Ohio State is getting a number of key pieces back with the program for another run in the 2024 season. That is some good news for a Buckeyes team that admittedly still has big holes to fill.

Since the disastrous Cotton Bowl showing vs. Mizzou, a host of Buckeyes have lined up for another year in Columbus. That group includes key pieces along the offensive and defensive lines and some veteran performers in the secondary.

However, Ohio State’s returning production still pales a bit in comparison to other key competitors. ESPN’s Bill Connelly recently compiled his rankings based on returning production, and the Buckeyes are 70th nationally at 61% overall.

Fans may reach for the impact of the transfer portal to explain some of the low percentages for the Buckeyes. After all, it is the arrival of RB Quinshon Judkins, safety Caleb Downs, OL Seth McLaughlin and QB Will Howard that has Ohio State positioned among the top national championship odds for 2024. Fans can utilize Tradition’s Ohio sports betting links to track the line movement leading up to the start of the action.

However, the impact of the transfer portal is included in Connelly’s overall formula. Here’s how he explains the addition of transfers in relation to a team’s percentage of returning production:

Quite crudely, if a player transfers from one FBS school to another, I mash his production from his previous team into the numerator and denominator for his new team. So if your quarterback leaves, and you bring in a transfer who was starting somewhere else, that dampens the overall blow of your QB leaving significantly.

So, that means Ohio State’s production at QB is somewhat evened out between Kyle McCord’s departure and Howard’s arrival. The same goes for Downs’ tackles at Alabama and the departing production of Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers.

What does it all mean?

At the end of the day, success — or failure — in a season is not always dependent on lack of returning production. A new starting quarterback can step in and prove to be dynamite. (See CJ Stroud, 2021 season.)

Ohio State has a talented roster, and the cornerstone pieces are still in place for a strong 2024 season. But, at the end of the day, the Buckeyes will finally learn what they have with some younger players poised to be thrust into the spotlight.

How those players perform will greatly dictate the full potential of the team this fall.