Ohio State Buckeyes: Projecting new starters on offense for 2021

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Ohio State running backs with big opportunity in 2021

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The Ohio State offense will have some new faces and intriguing position battles this spring.

That starts with quarterback, but the coaching staff will have other important decisions to make, too.

ExploreLack of experience makes QB decision unique

Here is a look at who will be pushing to join the starting lineup this fall:

Quarterback

Returning starter: none

Favorite: C.J. Stroud

Also in contention: Jack Miller III and Kyle McCord

This race is expected to be wide open, but someone has to take the first snap of the competition. We put Stroud, a redshirt freshman, at the top of the depth chart for now because he was the choice over classmate Miller to replace an injured Justin Fields for one play in the Sugar Bowl.

McCord, a five-star recruit from Philadelphia, is a little behind the other two since they have been able to learn the offense for the past year, but their advantage was blunted somewhat by the pandemic’s impact on practice time.

None have thrown a pass in a college game.

Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is from California.
Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud is from California.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Running back

Returning starter: Master Teague III (part-time)

Also in contention: Miyan Williams, Marcus Crowley, Steele Chambers, Xavier Johnson, TreVeyon Henderson, Evan Pryor

Full house, anyone? That describes not only an old offensive look the Buckeyes have enough backs to bring out of mothballs but the situation for position coach Tony Alford.

While Day is not likely to bring back Woody Hayes’ favorite formation, Alford should have an embarrassment of riches this spring.

Henderson, a five-star freshman from Virginia, and Pryor, a four-star freshman from North Carolina, could have the talent to play right away, but they will have to jump over four scholarship backs.

Teague has run for 1,409 yards in 27 career games and averaged 5.5 yards per carry, but he finished the season nicked up and Trey Sermon starred in his place. Sermon is gone, but Williams, Crowley and Chambers have all displayed potential in limited opportunities.

Receivers

Returning starters: Chris Olave (Z receiver), Jameson Williams (X receiver), Garrett Wilson (slot)

Also in contention: Julian Fleming, Gee Scott Jr., Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jayden Ballard, Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr., Kamryn Babb, Jaylen Harris, Ellijah Gardiner

The new quarterback will have three returning starters to throw to, and coach Brian Hartline has six stud recruits who will be first- (Ballard, Egbuka, Harrison) or second-year players (Smith-Njigba, Fleming and Scott) to use to fill out his rotation that figures to go at least six deep.

Olave and Wilson are locked in after leading the Big Ten in receiving yards per game last season, but the competition to fill out the rest of the depth chart should be fierce.

Tight end

Returning starter: None

Favorite to move into the lineup: Jeremy Ruckert

Also in contention: Cade Stover, Joe Royer, Sam Hart, Mitch Rossi

Ruckert returning for his senior season after sharing time with Luke Farrell gives Ohio State a known commodity at a position that is otherwise full of unknowns.

However, coach Kevin Wilson has intriguing options that start with Stover, who was Ohio’s Mr. Football in 2018 and has the athleticism to play linebacker or defensive end., while Royer and Hart should also get long looks this spring.

Rossi is a 6-foot, 245-pound senior walk-on from Tennessee who has also played running back and presents a different look as more of an H-back type if Day and Co. want to dabble with some different offensive personnel groupings.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Ohio State assistant Kevin Wilson on how spread offense evolved under his watch

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Offensive line

Returning starters: Thayer Munford (left tackle), Harry Miller (left guard), Nicholas Petit-Frere (right tackle)

Favorites to move into lineup: Matthew Jones, Paris Johnson Jr., Dawand Jones

Also in contention: Max Wray, Ryan Jacoby, Luke Wypler, Enokk Vimahi, Luke Wipler, Trey Leroux, Grant Toutant, Josh Fryar

Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers are big losses for coach Greg Studrawa, but Munford and Petit-Frere could be the best tackles duo in the country in 2021. Miller struggled as a first-year starter at guard but previously was being groomed as the team’s center of the future. A move back to the middle could be good for him and make a spot for Dawand Jones or Johnson, though Studrawa has had good things to say about what Wypler did as the backup center in 2020.

Matt Jones played well when thrust into the lineup by COVID-19-induced absences last season. Dawand Jones also acquitted himself well as one of the top reserves while Johnson is regarded as a future star who could be too talented to keep off the field. The rest should provide Studrawa with more than enough raw material to have a strong second unit as well.

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