ANALYSIS: 7 thoughts on where Ohio State football stands midway through August

Ohio State football is not quite halfway through its 2023 preseason, but I get the impression tensions are rising in the fan base after head coach Ryan Day’s latest meeting with the media.

Is that justified? Well, let’s break down some key areas for the Buckeyes after 10 preseason practices:

1. I saw some online angst over the quarterback situation, but I would say it’s far too early to panic.

Day not having picked a starter yet could be read a few different ways. The most pessimistic is that neither Kyle McCord nor Devin Brown have had good enough camps, but that’s probably not it.

A more optimistic reading would be McCord has been solid, but Brown has shown just enough flashes of brilliance to prevent the coaches from closing the door on him before they absolutely must. Day said he wanted a starter sooner than later, but keeping it open to now has the benefit of making each guy continue to put in max effort to continue improving.

Others have pointed out he hadn’t named a starter yet at this point in 2019 or 2021, and this is certainly the most competitive battle the young head coach has overseen.

Most likely Day has very high standards and just isn’t rushing the decision even though he said he would like to have a starter by about this time. I have felt all along he has been leaning toward the veteran (McCord) but is waiting for a eureka moment to make it official. I have no reason to think otherwise at this point.

2. There is more onus on the coaching staff to handle the quarterbacks correctly than the quarterbacks to be world-beaters.

Perhaps more important than who actually wins the starting job is whether or not Day means it when he says he learned the hard way the importance of protecting a young quarterback after putting too much on C.J. Stroud in his second start, a home loss to Oregon in 2021.

Day has previously talked up the running game only to abandon it, so I’m in Show Me mode on this topic.

All logic points to leaning on that deep stable of backs until it’s time for the QB to go win a game, but sometimes smart people aren’t logical and/or default to what they know in the heat of battle.

3. Day’s praise of TreVeyon Henderson this week should not go unnoticed.

Henderson was the No. 1 running back recruit in the class of 2021, and he showed it that fall with his blazing speed and enough strength to get through traffic to be able to use it.

Last fall, he looked like an all-or-nothing back, though, as he struggled to find holes when he was able to play. But it turns out that was largely a result of severe foot pain limiting his ability to cut, a case where Ohio State’s policy of talking as little about injuries as possible really did a lot of damage to Henderson’s reputation at the time. The good news is he should get plenty of opportunities to fix it this fall.

4. Of course to lean on the run game, a team must have a reliable offensive line.

The jury is still out on that, but here again logic is on the side of going more ground and pound (which they did to a certain extent in 2019).

Running the ball lessens the pressure on the quarterback and protects the line by reducing the number of pure pass rush drops they have to make.

Plus letting big strong guys maul people is always fun.

The raw material seems to be there, but it is in most cases young. However bright the future might be for Tegra Tshabola, Carson Hinzman and Luke Montgomery, life is hard in the Big Ten trenches for teenagers.

Ideally, no one is starting on the offensive line until year three, which explains the decision to bring in veterans Jimmy Simmons and Victor Cutler Jr. even if they aren’t all-world talents.

This is another area that seems like it could be coming along faster than it is but flipping the more athletic Simmons and Tshabola to the left side with veteran Josh Fryar handling right tackle (if he can hold off Montgomery) is intriguing and makes some sense.

5. Will the offense have to carry the team as much as it has in the Day (and for that matter Urban Meyer) era?

Being in Show Me mode is more than fair, but I am pretty bullish on the 2023 Ohio State defense at this point.

The front is comprised of talented older guys with promising backups, especially at end, and the linebackers are productive veterans.

The secondary? Well, we’ll see, but again cornerback looks promising with much more experience, health, depth and talent. That group should be better in literally every way, though now it is about actually doing it, and doing it every time out.

6. The success of the unit may all come down to safety again.

Last season was the best of times and the worst of times for Lathan Ransom, but the senior should be better with more experience and time removed from a nasty broken leg in the 2022 Rose Bowl.

Ja’Had Carter and Sonny Styles are wild cards, new faces that could change the game if they get into a groove. That is of course a big if, and there still might not be a lot of depth in that room.

The base should at least be solid from a personnel standpoint. Can Jim Knowles figure out the west way to use these guys? That is a $1.9 million question to be sure.

C.J. Hicks is another wild card here either as a key backup at linebacker or the guy who brings the so-far-mostly mythical “Jack” position to life. He seems to have the skills and the football smarts to do it, but figuring it out will probably take some time both for him and Knowles, who would like to use the “Jack” on every down but seems to be having to balance that with utilizing four true defensive linemen as much as possible.

7. How everything comes together schematically on offense is still not quite certain, either.

The coaching structure changes without Kevin Wilson — for better or for worse.

Wilson is a legit football guru who was fascinating to listen to talk about football philosophy and strategy, but there were still times it seemed like the Buckeyes tried to do too much. Was that on Wilson or Day? Or was it a combination of two gurus trying to out-guru each other?

Melding Day’s passing game with a more power-oriented running game — especially if the line turns out to be more suited for gap blocking than zone blocking, which tends to benefit more from more athletic linemen — might just be better in the long run.

Plenty of things could go wrong, but the Buckeyes still seem to have a lot of potential right answers sitting here in the middle of August.

About the Author