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Chip Kelly Debuts New Offense at Ohio State Spring Game

Ryan Day
© Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State took the field on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Columbus for Buckeye Nation to gather and get their first look at the 2024 team. It was a victory for Team Scarlet over Team Gray in the annual Ohio State Spring game, 34-33, in the first nationally televised spring game on Fox on Saturday afternoon.

Questions to Ponder at Ohio State Spring Game

There were many questions entering the Buckeyes' Spring game. How comfortable would quarterback Will Howard look? How would the defense and safety, Caleb Downs play? Could the offensive line take the next step? Is wide receiver Jeremiah Smith really that good?

While some questions were answered on Saturday, some were hard to answer in just the sample of the Spring game.

Coach Ryan Day is not going to answer any QB questions because he wants this competition to go into fall camp and keep the depth at the QB position due to the extended playoff and the way the transfer portal is shaping out to be in college football.

Lingering questions aside, Buckeye Nation is excited for the 2024 season to get started.

Buckeye Quarterback Competition

As expected, Day did not name a starting QB after the Spring game as he will head into the fall with an open competition at the position. All things considered, this is the right move due to the ongoing transfer portal cycle and NIL that has overtaken college football.

Howard, a transfer from Kansas State, started the Spring game for the Buckeyes and looked pretty comfortable for his first showing in front of fans. Howard completed 9-of-13 from the pocket for 77 yards and also showed his mobility to be able to scramble from the pocket and pull the ball in RPO-called plays. Howard seemed to have much control of the offense and looked like an experienced veteran QB that transferred into Ohio State to be named QB1.

The competition though is at its peak as Devin Brown looked poised as well as a guy who could win the job.

Will Howard
© Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Brown came in as the No. 2 QB and threw for 5-of-7 for 66 yards and showed that his ankle injury that he suffered in the Cotton Bowl is a thing of the past as he was scrambling for the extra yards as well during Saturday's outing. Brown looked comfortable in the pocket as well throwing the ball and demanding control of the offense. The elite competition that was brought in this offseason to push for the job has definitely paid off heading into fall camp. Brown will continue to push for the starting job this fall and his experience will factor in all things considered. All in all, Day and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly have a good thing going right now with these two competing at a high level.

Devin Brown
© Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Will a true freshman start at WR?

Brian Hartline has a track record of development in his wide receiver room and there is no question he is one of the best in developing athletes into the NFL. When you lose a guy like Marvin Harrison Jr. to the NFL even a coach like Hartline may see a dip in production the following season.

Although the Buckeyes return Emeka Egbuka, who was on his way to being a first-round pick, it was hard to imagine that a 17-year-old would enroll early and compete for a starting job alongside a sure first-round pick. Enter true freshman Smith who was the No. 1 overall recruit according to 247Sports recruiting rankings. Smith has created nothing but highlight catches all spring long during practices and has caught a lot of praise from coaches and players on the defensive side of the ball.

Smith in all likelihood, if he continues on this trajectory, will start on the opposite side of Egbuka for the Buckeyes this fall. This will leave Carnell Tate, Jayden Ballard, Bryson Rodgers, Kojo Antwi, Kyion Grayes and Brandon Innis to compete for the third spot.

Hartline is not afraid to play a freshman or even start a freshman. He did so in his first year as the position coach by starting Garrett Wilson toward the end of the 2019 season and we all saw how that worked out for him. If anyone is a betting person, hammer your money on Smith to live up to the hype and work his way into the "all-time greats" conversation.

Jeremiah Smith
© Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Questions still remain for experienced OL

Perhaps the biggest question leaving spring ball outside of the QB competition is the offensive line.

This unit returns a lot of production from previous seasons in Donovan Jackson, Josh Simmons, Carson Hinzman, Josh Fryar and transfer-portal addition Seth McLaughlin, but there are still a ton of questions as far as consistency.

Donovan Jackson-Left & Josh Simmons- Right
© Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

As we saw Saturday, the first unit to take the field was Simmons, Jackson, McLaughlin, Hinzman and Fryar. From top to bottom, this is a unit that starts multi-year starters. Production is key with inconsistency in the previous years. Fryar took his lumps as a first-year starter this past season and many questioned if the Buckeyes would look to the portal for a right tackle or look to start a younger player. Fryar has had a huge spring and took the offseason seriously in terms of weight gain and working technique.

Hinzman was another question mark heading into spring after seeing him get benched for the bowl game this past year. Although the question is still left unanswered, many speculated the demotion was due to immaturity and lack of production in his first year.

The Buckeyes also went to the portal and brought in McLaughlin to start at center which left the question of if Hinzman would stick it out with the Buckeyes or enter the portal. All questions were erased this past Saturday as Hinzman was inserted into the right guard position alongside McLaughlin at center and Hinzman even came in with the second group and played center as well. It's safe to say Hinzman has taken a leap this offseason and has shown enough for the coaches to find him a spot at guard in the starting unit entering fall camp.

Perhaps the safe bet for this unit is the return of Jackson at left guard and Simmons at left tackle. Simmons played an outstanding game, to say the least going up against J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer throughout the game. Simmons had an inconsistent season last year in the Big Ten Conference but elected to return to OSU and his work in the offseason on his craft has certainly paid off. Simmons has slimmed down and is looking like an athletic tackle for this upcoming season.

Jackson elected to return as well to increase his draft stock and as many have stated, "to beat the team up north." Jackson will start at left guard for his third season in a row with the Buckeyes and will be the leader of the unit. Jackson has had his share of inconsistent play but will improve with the work under Justin Frye as his position coach and a new play caller in Kelly.

With the Buckeyes returning to a heavy run scheme under Kelly and backs like TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins in the backfield, players like Jackson will be depended on for success in the 2024 season.


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