Ohio State Buckeyes: 3 questions for the offense as spring football begins

COLUMBUS — Ohio State football is set to begin spring practice Tuesday.

Rarely is there a shortage of questions for the Buckeyes to answer this time of year, and 2024 is no exception.

With a majority of starters returning on defense, the most action is on offense, where a handful of starters return but a new face will be receiving the snaps.

Questions remain about arguably the most important group — the offensive line — as well.

“I feel like it’s different every year,” said receiver Emeka Egbuka, one of several seniors who opted not to enter the 2024 NFL Draft. “You’ve got to get acclimated to who you are as a team, those new leadership roles, but with a lot of people returning on defense you kind of know what it is. So I feel like the offense kind of has something to prove. We’re looking to compete with the defense this spring, and it’s gonna be a fun one.”

Here are three of the biggest questions for the Ohio State offense to answer between now and the spring game on April 13:

1. Who will be the quarterback?

Much has changed since November when the Buckeyes last played a meaningful game.

Kyle McCord is gone, and Will Howard has come to town while Devin Brown and Lincoln Kienholz are still around.

In one sense, that means the job is open for Brown or Kienholz to claim rather than facing the prospect of sitting behind an established starter.

On the other, Howard is viewed as the favorite to claim the job thanks to his experience at Kansas State, where he made the All-Big 12 second team after completing 219 of 357 passes for 2643 yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season.

How the holdovers respond bears watching, but Brown said again Monday he is not going anywhere.

“It’s Ohio State,” said the sophomore entering his third year in Columbus. “You’re always going to have the best players no matter what. I’ve never cared who’s in here. I’ve said from the start I’m going to come in and compete, and that’s always been my motto.”

Also new to the mix are true freshmen Air Noland and Julian Sayin, both highly-touted recruits from the 2024 class.

2. What will the offense look like?

Ohio State also has a new offensive coordinator in Chip Kelly, and again there are a couple of ways to look at the new situation.

Given their history together, Day and Kelly no doubt have many overlapping schemes and philosophies.

“Just getting the ball outside to the players we have and letting them go make plays in space is going to be really big for us this year,” Howard said. “Basically we’re just the point guard out there. We’ve just got to distribute the ball and get yards however we can.”

Both coaches have evolved since they last coached together with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.

While Day has become known as a passing game guru, Kelly’s UCLA teams were more run-oriented, and the variety of running plays the Bruins used was greater than his earlier teams.

The Buckeyes have struggled to establish the run the past two seasons, so Kelly could be just what the doctor ordered overall.

3. How does the offensive line shake out?

Four starters are back from last season, but there could be more changes than that.

Seth McLaughlin, a two-year starter at center at Alabama, could supplant Carson Hinzman, who struggled as an undersized redshirt freshman last season, and right tackle Josh Fryar could be a candidate to move inside.

Sophomores Tegra Tshabola and Luke Montgomery figure to be the favorites to win the open starting job whether that is at guard or tackle.

“We have a lot of talented guys that can fill in any time,” said Donovan Jackson, a two-year starter at left guard. “As far as who is standing out, we’ll have to see in spring ball. Everyone trains hard. Everyone’s numbers improved. Everyone got skinnier, faster, stronger. In terms of who is gonna come out of that spot, it’s just competition. That’s the crucible of spring football.

“It’s going too be fun to see what happens.”

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