

But the second-year Pierre, South Dakota, product has, in fact, made strides this spring. And, as Kelly said postgame, the game slows down for every quarterback at different points.

“I think it depends on the individual,” Kelly said. “I’ve had some kids where early you’re like, ‘Wow.’ Marcus Mariota was like that. I remember vividly second practice, and he got to the fifth read in the progression, and he threw it out here and it was a big gain. I asked him, ‘Why did you do that?’ And he goes, ‘I don’t know what we call that defense, but there was a lot of guys over there (points in one direction), and it didn’t seem like there was anybody over there (points in the other direction).’

“But for him to process it that fast (Kelly snaps his fingers), he was right.”

On the other hand, Kelly’s coached quarterbacks who have had the lightbulb go off two years in. Sayin appears to be part of the first category, despite his up-and-down exhibition.

The first-year signal caller, who transferred in from Alabama following the retirement of legendary coach Nick Saban, created a good bit of buzz this spring. In the lead-up to the spring game, Day said Sayin is “in the mix” for the starting quarterback competition, and Sayin quickly earned the respect of his teammates, shedding his black stripe just nine practices into his Ohio State career.

“Julian is a very fast processor,” Kelly said. “He really thinks very, very quickly on his feet. He makes really quick decisions. … He sees things really well for a young player [for] not having been exposed to a lot of college defenses. Especially what Jim does. Jim can make a young freshman quarterback cry with some of the stuff he does. But I never saw that with Jules.

“And that’s been impressive, his ability to retain. Him and JJ, the compliment I would say about them is if you got here, and you didn’t know what class they were, you wouldn’t say that those guys are freshman in terms of how they pick things up. Sometimes freshmen act like freshmen. But the guys who are special, they don’t act like freshmen. They act like they’re football players, and those are two guys that are examples of that.”

Kelly’s glowing remarks about Sayin are once again a reminder that the spring game is only one of 15 spring practices. While a mostly-filled Horseshoe makes for a spectacle, the film from the exhibition doesn’t necessarily outweigh the tape from the other 14 sessions.

So while Kienholz, Sayin and Noland had varying results Saturday, their total body of work from this spring will matter more as they enter the next phase of the offseason in a crowded quarterback room.

Tim May: Buckeyes depth, talent at cornerback on display in spring game

Viral catches from true freshman phenom Jeremiah Smith exploded on social media this offseason. But an incredibly talented, and deep, Buckeyes cornerback room — the heart of Ohio State’s self-proclaimed “Best In America” secondary — got the best of “Zone 6” in Saturday’s spring game, especially in the first half.

The Buckeyes didn’t find the end zone until late in the second quarter, and their cornerbacks were a big reason why.

“That competitive spirit, it’s an expectation now,” defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said again of the defensive backs. “It doesn’t matter who we’re going against, they view it as a standard. It was good to see in the first half.”

For the full story, go here.

Buckeye Leaves: Emeka Egbuka’s spring game a reminder of his superstar potential

Emeka Egbuka made the play of the spring game when he plucked a Will Howard pass out of the air with his right hand to make a sideline catch.

Egbuka tied for a team-high four receptions and reminded all 80,012 fans in attendance of his superstar potential after an injury-riddled junior season.

“And Emeka has reminded me in the other 14 practice sessions what he can do,” said Chip Kelly, Ohio State’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. “Special player.”

For the full story, head on over here.

Counting Down

Buckeyes vs. Akron: 139 days
Buckeyes vs. Michigan: 230 days

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