(Photo: Carmen Mandato, Getty)
Spring Game Information:
Kickoff - 12:05 p.m. ET
Watch - Big Ten Network - Chris Vosters (play-by-play), Joshua Perry & Brooke Fletcher (color commentary)
Listen - 97.1 The Fan - Paul Keely (play-by-play) & Jim Lachey (color commentary)
Scoring: "Offense scoring is traditional. Defense scores via takeaway TDs (6 points), takeaways (3 points), 3-and-out (3 points), quarterback sack (2 points) and forced punt (1 point)." via 2023 Ohio State University.
Every spring the Ohio State Buckeyes take to the Horseshoe for the annual Scarlet and Gray game were the nation gets to see behind the scenes at what the team has been doing since we last saw them in January. It also provides a first look at some new faces to the team and a chance to see what the team may look like come kickoff in September. This year is no different as Ohio State has quite a few positions that need solidifying by then and also have a few players that have been looking to breakthrough into the spotlight these last couple seasons.
The most important of those battles is at the QB spot which has gathered national attention as the winner of QB1 will be among those heading into the season as a Heisman contender. However, we will have to wait until the Fall to see what this position battle will hold as it was Devin Brown and Kyle McCord battling for the top spot, but Brown suffered an injury in his throwing hand that required minor surgery. He is expected to recover by summer practices, but this means it will be McCord as the top QB as of now. He will be taking on a mixture of Tristan Gebbia, who came in as a grad transfer from Oregon State this offseason, senior Chad Ray, and sophomore Mason Maggs. This means it will be a Kyle McCord showcase at the quarterback position. He has thrived in his prior two spring games throwing 26-37, 313 yards, and three touchdowns. He was also spectacular in his lone start against Akron when the Buckeyes won 59-7.
The running back room comes in still very full despite a lot of injuries last season. There have been no transfers out despite loads of speculation about players deep in the depth chart looking to go elsewhere for playing time. The room is eight deep and we will see a heavy rotation between all of them. The top spot in the depth chart is likely still TreVeyon Henderson with Miyan Williamson behind him after their performances last year. But as we saw with the mass amount of injuries this room suffered a season ago, getting up to be RB3 or RB4 will be a huge spot for some of the young players on the team. Dallan Hayden, Chip Trayanum, Evan Pryor, TC Caffey, Will Hartson, and Chase Brecht will likely see the majority of the snaps during the spring game as the Buckeyes likely won't want to risk any injuries to their top backs and this will mainly be a throwing showcase for Kyle McCord and his receivers.
Speaking of receivers the Buckeyes continue to snag top recruits thanks to the master of recruiting in Brian Hartline and they will be showcased this coming Saturday. Ohio State has 16 receivers on the depth chart going into the spring game and we will likely see a handful of snaps for the top players like Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and Julian Fleming. But we will most definitely get to see the newest rising star in the wide receiver room in Carnell Tate who comes in looking to find a lot of playing time in a deep room. The highly touted freshman out of IMG Academy has been making headlines throughout spring camp and has become the diamond of the season for Buckeye sports writers. Fans will also get looks at two other freshman wideouts in Noah Rogers and Bryson Rodgers who were also top recruits in this year's class. Expect a steady rotation of Xavier Johnson and Jayden Ballard who both saw playing time last season and will likely be hunting to make a good impression this spring to hopefully gain more snaps next season.
Maybe more interesting than the WR room this season is the tight end room for Ohio State. It is very rare that a Freshman gets the chance to start at Ohio State, but that may just happen this year as the 6'6 Jelani Thurman has lit up the practice facility over the last few weeks and his size and speed has media members across the state buzzing about what he may be able to accomplish this season. Cade Stover was the starter last season, but never saw a lot of targets with the high profile wideouts that are the focal point of Ohio State's offense. Due to that lack of production Thurman can challenge him for that top spot this year. Gee Scott Jr. is another former high level prospect that the Buckeyes have been waiting to see blossom into his true potential. A good spring game and subsequent strong summer could push him into the rotation more this year.
The most important position at Ohio State is the quarterback, but a great QB is useless without an offensive line to protect him. The Buckeyes sent off three of their starting linemen to the upcoming NFL Draft and now have quite a few holes that need to be filled this season. This spring game will be a great time to see how they play against a revamped defensive line. There's been an ongoing position battle between 6'6 sophomore Tegra Tshabola and 6'7 junior Zen Michalski for the right tackle position. The two will likely split snaps in the spring game as they compete for the starting job. At the center position there is a three way battle between 6;4 sophomore Carson Hinzman, 6'3 senior Victor Cutler, and 6'5 senior Jakob James. James is currently sidelined so it will Cutler and Hinzman splitting the snaps this weekend. Josh Fryar has also made the move to left tackle, but Ryan Day has yet to commit to him as the starter for next season.
On the defensive side of the ball the Buckeyes return most of the team, but have had a few rising stars as well. CJ Hicks has been a gem so far this offseason at the linebacker position and with Steele Chambers recent injury he will likely see a heavy rotation of snaps in the spring game. Safety Malik Hartford was one of the first freshman to lose their black stripe this season and officially join the team and he will look to continue to progress towards a starting spot in the next few seasons with a strong performance this weekend.
On the defensive line to go along with J.T. Tuimoloau who is coming off a strong season and Jack Sawyer, a former top recruit who has been moved back to defensive end after being used as the JACK in Knowles' defense a season ago, will be the up and coming Kenyatta Jackson and Caden Curry who have shown tremendous improvement as they both head into their sophomore seasons at Ohio State.
At defensive tackle will be Mike Hall Jr. and Tyleik Williams, but expect to see seniors Ty Hamilton and Jaden McKenzie get worked into the rotation alongside the youngest member of the group in sophomore Hero Kanu. Will Smith Jr. and Bryce Prater haven't a position specified for them yet on the official roster, but will likely be rotated across the entire line as needed.
Jesse Mirco returns as the only punter on the roster this season. But the role of kicker does have an opening with the departure of Noah Ruggles. It is currently a four way battle between 6'1 senior Jake Seibert, 6'3 senior Parker Lewis, 5'10 junior Casey Maygar, and 6'0 sophomore Jayden Fielding. Lewis and Maygar both transferred in to compete for the kicking position. This is a battle that likely won't be finished until the first game of the season so expect to see Ryan Day let his kickers get some work in a game that is usually touchdown focused.