The Ohio State Spring game is about a month away, and some fans will want to watch for position battles.
Fourteen Buckeyes were invited to the NFL combine, meaning that Ohio State will have to fill quite a few holes in the roster.
The draft left a few positions mostly intact, while it obliterated others. While mostly the same group of skill players on offense will stay, the linebackers and defensive backs will have to be completely reworked.
While some positions have moderately experienced replacements, others will rebuild from the ground up. For instance, the new quarterback, no matter who wins the battle, will be someone who has never attempted a pass at the college level.
Going into the Spring game, there are four position battles for Ohio State fans to watch.
Justin Fields is leaving a gaping hole under center. He will go down as one of the best passers in Buckeye history, and likely be a top-five draft pick in the 2021 draft. The most intriguing battle of the spring will be who gets to replace him.
The likely frontrunner is C.J. Stroud, a sophomore from California. Behind him are Jack Miller and Kyle McCord, who were both highly recruited prospects. The good news for Ryan Day is that any one of them could be a reliable starting quarterback for the Buckeyes.
The reason that Stroud is the presumed frontrunner is because he relieved Fields a couple of times in 2020. That said, it’s still anyone’s game. If Miller has a great spring, or if the freshman McCord impresses, either of them could steal a victory in the quarterback battle.
Interior offensive line
Harry Miller started at left guard for most of last year, so he would probably replace Myers. If that is the case, then the Buckeyes would have to find a new left guard.
Matthew Jones started at left guard while Miller moved to center, so it makes sense to pencil him there. The right side is where this gets interesting.
Paris Johnson Jr. might make the move over from tackle this spring. Enokk Vihami, Luke Wypler, or true freshman Donovan Jackson are also players to watch. This is the one position on offense where there is no obvious candidate for he job.
Ohio State is losing four linebackers to the NFL draft, so whoever starts there will be green.
Teradja Mitchell, K’Vaughan Pope, and Dallas Gant are the three names that come to mind. Experience is severely lacking in the linebacker room, and these are the three who have any at all. Since all three are seniors, it’s easy to see them rising to the top.
Junior Craig Young and redshirt sophomore Tommy Eichenberg only have a few games under their belts, and are the only ones who seem capable of challenging the three seniors. True sophomores Mitchell Melton and Cody Simon were both four-star recruits from the east coast, but have yet to set foot on the field for Ohio State.
Reid Carrico is an incoming freshman, and he has the talent to make the position battle interesting for Ohio State.
Ohio State wants to claim the title of defensive back university, and they’ll need to find the next great Buckeye cornerback.
The question is what will the defensive backfield actually look like? The Buckeyes have some talented safeties coming up, and seemingly fewer cornerbacks. If they want to put the best four players on the field, will they abandon their typical three-corner/one-safety formation? Or will they go two-by-two?
Cameron Brown is be the most experienced player on the depth chart who wasn’t a starter in 2020. If the Buckeyes want to keep their formation in tact, then they will just move Brown up to replace Shaun Wade. They could also move Marcus Williamson from the slot to the boundary, and have Brown play in the slot.
If the Buckeyes want to move Williamson to the boundary, and have a slot cornerback-box safety hybrid player, they have options there too. Tyreke Smith was a five star safety, but is listed as a cornerback on Ohio State’s roster. He could play that role, and would be one of the most talented players on the field. Lejond Cavasos is another highly recruited player who has played both corner and safety.
Or, if the Buckeyes want to play the old school base formation with two corners and two safeties, then they’ll have to find a starting strong safety. Lathan Ransom, Bryson Shaw, and Kourt Williams seem best suited to that position.
Ronnie Hickman, Ryan Watts, and Cameron Martinez are other names that might go around during spring camp. They don’t have much of a shot at upsetting position battles, but could make things interesting.
Much like at linebacker, the newest starting defensive back will be a new face for many Buckeye fans. It’s hard to say who it will be, which is what spring camp is for.
The Spring game will show us which, if any, of these battles are resolved. For some, we may have to wait until September to find out.