Ohio State football: What we have learned from spring practice so far

COLUMBUS — Ohio State will wrap up spring football with the annual Scarlet and Gray game Saturday.

Before that, the Buckeyes still have work to do with three practices this week and the annual coaches clinic.

Much still seems to need to be determined before coach Ryan Day’s team is game-ready in September, but this is what we have learned so far:

1. The quarterback battle appears to be wide open.

Not much of spring practice has been open to reporters, but the available viewing windows have shown Will Howard, Devin Brown, Lincoln Kienholz and Julian Sayin all getting reps.

With his experience advantage, Howard was viewed as the favorite to win the job, but Brown vowed to hit the ground running after a busy bowl practice and injury-shortened appearance in the Cotton Bowl.

2. C.J. Hicks and Sonny Styles might not be an either/or proposition.

A potential downside of moving Styles from safety, where he started last season, to linebacker was displacing Hicks, the Alter High School grad who appeared to be in line to claim the open starting spot at Will linebacker.

But there are indications both could play a lot this fall whether it is rotating at WLB in the base 4-2-5 defense or both on the field at the same time in a 4-3 alignment.

Aside from defensive coordinator Jim Knowles saying he was open to using both alignments more, linebackers coach James Laurinaitis also said he is hoping to rotate more than he did last season when almost all of the snaps went to seniors Tommy Eichenberg, Steele Chambers or Cody Simon.

Simon is back for a fifth year and set to be the new starter at middle linebacker while the competition continues at WLB.

3. The offensive line should have some continuity.

Luke Montgomery is getting a long look at right guard while a slimmed down Josh Fryar appears to be set to stay at right tackle, where he started last season.

The left side remained intact with Josh Simmons and Donovan Jackson at tackle and guard, respectively, but coach Justin Frye hasn’t committed to a center between returning starter Carson Hinzman and Alabama transfer Seth McLaughlin.

Lakota West grad Tegra Tshabola could be in line to be the sixth man as he has worked at tackle and guard during his two-plus years in Columbus.

4. A freshman could crash the party at receiver.

Early playing time can be hard to come by given the talent Brian Hartline has stockpiled, but Jeremiah Smith might be able to jump the line after enrolling in January.

The nation’s No. 1 recruit has impressed everyone during practice and has Hartline raving about the way he handles his business off the field. That might let him join senior Emeka Egbuka, the only returning starter, in the No. 1 group, but there are still a handful of other highly regarded talents looking to earn a spot in the top six.

5. The defensive line should be deeper and possibly more complex.

Coach Larry Johnson admitted he did not feel comfortable subbing as much as he typically would last season because he felt like the second-teamers weren’t ready for prime time.

This spring he said he likes what he has seen from reserve ends Kenyatta Jackson, Mitchell Melton and Caden Curry as well as young tackles Hero Kanu, Tywone Malone, Kayden McDonald, Jason Moore and Will Smith Jr.

On top of that, Knowles floated the idea of using a 5-2 Eagle look with tackles clogging the middle and Tuimolau and Sawyer on the outside.


Ohio State Spring Game, Noon, Fox

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