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You’re Nuts: Which position should Ohio State upgrade through the transfer portal?

There are no shortage of players taking advantage of college football’s free agency.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Iowa at Ohio State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.

This week’s topic: Which position should Ohio State upgrade through the transfer portal?

Josh’s Take

Tis the season, Gene — and no, I am not talking about the Christmas season. Nor am I referring to wonderful holidays such as Hannukah, Kwanzaa, or even Boxing Day. No sir.

I am talking about Transfer Portal SZN in the world of college football — the annual celebration of J.T Daniels finding a new school at which to crash and burn as an average quarterback. It is an exciting period for those who favor new opportunities and limited commitment, while at the same time being a source of nerves and frustration for others.

Over 1,000 players from across both FBS and FCS have entered the transfer portal since it officially opened on Dec. 5, and that is likely just the tip of the iceberg. We will see dozens more throw their proverbial hat(s) in the ring as bowl games come and go, and future coaching staffs begin to take shape. With limited transfer restrictions in place and NIL money being thrown about, CFB has essentially adopted professional free agency, emboldening players to jump ship at breakneck speed. This new system also allows for on-the-fly roster construction or destruction, as fans (and coaches, for that matter) are left hoping that their favorite team can hang onto key players at key positions.

In the past, a powerhouse such as Ohio State could sit by idly and watch a backup or two head off in search of greener pastures. No harm, no foul; Joe Schmoe likely would not have developed into a major contributor in Columbus. That is simply not the case anymore, as players are leaving even the most prestigious programs – and starting roles behind – to “chase the bag” or enjoy mountaintop views elsewhere.

Looking through a more positive lens: transfer rules and regulations allow for the immediate plugging of roster holes — as opposed to traditional recruiting and player development. Taking advantage of the portal means finding a potential shortcut to the top, and we have seen schools like Michigan State and USC experience great success by acting in a very aggressive manner. More power to them, even if their chosen approach is not something I am quite comfortable with as an OSU fan. But alas, the Buckeyes must adapt to survive. So which holes should they look to fill via transfer?

Assuming C.J. Stroud does not have an evil twin brother playing elsewhere, I believe Ohio State needs to reinforce the support beams. I am talking either interior line, tight end, maybe secondary — positions which may not receive the most hype or attention, but that are integral to the foundation and success of Ryan Day’s team as a whole. While I would not be upset with the program bringing in a star running back or wide receiver, neither position is considered one of need. However, others I did specifically mention either lack experience or failed to meet expectations this season. Or last season. And maybe even the season before that. So enough beating around the bush, Gene, the Buckeyes need secondary help!

OSU has struggled in recent years to slow down teams with a legitimate passing attack. You know it, I know it, the coaches and players know it. I am not sure why, but I would like it fixed. ASAP. Because Ohio State used to have a secondary unit known as BIA; Now you could just call them TOAST. The DB group (corners specifically) held back what could have been a special defense this year, and in my opinion, severely limited what Jim Knowles would have otherwise been able to cook up in pressure and blitz packages. The need starts at corner, but I would welcome a cover safety to replace Tanner McCalister.

I still have hope that cornerback Denzel Burke will revert back to his 2021 form, but he has not been the same player in 2022. Cam Brown will be moving on after battling through injury for most of his career. JK Johnson, Jordan Hancock, and Jyaire Brown all have potential, but lack quality reps. Not great, Bob. There is not a CB currently on this roster who Buckeye fans should have a ton of confidence in, and that needs to change. Maybe it does so internally. I am not giving up on Tim Walton as a coach, and we have seen flashes of borderline brilliance from Burke. But a “Help Wanted: Experience a must” sign outside of the Woody would not hurt my feelings.

In addition to CB, a cover safety should also be on the shopping list for OSU. McCalister, while perhaps not the flashiest playmaker in the world, was incredibly steady as both a safety and a coach on the field. His experience and knowledge of Knowles’ defense will be missed. Listed behind him on the depth chart is Cam Martinez, and if you watched the Michigan game, you know why I am concerned. The Buckeyes cannot and should not ignore this position if an opportunity presents itself.

There you have it. I would only like Ohio State to replace most of its secondary. And if Lathan Ransom chooses to pursue his NFL dream, then I will go into hibernation after the CFP, and hopefully awake to a spring roster loaded with experience in the secondary. It is an absolute must for Day and his staff, that they go out and get proven veterans to defend the pass. Otherwise, I don’t think we will ever see the full potential of a Knowles defense, and that would be a damn shame.

Gene’s Take

Unlike my counterpart, I have given up on Tim Walton after a miserable season for Ohio State’s corners — one wherein the new position coach was gifted a freshman All-American in Burke, a sturdy veteran in Brown and a handful of young four and five-star talents, all of which played terribly this season. That being said, bringing in a proven commodity who got some real coaching elsewhere certainly couldn’t hurt, and as I mentioned in my ‘big names to watch in the portal’ piece last week, there are some really good options out there.

With Josh already taking care of the secondary, I instead will look to offensive side of the football. We know the talent and depth Ohio State has at wide receiver, with both Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka both returning to Columbus next season with even more coming behind them. The running back room should be in great shape as well, and there will be a healthy QB competition between Kyle McCord and Devin Brown with C.J. Stroud off to the NFL. With the skill positions all accounted for, I’m turning my attention to the offensive line.

The big guys up front for the Buckeyes this season were solid, especially in pass protection, but Justin Frye’s unit will be losing a lot of talent this offseason. Both starting tackles in Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones are almost certainly off to the NFL Draft, and center Luke Wypler has been getting some draft buzz as well after a strong 2022 campaign. Matthew Jones is eligible to enter the Draft as well, but after an injury-plagued season, you’d have to imagine he will return for another year.

This means Ohio State could be looking at replacing at least two or three starters along the offensive line, including both starting tackles. The only surefire returnee for next year is guard Donovan Jackson, and with Frye’s predecessor Greg Studrawa whiffing on the recruiting trail more often than not, there isn’t a whole bunch of top-end talent to fill out the group. It’s easy to project Josh Fryar as a starter next season after his production as a backup this year, but that still leaves two open spots, assuming Matt Jones returns and is healthy enough to contribute.

There are a number of offensive line options out there, and as I mentioned in my aforementioned transfer portal piece, a guy like Myles Hinton out of Stanford could come in and start right away as a one-year gap player before your young guys are ready to shoulder the load. It wouldn’t be the first time Ohio State has looked to the portal to fill a need up front, and it worked pretty darn well the last time when the Buckeyes brought in Josh Jackson as a one-year starter at guard.

Sure, there are some young guys who could step up next season that are already on the roster, including the likes of Tegra Tshabola, Zen Michalski and Enokk Vimahi, but it couldn’t hurt to add another experienced player to the mix at such an important position.