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The Ohio State Quarterback Battle Rages on

The 2024 Ohio State quarterback battle was not settled in this year's Spring Game as each player had his ups and downs.
The 2024 Ohio State quarterback battle was not settled in this year's Spring Game as each player had ups and downs.

The Ohio State quarterback room has wrapped up Spring practices and it all led up to the 2024 Ohio State Spring Game. In the first-ever nationally-televised Spring Game, Ohio State’s offense and defense split up to show coaches and fans alike a taste of what the 2024 season has in store.

One of the biggest questions coming in was who has the leg up in the quarterback competition. Those questions were answered as Will Howard was the first Buckeye signal caller to take a snap for the scarlet side.

The scoring was a bit different in this one. The offense scored as usual (six for a touchdown, three for a field goal, etc.) but the defense was awarded points based on various results. Defensive touchdowns were worth six, takeaways were three, three-and-outs were three, sacks were two, and if the defense forced a punt, it was worth one point.

All in all, due to an early whistle on the final play, the Scarlet squad took down the Gray, 34-33. Technically, the game ended on an interception that was returned for a score and it should have been 39-34 in favor of the Gray.

The Ohio State Quarterback Battle Not Settled After Spring Game

Perhaps the most obvious takeaway from the year’s televised scrimmage is the fact no quarterback separated himself from the pack. This was to be expected. In the past, great quarterbacks like Justin Fields struggled in the Spring Game and ended up just fine. Considering the Ohio State quarterback room had to battle what looks to be a top-five defense, there is room for leniency.

All five scholarship quarterbacks led the Scarlet offense at one point in the game and each had highs and lows. In total, the five quarterbacks combined for 346 passing yards and a touchdown while completing 39 of 61. The defense did force four interceptions, most notably the rightful walk-off 100-yard interception return that was not to be.

Two Horse Race

For as much coachspeak as Ryan Day and Chip Kelly will have over the next five months, it feels like this Ohio State quarterback battle is truly between the two veteran voices in the room, Howard and Devin Brown.

On the day, Howard went nine of 13 for 77 yards through the air. The first-team offense looked solid under his leadership. However, the offense struggled against the Gray secondary as many offenses likely will this season. Despite that, Howard was efficient and decisive when dropping back. He protected the football and was one of the two quarterbacks who did not walk away with a turnover on his sheet.

His play in the Spring Game, for better or worse, was reminiscent of Kyle McCord‘s best day. Howard is likely to be just that: a better version of McCord. He will prioritize taking care of the football and manage the offense as best he can. Don’t be surprised if Day hits the Ohio State beat reporters with the “he does the routine things routinely” in Fall camp.

The other leg of the competition is Brown. The unorthodox number 33 quarterback was just as efficient on the day, passing for 66 yards while completing five of seven. The highlight of his day was when he led the Scarlet offense on its first touchdown-scoring drive. Brown found walk-on sophomore Brennan Schramm on a well-drawn-up red zone concept. On the ground, where Brown tends to have the leg up on Howard, Brown rushed the ball three times for 24 yards.

His strength is also one of his weaknesses. Brown has the athleticism to take off when the play breaks down but he drops his eyes sooner than Howard. Of the two, Brown is more likely to take the free yardage in front of him.

Airing it Out

In terms of expectations versus results, perhaps the most impressive performance in the Ohio State quarterback room was Air Noland.

Noland is an early enrollee who many have seemingly forgotten. The five-star freshman had to bide his time as the other quarterbacks had a few drives each before he took a snap. Then, on his first snap, he took a zone read 16 yards and fooled the defense and cameras alike. On the day, the southpaw threw for 47 yards and was five of seven passing. On the ground, Noland added 42 yards off of five carries. However, on the final play of the game, he tried to pull his best Patrick Mahomes impression. After being flushed out of the pocket and running out of space, Noland turned back, and fired a prayer back across the middle. Unfortunately, the attempt was intercepted (and returned for a non-existent touchdown).

Noland’s game is reminiscent of 2014 J.T. Barrett, oddly enough. He showed that he is not afraid of taking the shot. He also is not too shy to pull the ball down and take off. The Spring Game showed that Noland has a high ceiling but he’s still very raw.

More Volume, More Struggles

The final two pieces of the Ohio State quarterback battle had the most run but also struggled more than the others. Not all of the struggles were their fault, however. As with the Cotton Bowl, the offensive line was often overmatched by the defensive line. In total, the defense forced six sacks. Lincoln Kienholz and Julian Sayin were sacked five times combined.

There has been a lot of hype surrounding Sayin in the days leading up to the Spring Game. Day said Sayin was entrenched in the quarterback battle even as an early enrollee freshman. When it comes to Ohio State quarterbacks, Sayin had his black stripe removed in record time. Notes out of practice said he’s been impressively accurate but he missed his marks a few times in the game. The wind was swirling and was the cause of his lone interception.

Once his arm strength develops, Sayin has the chance to turn this quarterback room on its head. Day speaks highly of Sayin and will continue to give the true freshman looks as Fall camp opens up. Sayin led the way with 85 passing yards and eight yards on the ground.

Finally, Keinholz finished with 71 yards off of 10 of 17 passing but he was the only quarterback to throw multiple interceptions on the day. Despite having his name thrown around in unverified transfer portal rumors, Kienholz reaffirmed his commitment to the Buckeyes earlier in the week.

Of the five quarterbacks, it could be argued that Kienholz played the worst. All quarterbacks missed throws but only Kienholz had multiple errant throws intercepted.

Now We Wait

The worst part of the college football offseason is here. The players won’t reconvene for a while but the chaos of the Spring Transfer Portal opening will certainly keep everyone busy. Will all five quarterbacks be on campus in the Fall? Odds are, no, but anything can happen in today’s game.

The Ohio State quarterback room still has some work to do before instilling confidence that this offense can run through Iowa, Oregon, Penn State, and Michigan. Even then, the Spring Game gave fans just a taste of what’s to come. With Kelly calling plays and Day operating as a GM of sorts, 2024 is the beginning of a new era. Expectations are the highest they’ve ever been in the Day era and the quarterback play will be crucial for the Buckeyes’ success.



Photo courtesy: Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK


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