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How the 2023 Inbound Transfers Fared for Ohio State

The 2023 Ohio State transfer haul included 11 players. The Buckeyes had a wide variety of impacts in the class, including two starters.

The offseason is in full swing and the Winter transfer portal window for the 2024 season has closed. Before the 2023 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes received commitments from nine inbound transfers. Some players stepped up and contributed right away. Others had to work their way onto the field via special teams.

The Ryan Day approach to the transfer portal seems to be quality over quantity. The 2023 cycle was not as eye-popping as the 2024 cycle has been. However, Ohio State found a few players to help the program.

How the 2023 Ohio State Incoming Transfers Fared

Immediate Impact: The Good

Ideally, when a program dips into the Transfer Portal, it tries to get a player who can step onto the field and make an impact on day one. For better or for worse, Ohio State found two players who did so.

Starting with the good. Davison Igbinosun had an immediate impact on the 2023 Buckeye defense. Coming to Ohio State by way of Ole Miss, the defensive back was a Freshman All-American with the Rebels. Naturally, he had high expectations. He was even better for the Buckeyes in 2023. Igbinosun suited up for all 13 games and led the defense with 769 snaps played. The next closest player was Jaylahn Tuimoloau with 673 snaps.

Igbinosun was a great compliment to Denzel Burke. They both played with physicality and locked down receivers week in and week out. In total, he led all defensive backs with 59 tackles (third on the team). Additionally, he accounted for five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. Igbinosun got better as the year went on and his sticky play and willingness to make the play will help the Buckeyes in 2024. With Burke, the duo could end up as two of the top five corners to possibly go in the 2025 NFL Draft.

Immediate Impact: The Struggles

The other immediate-impact player from the 2023 transfer class was the embattled Josh Simmons. Ohio State had to replace three starting offensive linemen, including two tackles. Simmons took over as the left tackle and…struggled. Per Pro Football Focus, he allowed 15 total pressures and one sack on the season. Simmons managed a pass-blocking grade of 71.9 and a run-blocking grade of 65.8 and often looked more of a matador than a crucial left tackle.

Despite his issues, Simmons had a few great games. Against Wisconsin, for example, he graded at 88.4 if you value PFF grading. However, penalties were an issue. At San Diego State, he committed 17 penalties. Last year, while that number fell to eight, it’s still eight more than Day would like to see from the guy protecting his quarterback’s blindside. Simmons is regarded as an athletic player, so he likely has the tools to get better. Considering the offensive line play was one of the biggest issues in 2023, he must make strides in Spring practice.

Special Teamers

Not every inbound transfer for Ohio State was able to play regularly. Most were used sparingly if at all. Day, like his predecessor, often utilizes special teams to get young players time on the field. Most players don’t come to Ohio State or any other large program to play special teams, so this approach tests a player’s buy-in to the program. Plus, when you have as much talent as Ohio State has on its roster, it’s good to get the youth time while the veterans rest for a play or two.

The most obvious special teams contributor for the Buckeyes out of the 2023 Transfer Portal class was long snaper, John Ferlmann. Ferlmann was the go-to long snapper for Jesse Mirco and the punt team after transferring from Arizona State. The good thing about being a long snapper is the fact that if people don’t know your name, you’re doing a good job. He made one mistake last season. Against Maryland, Ferlmann erroneously snapped the ball to the blocking up-back, Cody Simon, on a play that was not designed to be a fake and the Buckeyes turned the ball over. Outside of that, he was solid and will likely be the long snapper for two more years.

Further, with 122 in-game snaps and 67 special teams snaps, Ja’Had Carter could be due for a larger role in 2024. Last year, Carter transferred in from Syracuse and was used sparingly behind a few entrenched players at safety. In total, Carter managed just five tackles. With Lathan Ransom returning alongside the potential best defensive player in the nation in Alabama transfer Caleb Downs, playing time may remain scarce for Carter.

Finally, Lorenzo Styles, Jr. was another cornerback transfer. He is the brother of Sonny Styles and he was a Notre Dame transfer. Styles got on the field for three defensive snaps and 65 special teams snaps. Their father, Lorenzo Styles, Sr., played for Ohio State in the early 1990s, interestingly enough.

Depth Pieces

Further down the depth chart, there are a few more transfers who made a minimal impact for the Buckeyes. Leading the way is Tywone Malone. He transferred in from Ole Miss to provide some interior defensive line depth. He logged 49 snaps, spelling the first rotation, and amassed five tackles and half of a tackle for loss against Purdue. While Malone was part of the 2023 College World Series Ole Miss team, he chose to not play baseball for the Buckeyes.

A one-and-done player for Ohio State, Victor Cutler, Jr. came to the Buckeyes from Louisiana-Monroe and only managed 21 snaps. Cutler sat at 10th on the team in terms of snaps played on the offensive line. On a team whose offensive line struggled, falling in line behind a true freshman did not bode well for Cutler’s future. He hopped back into the portal and landed at Louisville for 2024.

No Action

Finally, there was a pair of players who suited up for the Buckeyes but never took a snap.

Coming from Oregon State, quarterback Tristan Gebbia never really had an opportunity to take a snap for Ohio State. Gebbia has spent seven years at the collegiate level. In that time, he appeared in a total of 12 games for the Beavers over four years and amassed 1,250 yards and five touchdowns. However, it was evident when he transferred that he was less concerned with taking snaps for the Buckeyes as he was learning the system and developing as a future coach.

The last addition to the 2023 Buckeyes roster was Nigel Glover, a former four-star safety by way of Northwestern. Glover was initially a member of the Northwestern 2023 recruiting class. But he transferred back to Ohio after Pat Fitzgerald was fired over the Summer. Even in a deep safety room, Glover should be able to fight for some snaps in 2024, even if they are on special teams.

Looking to 2024

After the Winter transfer portal window, Ohio State lost a handful of players. The Buckeyes lost depth and the 2023 starting quarterback. In return, the Buckeyes got a haul:

  • Julian Sayin, five-star incoming freshman quarterback (Alabama)
  • Caleb Downs, First-Team All-SEC safety and SEC Freshman of the Year (Alabama)
  • Seth McLaughlin, 35 starts at center (Alabama)
  • Quinshon Judkins, two-time First-Team All-SEC running back (Ole Miss)
  • Will Howard, starting quarterback and Big 12 Champion (Kansas State)
  • Will Kacmarek, starting tight end (Ohio)

With the transfer portal closed for the overwhelming majority of programs, the dust is settling. The portal will reopen in the Spring and Ohio State will likely lose a few players and add a few as Spring practices conclude.

It’s a new age in college football. While some programs want to use the portal like hockey teams use line changes, the Buckeyes have been a bit more selective. Time will tell if this strategy will pay off.

 

 

Photo courtesy: Clare Grant/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

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