The 2021 Ohio State football season begins a week from Thursday. The Buckeyes will take on the Golden Gophers in Minnesota to kick off the new year of college football.
At the end of every year, especially when 10 former Buckeyes are picks in the NFL Draft, the next year seems like a blank slate. After Spring camp, through the Summer, then into Fall camp, the picture becomes more and more clear.
Ohio State 2021: Five Things To Watch
C.J. Stroud Starting At Quarterback
Ryan Day finally declared C.J. Stroud the starting quarterback for the upcoming season. In a room filled with talent, Stroud stood out among the pack, and will be the quarterback of one of the best teams in the country.
Going from a three-star recruit to working his way up to five stars, Stroud finally will get his chance to be a starting quarterback in his redshirt freshman season. He is highly skilled and draws comparisons to Justin Fields and Russell Wilson.
Stroud already has one electric play under his belt despite limited snaps last season. Now that he is the starting quarterback, he will have the chance to create more.
The Top Wide Receivers Group In The Country
Chris Olave returned for his senior year, which was a move that surprised nearly everyone. In 2020, Olave was second in the conference in receiving yards per game, trailing David Bell by only a tenth of a yard.
Number five on that list was Garrett Wilson, who will be a junior in 2021. Pro Football Focus wrote that Olave and Wilson were the two best receivers returning to college football. No other team had two players on their top ten list, so clearly Ohio State has the best receiving tandem in the country.
Then, there’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who made what could be the play of the year last year. There’s also Julian Fleming, another five-star recruit. In the mix is also Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr., two very promising freshmen.
In the words of Ohio State’s Week 1 opponent P.J. Fleck, “this wide receiver corps they have might be the best wide receiver corps I’ve ever seen in one football team.”
The Defensive Line, Again
Ohio State fans are used to seeing good defensive lines. Larry Johnson is a fan favorite, and undoubtedly one of the best defensive line coaches in the country.
The 2021 Buckeyes might have the best defensive line from top to bottom than we have seen in Columbus in quite some time.
Sure, Chase Young and Joey Bosa provided dozens of sacks and pressures, but they were far and away the best players on the line, and they both elevated the units they played for.
This year, each member of the starting defensive line is an outstanding player in his own right. Zach Harrison will be on one end, returning as a Second-Team All Conference selection and projected first round draft pick. Opposite him is Tyreke Smith, who was a highly underrated pass rusher according to PFF’s metrics. In the middle is Haskell Garrett, who became a legend last year for the Buckeyes. In the mix as well are Antwuan Jackson, Taron Vincent, Jerron Cage, Tyler Friday, and Javonte Jean-Baptiste.
The Linebackers And Bullets
Ohio State is in the unusual predicament of having to replace their top four linebackers.
For as long as the starting quarterback competitions has gone on, the linebacker race has gone even longer. Day still hasn’t named any starting linebackers.
The frontrunners for the jobs are a better-kept secret than that of the quarterback competition. It could be any combination of Teradja Mitchell, Dallas Gant, K’Vaughan Pope, Mitchell Melton, and Tommy Eichenberg. If Palaie Gaoteote ever gets his waiver from the NCAA, then he’s in the mix as well.
Much of the defense will be in rebuild mode this year, and that very much includes the linebackers. It will be fun to see who emerges from the pack.