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The Future is Bright at Ohio State

The great Ohio State football coach, Woody Hayes once said, “Nothing cleanses the soul like getting the hell kicked out of you.” 2022 was a “rough” year for the Buckeyes. They lost to their arch-rivals, That Team Up North for the second straight season. And while they didn’t get a chance to play for the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis, they did make the playoff.


Ultimately, the Buckeyes missed a last-second field goal and lost to the Georgia Bulldogs, the eventual champions. Now, questions about the current head coach, Ryan Day, and the program have begun to rise. The Buckeye faithful is a restless and impatient bunch, after two decades of success, nothing shy of a national title seems good enough. Sure, there have been some setbacks, and losses in the transfer portal, but this offseason, culminating with the annual spring game proved there were enough takeaways that it should be clear that Ohio State is poised to return to form this fall.


QB Battle:


First, let’s start with the uncomfortable conversation about the quarterbacks at Ohio State. There has been an embarrassment of riches over the years in Columbus at this position, and to many, it appears that the run of dominance is over. With CJ Stroud preparing for the draft, and Fields before him, many are concerned that Kyle McCord or Devin Brown may not be the answer. It’s rather difficult to go from Heisman candidates to unknowns, especially when a couple of others have also left for the transfer portal.


The spring game showed that McCord is anything but an unknown and he should be rewarded with trust for his patience and willingness to stay in Columbus. Devin Brown was unavailable due to surgery, so the two will resume their battle in the summer. Still, McCord showed an ability to command the offense and minimize mistakes (a hallmark of Stroud’s tenure at the helm). Going 18 of 34 for 184 yards and a touchdown is nothing to worry about considering most of the receiving corps, aptly titled Zone 6 didn’t take the field during the scrimmage.


Defense:


2022 was supposed to be the re-emergence of the hard-nosed, aggressive Buckeye defense. Ryan Day went out and got Jim Knowles to coach the defense into shape. At one point it was believed that if Knowles could just get the Buckeyes in the top 25 statistically, they’d be the team to beat. Regrettably, Knowles’ aggressive style ended up costing the team some big plays at the most inopportune times. Coming into the spring game, Knowles has told his players that last year was about learning his system and this year is about competing. The entire scrimmage was formatted around just that. The points that the Gray team (defense) could score all centered around being aggressive and competing for every single ball.

Every unit on defense was hostile. The defensive line caused chaos and disrupted McCord’s lanes. The linebackers were in the right positions, closing gaps and forcing poor decisions by the running backs. The defensive backs were “sticky” in their coverage, with second-year starter Burke showing off his skills.


Recruiting:


When I say the future is bright at Ohio State, that isn’t just some rah-rah quote from former coach, Urban Meyer. It is a legitimate statement of fact. News broke this week that the Buckeyes have risen to number two in the 2024 recruiting class. A slew of talent has recently committed to playing football in Columbus, including Linebacker Payton Price, twins and offensive linemen Deontae and Devontae Armstong, and quarterback Air Noland. The ‘23 class being ranked fifth in the country has all signs pointing to the kids being alright.


Coaching:


Depending on who you are, the biggest story following the Buckeyes' loss in the playoff last season, was Ryan Day promoting receivers coach, Brian Hartline to offensive coordinator. It remains to be seen just how much power Hartline can wrest from Ryan Day’s play calling, but the scrimmage demonstrated that both seem to have the same mindset when it comes to rhythm, tempo, and attacking the permitter, all staples of the Ryan Day era in Columbus.


Again, Jim Knowles and his aggressive style on defense seem to be working for the Buckeyes, but they’ll have to mitigate the big play if they hope to stay competitive with tougher teams. Of course, the addition of fan-favorite James Laurinaitis to the coaching staff will help bolster the Silver Bullets much like how Hartline has been a success in the receiver room.


“Nothing that comes easy is worth a dime.”


The competition in the Big Ten is ramping up and the pressure is mounting in Columbus. This may have only been the spring game, a scrimmage between the offense and the defense, with rules bent to help the team practice, but the takeaways were remarkable. This temperature check saw the defense win, and overall, the Buckeyes look to be in a spectacular position to climb back to the top of the Big Ten conference and make another push for the playoff when the season starts in September.


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