Is there a clear-cut leader for Ohio State’s starting QB job after spring practice?

COLUMBUS —With 15 spring football practices in the books, Ohio State coaches are going to work figuring out what they have to work with toward the goal of going all the way in 2024.

Let’s take a look at where each position group stands heading into summer, starting with the position that is always under the microscope: Quarterback.

(Re-)setting the scene

Will it be Will Howard or Devin Brown?

Could Lincoln Kienholz make a surprise push?

What about freshmen Julian Sayin and Air Noland?

Those were the questions heading into spring ball, and coming out none of them really seem to have been answered.

Sayin generated the most buzz, but some of that no doubt could be attributed to being the new guy on campus after he transferred from Alabama in early January. Freshmen always get outsized attention his time of year.

Kienholz looked worst of the five in the spring game, though he did seem to have more command of the offense than he did in a mostly disastrous stint in the Cotton Bowl.

Brown threw the only touchdown pass in the spring game, but neither he nor Howard really showed much with their arms overall before giving way to the youngsters in the second half.

Noland seemed like the forgotten man during multiple interview sessions, but he showed some good things Saturday, and Sayin had a few nice moments once he got into a rhythm.

Then what happened?

Neither head coach Ryan Day or new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Chip Kelly did much to tip their hands after the spring game.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m gonna make any declarations right now, but we’ll look at the film and see what it looks like and decide where to go from there,” Day said.

Kelly still wanted to view the film from the day but predicted the situation would work itself out.

“I believe every time I’ve been involved in this it kind of happens organically and authentically because the players know,” Kelly said.

Prediction for this unit

Many penciled in Howard as the starter when news broke he would transfer to Ohio State from Kansas State in January.

Why else would he pick the Buckeyes over suitors such as USC if he weren’t fairly certain he would be The Guy? That is sound logic, but I am doubting Day put all his eggs in one basket that way.

I believe this was (and remains) a real quarterback competition, and there is no reason to think anyone won it in the spring because no one really showed much, at least when the media and/or public could watch.

The coaches did not exactly come out drooling over what they saw, either.

Howard only has one year left, but he has been an average- to above-average starter at this level already, so he figures to be able to find his way into an NFL camp even if things don’t go as planned this fall. If they do, well, the upside is obvious for both Howard and Ohio State.

Brown hasn’t shown anything on the field yet, but he’ll have two more years even if he’s the backup for a second season so there is no real urgency to leave at this time as long as the door to starting is open — or even if he is one play away as the No. 2.

Kienholz looked more natural in the spring but still has a long way to go.

Sayin and Noland are true freshmen, and whatever their future is I just don’t see Day trusting a roster he views as championship-worthy to a first-year guy barring very unusual circumstances.

I believe that is also why he brought in Howard. Maybe he did assume Howard would win the job either because he believes in him that much or Brown that little, but at worst Howard is an insurance policy for Brown if a guy they have already spent two years developing can’t stay healthy or just doesn’t show them what they want to see.

Howard and Brown seem to have very similar skill sets, and that can’t be an accident.

If we got anything concrete out of the spring, it was that the quarterback run is returning to the Ohio State offense. Whether that is a crutch or a weapon remains to be seen. Maybe it will be both.

“When you have a quarterback who can run, it does change the numbers as we all know,” Day said Saturday. “You guys have seen that over the years, and it’s going to be a weapon for us this year because all of our quarterbacks are athletic enough to do that.”

Is exchanging J.T. Barrett-type runs for the explosive downfield passing game Ohio State became known for from 2018-22 a good trade? Maybe not, but I do believe Day has learned the value of winning ugly over losing pretty.

We’ll find out this fall.

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