Ohio State football: 5 biggest storylines for the Buckeyes' spring game
The Ohio State Buckeyes will wrap up spring practice Saturday with their annual spring game. The Buckeyes have announced that the game, rather than a 1s vs. 2s type of set-up, will pit the OSU offense against the OSU defense, with points not only for touchdowns, extra points and field goals, but defensive points for takeaways, 3-and-outs, sacks and punts forced.
But the score, as in the old show Whose Line Is It Anyway, is made up and essentially doesn’t count for much. Here are 5 stories that will count:
1) Brian Hartline gets a shot at play-calling
Ohio State has been fairly cryptic about details, but it sounds like offensive coordinator Brian Hartline will be getting a shot at play-calling in the spring game. Hartline, of course, was recently promoted, while Ryan Day has determined that it might be time to let another baker in the play-calling kitchen. Hartline is certainly not new to OSU, having been on the OSU staff since 2017. He is just 36 years old, but Day seems pretty determined to at least give him a hand in play-calling. Consider the spring game a tryout.
2) Kyle McCord vs. Devin Brown
The biggest story of OSU’s spring is probably the replacement of soon to be top of the 1st round NFL Draft pick CJ Stroud at quarterback. Kyle McCord is the steady veteran hand, he of 58 passes attempted in the last 2 seasons in relief of Stroud. Devin Brown has the more electric skill set, but has yet to throw a collegiate pass and likely won’t throw any Saturday because of a finger injury.
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Ohio State tends to pick 1 QB, and it’ll be interesting to see which approach will win out. Obviously, Brown’s injury delays the competition. And while the spring game doesn’t mean everything, it’s a chance to how McCord and the rest of the depth chart stack up heading into the summer.
3) Who is the odd man out at running back?
Ohio State has a nice problem at running back — possibly too much depth.
A year ago, OSU juggled to deal wih constant injuries at running back. Remnants of the problem still exist — TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor are not expected to be in action Saturday.
But this fall, Henderson, Pryor and Miyan Williams will all be available for the Buckeyes. Which leaves Dallan Hayden and Chip Trayanum trying to make cases for playing time in the spring game.
Hayden was rumored to be a transfer portal possibility after posting 553 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground in 2022 but getting just 2 carries against Michigan even with Henderson and Williams unavailable. Meanwhile, Trayanum opened the season at linebacker, but did see time against the Wolverines at running back after transferring previously from Arizona State. This position group still feels ripe for a significant outgoing transfer or 2, and the spring game could yield a meaningful clue.
4) The next great receiver?
Ohio State has fielded perhaps the most impressive wide receiver corps in the nation over the past few seasons. The 2023 group is likely to be just as impressive, with Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. returning. But Egbuka, Julian Fleming and Xavier Johnson are unlikely to play in the spring game, which means there will be some playing time for a few other wideouts a bit deeper on the depth chart.
Who will be this year’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Harrison? How about Jayden Ballard, who did grab 8 catches for 155 yards a year ago? Kyion Grayes is another possibility, but with Brandon Inniss coming in this summer, the time to make a statement is now.
5) Did Cam Martinez find a spot?
Tanner McAllister held down the nickel spot last year under his old coach Jim Knowles, who seemed to have brought the Buckeye defense into a new era. But McAllister is gone, and Knowles’s reclamation of the OSU defense took on a different tone after some late-season struggles.
Many around OSU thought Syracuse transfer Ja’Had Carter might nab McAllister’s spot. But when an injury sidelined Carter, OSU veteran Cameron Martinez resurfaced as an option at nickel. Martinez has been a jack-of-all-trades in Columbus and could stamp the position as his with a big effort on Saturday.