ANALYSIS: Questions remain for Ohio State offense following spring football

COLUMBUS — Sometimes questions about Ohio State football get manufactured.

That can be from a desire to generate conversation or the spoils of the Buckeyes’ dominating the Big Ten for two decades.

Then there are the concerns that are actually legitimate, of course, and the ones following the quarterbacks and offensive line after 15 spring practices seem like a mix of two and three.

Kyle McCord did not look bad in the spring game (and Devin Brown didn’t do anything thanks to a finger injury on his throwing hand), and he is trying to live up to a very high standard.

Then again, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said early in the spring he did not need his starter this fall to be super human, so McCord completing 18 of 34 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown in the spring game is far from a catastrophe.

That point can be driven home even more with recollections of Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields turning in less-than-impressive spring games months before having historic fall seasons.

This is the present, though, and past is not guaranteed to be prelude.

McCord has demonstrated the tools to be effective, but will that be enough for Ohio State to achieve its goals this fall?

It hasn’t been that long since “effective” was enough for Ohio State to win the Big Ten and even make the national championship game, though the competition in the biggest game of the year is higher than it was then… and having that trump card sure is nice, isn’t it?

That is especially true if the offensive line, an elite unit more often than not the last decade, is only so-so or even deficient.

C.J. Stroud carried the offense at times last season, especially with the running back room in flux for most of it and his potential No. 1 receiver out most of the season.

Will McCord need to do that? Maybe not.

Of course, the new tackles having a hard time handling Ohio State’s defensive front had a lot to do with McCord’s stat line, and that is not unique for a spring game either.

The offensive staff, which has a new look after coordinator Kevin Wilson left to become head coach at Tulsa, has some interesting choices to make as far as what to feature this fall.

I like to joke about being able to run the Full House with five scholarship running backs, but they really could lean heavily on the ground-and-pound offense of days past if they aren’t ready to let the quarterback try to do too much. That would protect the offensive line if it meant fewer pure drop-back passing situations (a.k.a. pass rushing opportunities) and might be worth it even if it means fewer snaps for the third, fourth and fifth receivers.

The tight ends, looking deep with a trio of veterans (Cade Stover, Gee Scott Jr. and Joe Royer) ready for playing time along with the potential of true freshman Jelani Thurman, also make going somewhat old-school more appealing.

Will Day do that? The 2019 offense, with a new quarterback and a young line but an established running back, was more run-oriented than Day’s others at Ohio State, but they were also plugging in five-star newcomers on the offensive line. The raw talent of this unit isn’t likely the same, but it still has the potential to be at least solid.

That can be good enough if a team has enough playmakers making enough plays.

In that case, the biggest question for the Ohio State offense between now and the start of the season could be if the Buckeyes’ efforts to get back to the top of the Big Ten will be relying on too much “just good enough.”

For the defense, the questions entering spring weren’t manufactured, either. They were just carried over from last year.

That unit not only appears to have more answers than the offense but ones that are even good.

The coaching staff said they saw more confidence and production from the secondary all spring, and that was on display in the spring game as they were able to contest routes and make life even harder for the quarterbacks.

No doubt experience matters here, not only in regards to time spent in the same defense and just time on the field.

The proof won’t be in the pudding until the real games come, but an older, healthier group of cornerbacks could make the defense much better and put less stress on the safeties.

The defensive line, which took a step forward last season but still was far from elite, had a big spring, too. How much of that is a result of highly-recruited prospects maturing into productive players vs. simply taking advantage of a rebuilding offensive line remains to be seen.

If it is more the former, the Silver Bullets might really be back this fall.

And the way they made the offense look for much of the spring, they just might need to be.

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