Ohio State has wrapped up the spring practice session, hitting the field inside Ohio Stadium for the annual spring game!

Saturday’s spring game was well attended with fans packing the Horseshoe on a beautiful day in Columbus. It led to a smooth performance on the field with fans getting a great chance to see the Buckeyes up close and personal before we head into the summer.

It was also the first time ever that Ohio State’s spring game was broadcast on national television with FOX airing the game to fans far and wide. As for the play on the field, some key insight was provided through individual performances and the way certain players were used by the coaching staff.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the game:

QB pecking order clear

Last season, the spring game did not yield a ton of insight into the quarterback battle with Kyle McCord and Devin Brown both struggling at times. This time around, the opposite was true with a couple of clear leaders in the battle and a clear pecking order.

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The first QB under center was Will Howard, the Kansas State transfer and veteran leader in the room. Expectations that Howard would start this fall were reinforced by his chance to take the first snaps with the first-team offense, and his performance was also solid.

At halftime, Howard was 9-for-13 throwing the ball with 77 yards. While he did not have a touchdown before the break, he was able to move the unit down the field while taking care of the ball. For a spring game, it’s the type of steady performance you want from the expected leader of the offense.

The rest of the pecking order was clearly revealed when Lincoln Kienholz took the first reps with the second unit and Devin Brown took the second drive of the game with the first-team offense. Julian Sayin led the 4th drive of the game while playing with the second-team offense.

Based on the way the QBs were deployed, Howard should be viewed as QB1 entering the summer, and Brown has clearly solidified his spot as the backup with a chance to keep pushing Howard. In fact, Brown had a particularly efficient performance on Saturday.

He finished the first half 5-for-7 throwing the ball for 66 yards with the lone touchdown pass in the opening half. Equally important, Brown did not take a sack and could pick up yards with his legs with 24 yards on 3 carries.

The biggest question mark to this battle was Sayin with Ryan Day proclaiming the 5-star freshman was “in the mix” to be the starter. That’s certainly a subjective label, but we now know Sayin is not a serious candidate to start this fall coming out of the spring.

Sayin and Kienholz are likely fighting for the 3rd-string designation, and both threw an interception in the first half. Sayin finished the period 3-for-6 for 22 yards and also took a sack.

Kienholz was better passing the ball at 8-for-11 for 63 yards, but his interception and a pair of sacks (including one while the Buckeyes were in field goal range) were issues to account for.

Emeka Egbuka ready to shoulder the WR1 load

Before 2023, Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. broke out alongside one another during the 2022 season in the absence of Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Unfortunately, the 2023 season did not go the way Emeka Egbuka was hoping, battling injuries throughout the season while finishing with 515 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Instead of entering the NFL Draft alongside Harrison (and in a particularly deep group of receivers), Egbuka returned to Columbus for his senior season. If Saturday’s game is any indication, he’s primed to deliver a monster season to remind fans everywhere of his true potential.

In the first half, Egbuka led all players with 4 catches for 47 yards and was consistent in his play. He also combined with Will Howard for a showstopping one-handed grab, the highlight of the first half.

Running back usage

Coming out of last season, TreVeyon Henderson looked like the incumbent starter for the Buckeyes, but that outlook changed when Ohio State reached into the portal for Ole Miss star Quinshon Judkins. Both players will see extensive usage in the offense, especially with some of the wrinkles Chip Kelly is likely to introduce, but Judkins was the starter and the more efficient back on Saturday.

Judkins finished the first half with 31 yards on 4 carries while Henderson picked up 18 yards on 4 carries. Both had a catch in the passing game, and Henderson had 2 catches for 9 yards with Judkins recording 1 catch for 5 yards.

Defensive backfield shines

One bright spot for Ohio State came in the form of the secondary. The Buckeyes registered 4 interceptions in the spring game with Jaylen McClain, Inky Jones, Diante Griffin and Calvin Simpson-Hunt all recording picks. McClain’s interception came off Julian Sayin with the Buckeye offense trying to run a 2-minute drill at the end of the first half.

Another bright spot early on was Jermaine Matthews Jr. He delivered a tackle for loss and a pass breakup in the first half for a unit that has a chance to be a deep and key group for Jim Knowles’ unit.

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