August is officially upon us, and with it comes the beginning of Ohio State’s preseason football camp. With the season opener against Minnesota on Sept. 2 now less than a month away, the Buckeyes are getting back to work to prepare for the 2021 campaign. Ryan Day and the boys returned to the practice field for the first time on Wednesday, so what better time to make wide, sweeping overreactions about the future of this football team based on 45 minutes of the media watching drills!
Let us begin.
Miyan Williams will play a significant role
Probably the biggest ‘story’ floating around after Ohio State’s inaugural preseason practice was that redshirt freshman running back Miyan Williams received the first carries among a crowded position group. Williams, who played in four games last year and totaled 10 touches for 64 yards, is a very intriguing player, and one that has reportedly impressed coaches this offseason. A 5-foot-8, 227-pound wrecking ball, Williams likely won't be the Buckeyes’ starting back this season, but he could certainly play a larger role than many expect.
Following behind Williams was Master Teague, and after them came Marcus Crowley and the freshmen TreVeyon Henderson and Evan Pryor, with former running back Steele Chambers having moved to linebacker. Teague is the incumbent starter, but he by no means will retain his job based purely on seniority. The junior struggled at times in 2020 and was largely inconsistent, and if his issues continue it would not be at all surprising if both Williams and Henderson pass him by on the depth chart.
Projecting the starting defense
Ohio State’s first-team defense lined up pretty close to expected on the first day of camp. The defensive line featured no surprises, with Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith at the ends and the Haskell Garrett/Taron Vincent combo at the tackle spots. Teradja Mitchell and Cody Simon were your starting linebackers, with Dallas Gant practicing for the first time after missing spring camp with a foot injury. Ronnie Hickman got the start at Bullet over Craig Young, while Cam Brown and Sevyn Banks were your starting corners. Wrapping things up on the back end, Marcus Williamson lined up at slot/safety and Josh Proctor at free safety.
There are a few interesting position battles to watch here. Obviously linebacker will have a bunch of moving parts after losing all three starters from a year ago, but Day said he expects there to be more of a ‘by committee’ approach at least to begin the season. The Hickman/Young battle at Bullet will be a fun one, as I think both guys are talented and bring a unique skillset to the table. I fully expect Lathan Ransom to earn the slot job over Williamson, as Ransom came on strong as a freshman at the end of last year. Finally, it was a bit surprising to see Brown out there with the ones after tearing his achilles in 2020, but according to reports he did not appear to be “full-go” quite yet.
Josh Fryar: starting guard?
There is really only one spot up for grabs along Ohio State’s offensive line, which should be one of the best units in the country with all of the talent returning at key positions. Despite losing both Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers to the NFL Draft, the Buckeyes are bringing back both offensive tackles in Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere. That duo was phenomenal for position coach Greg Studrawa last season, and will enter the 2021 season as the best tackle combination in college football. The line will also feature former five-star tackle Paris Johnson Jr., who will slide over and play guard this year, as well as returning starter Harry Miller, who will move over from guard back to his natural position at center.
That leaves one of the guard positions open for competition, and many expect the battle to come between Matthew Jones and Luke Wypler, with the 6-foot-8, 360-pound Dawand Jones also an interesting dark horse candidate for the job. However, a fourth challenger has seemingly risen to the occasion, as Josh Fryar got some burn with the ones on Wednesday. A former three-star prospect, Fryar had a very productive spring and the coaches seem to really like his work ethic and development to this point. It’s likely not a situation just yet where that open guard spot is his to lose, but Fryar will definitely be a legit competitor to fill that vacancy this fall.
Stroud at the head of the QB competition
It seems like everyone from the Ohio State media to the Vegas odds makers believe that C.J. Stroud will be the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback when the season begins, and nothing seen at practice on Wednesday did anything to deny that notion — nor did it really confirm it either, to be fair. Just like we saw during spring practice, Stroud was the first man up during individual drills and looked pretty sharp throughout. There were no full-time live scrimmages during the open portion of practice to really get a feel for a leader of the pack, but it still appears as though Stroud is at the front of the line at this point in time.
Of course, Quinn Ewers is not yet on campus, and whether that will have any impact of this year’s quarterback competition remains to be seen. With Ryan Day planning on naming a starter by the midway point of camp, it seems unlikely Ewers would have enough time to make up ground and earn that role, and so for now we should continue to assume that this will be a spirited three-way battle between Stroud, Kyle McCord and Jack Miller. Stroud should continue to be looked at as the frontrunner to be Ohio State’s QB1 in 2021, but regardless of who wins the job, Buckeye Nation should feel pretty confident that any of these guys can lead this army of five-star talents to a strong campaign offensively.