Who’s the QB seeks answer from OSU spring game

Published 8:57 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

By Jim Naveau


Ten things to watch in Ohio State’s spring football game Saturday in Ohio Stadium:

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1. The competition to become the starting quarterback.

Anytime there is not a returning starter at quarterback it usually becomes the big story in the spring game. The spring game never decides the starter and it probably won’t this year, either.

But with a vacancy at quarterback and five candidates competing for the starting job, the ball will be in the air early and often. Two of those five arrived through the transfer portal — Will Howard, last year’s starter at Kansas State, and Julian Sayin, a 5-star recruit for Alabama, who left the Crimson Tide after Nick Saban retired.

Devin Brown and Lincoln Kienholz, last season’s No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks behind Kyle McCord, are back, and freshman Air Noland enrolled early  in January.

2. Freshman wide receiver Jeremiah Smith. It’s too early to call him the next Marvin Harrison Jr. or even call him a lock to start. But he has looked good in spring practice and has drawn praise from OSU’s coaches and defensive players. He was the No. 1 wide receiver recruit nationally in the 2024 recruiting class. With Harrison, Cade Stover and Julian Fleming no longer wearing scarlet and gray, he could get a lot of opportunities.

3. Luke Montgomery. The sophomore offensive lineman from Findlay has been practicing with the first team offense at right guard this spring after beginning his OSU career as a tackle.

4. Chip Kelly’s effect on Ohio State’s offense as its coordinator. It probably would be better to ask this question at mid-season when there is some evidence. OSU is not going to put even a few parts of Kelly’s plan on public display in a spring game.

And he really hasn’t been in Columbus long. At the beginning of spring practice, one of the questions being asked was what changes newly hired offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien was going to bring to the Buckeyes’ offense.

5. C.J. Hicks. The 5-star linebacker was one of the crown jewels of Ohio State’s 2022 recruiting class but has a career total of 14 tackles in his first two seasons of college football. Is this the year he emerges as a starter or a contributor? OSU linebackers coach James Laurinaitis recently said Hicks has had “a really good spring,” and that he is “a lot better than he was last fall.”

6. The portal additions. Ryan Day didn’t just add quarterbacks from the transfer portal. He landed first-team All-SEC running back Quinshon Judkins from Ole Miss, first-team All-SEC safety Caleb Downs from Alabama, and Alabama’s starting center, Seth McGlaughlin.

7. The portal subtractions. Running back Dallan Hayden has already said he plans to enter the transfer portal when it reopens next week. There probably will be others making announcements.

8. The tight ends. Someone has to replace Cade Stover, the starter for the last two years. It could be Gee Scott Jr. It could be Jelani Thurman. It could be Ohio University transfer Will Kaczmarek.

9. The veteran receivers. Emeka Egbuka’s decision to return this season probably didn’t get the attention it should have. When he was healthy in 2022, Egbuka caught 74 passes, 10 of them for touchdowns. Last season, when he missed three games because of injuries and was limited by them in several other games, he had 41 catches, four of them for TDs.

Carnell Tate played his way onto the field last season and Brandon Inniss was a higher-rated recruit than Tate when they arrived at OSU. They could figure into the receivers picture this year, too.

10. Who’s not playing. Injuries and surgeries keep some players on the sideline during the spring game every year. Also, in recent years coaches have become more aware of “watching players’ pitch counts,” as Urban Meyer called it. Some starters who have proved they belong in the lineup might not play or make just a token appearance.