ANALYSIS: Reboot, not rebuild, for Ohio State roster in 2024

Ohio State entered the offseason with a great deal of roster uncertainty.

With the deadline for underclassmen to tell the NFL they want to enter the 2024 draft coming Monday, head coach Ryan Day and his staff won’t be sweating it out.

Almost every 2023 starter was a senior or a draft-eligible underclassman, and teams that recruit like Ohio State typically lose more juniors to the NFL Draft than they get back these days.

That meant Day was facing the possibility of a major lineup reconstruction as of late November, but that is not going to be the case after defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau and running back TreVeyon Henderson announced Friday they are going to return for one more season.

That closed out a long line of Buckeyes who previously did the same.

Here is a look at NFL Draft decisions and what they mean for the Buckeyes:

1. At least 10 2023 regulars are not coming back.

Right guard Matt Jones and safety Josh Proctor used up all their eligibility, including the extra year the granted to players who were on the roster during the pandemic season of 2020.

Tight end Cade Stover and linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers are eligible to return for an extra senior season, but all have indicated they are going pro after starting for two seasons.

Senior receiver Julian Fleming is taking his extra season to Penn State via the transfer portal, and junior quarterback Kyle McCord transferred to Syracuse.

Star receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. and defensive tackle Mike Hall Jr. were the only third-year players to declare for the draft.

Although he was not a full-time starter, running back Miyan Williams also declared he is entering the NFL Draft. He was at Ohio State for four years but had two years of eligibility remaining.

2. A dozen starters who could have gone pro are coming back.

Right tackle Josh Fryar, defensive tackle Ty Hamilton, linebacker Cody Simon and boundary safety Lathan Ransom are all set to return as fifth-year seniors.

Simon, who started when Eichenberg was injured late in the season and shared time with Chambers in other games, and Ransom are using their COVID “bonus” seasons while Fryar and Hamilton redshirted in 2020 so they are typical fifth-year seniors.

Henderson, cornerbacks Denzel Burke and Jordan Hancock, left guard Donovan Jackson, receiver Emeka Egbuka and defensive linemen Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer and Tyleik Williams are all true juniors who are coming back for a fourth season in Columbus.

3. What does that all mean?

Egbuka gives Ohio State a bona fide No. 1 receiver even without Harrison.

Burke, Hancock and Ransom will combine with cornerback Davison Igbinosun to give the Buckeyes four returning starters in the five-man secondary.

Simon figures to be the full-time MIKE linebacker, and he will be playing behind four of the five players who made all of the starts on the defensive line last season.

The offensive line will also have four starters back instead of facing a second consecutive rebuilding year.

They will have not one but two all-conference running backs to block for with Quinshon Judkins transferring in from Mississippi.

Henderson and Judkins both have more than 2,000 yards rushing at the college level, but they have different running styles.

While Henderson primarily is a speed back, Judson is more of a shifty, between-the-tackles runner.

They could complement each other and share touches to save wear and tear on each.

4. The Buckeyes appear primed to challenge Michigan for Big Ten supremacy and make some noise in the College Football Playoff.

A defense that was already among the best in the country should be even better with more experience, and the offensive line should benefit from another year of seasoning.

Skill positions are rarely a concern for the Buckeyes, so quarterback figures to be Ohio State’s biggest question mark for the second year in a row.

Will Howard is transferring in from Kansas State to give Day another choice along with sophomore Devin Brown and redshirt freshman Lincoln Kienholz, who both struggled in the Cotton Bowl loss to Missouri but came to Ohio State as four-star recruits.

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