In the 2021 Ohio State spring game, there were several new faces for fans to observe for the first time. First of all, at quarterback, Kyle McCord — a true freshman early enrollee — would strut his stuff. C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller had played during the 2020 season, but neither of them had thrown a pass. Justin Fields had moved on to the NFL, and the QB job at OSU was up for grabs. We got to watch the three quarterbacks go for it, and they sure put on a show. Exciting stuff for a spring game.
New players at running back, too. Trey Serman was gone, and Master Teague was back. Then there was Miyan Williams, whom we saw excel in the national championship game against Bama, and five-star, No. 1-ranked running back TreVeyon Henderson — a freshman with as much hype as I’ve seen for an RB. Don’t forget Evan Pryor, another freshman back joining a crowded position room. Like the quarterback position, though, the competition at running back was wide open.
Things have obviously changed for the 2022 spring game. With Stroud and Henderson returning, the starters seem settled at the two positions. Moreover, McCord and Williams have probably locked down the number-two slots. There’s still plenty, nevertheless, that I’m looking forward to seeing from these offensive backs.
C.J. Stroud. What can we say? The guy was phenomenal last season. The stats that he piled up blow me away. Completing just about 72% of his 441 passes, Stroud amassed 4,435 passing yards and 44 passing touchdowns. His 186.6 efficiency rating is off the charts, and his 370 yards per game average tells us a lot about the Buckeye offense. And 2022? He’s back!
Kyle McCord. There was a point last year when I worried that McCord (and maybe his high school teammate Marvin Harrison, Jr.) would transfer because a starting role was way down the road, given Stroud’s success and competition at the position. But McCord was the clear No. 2 last year, and Miller and Quinn Ewers are now playing elsewhere. McCord can bide his time, hone his skills, and wait for Stroud to exit for the NFL, which he’s likely to do after this season.
McCord might well find himself as the next starting QB for the Ohio State Buckeyes, a launching pad to the pros. Running the Buckeye offense, so geared to the passing game, so stocked with fabulous receivers, would likely make McCord pro-ready after only one season as a starter. (BTW: Harrison looks like a starter this year.)
How did McCord fare last year? Well, he played only 95 snaps, 38 of them in the Akron game which he started. He completed 25 of his 38 passing attempts (65.8%), with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Not bad at all for a backup — and a true freshman, at that. It’s a relief having a tested quarterback in the wings, ready to go. I’m really eager to see how McCord has grown over the off season.
Devin Brown. 247Sports rated the freshman Brown as the No. 5 quarterback in his class and the No. 44 player at any position nationally. From Draper, Utah, the four-star player threw for almost 8,000 yards in his high school career. During his senior campaign, Brown put up some head-turning numbers, throwing for 4,881 yards and 57 passing touchdowns.
Southern Cal was the primary competition for Brown’s services. Like Stroud and McCord, Brown is listed at 6-foot-3, but his build is slighter. Time in the OSU weight room will take care of that. Brown brings to the spring game the same excitement generated by the three QBs last year. I can’t wait to see how he does, tossing the ball to the many, many gifted Buckeye wideouts.
TreVeyon Henderson. Last season, Henderson shattered Ohio State freshman rushing records. He averaged 6.8 yards a carry and gained a net of 1,248 yards. The freshman scored 15 rushing touchdowns and four more on his 27 pass receptions. I’m looking forward to seeing what he has for us as an encore. I expect some changes in the Buckeye running game, ones that should enable the talented Henderson to excel even more. I also anticipate more passing to the backs, and Henderson has demonstrated his ability to catch the ball and run with it.
Miyan Williams. I love Miyan Williams, and have since I saw him in the Alabama game his freshman year. At 225 lbs, he’s a bigger back than Henderson and complements him well. But Williams can also break away; in fact, his longest run last year was 71 yards, 3 yards longer than Henderson’s longest. Playing in only 10 games last year, Williams gained 508 net yards on 71 carries — an average of 7.2 yards per carry, slightly better than Henderson’s. The point is that the Bucks don’t lose much when they spell Henderson with Williams. They’re both really good, and we’ll see a lot of both of them this year.
Evan Pryor. Due for a breakout season? Maybe. Pryor played only 45 snaps last year and netted 98 yards rushing with a 4.7 yards per rush average. Pryor is a player that I want to focus on in the spring game. Can he get outside and use his speed? Can he catch the swing passes or the screens and go with them? I would think that Pryor has something to prove in this game.
Marcus Crowley. Another talented player that we haven’t seen enough of. That’s what happens, I suppose, when a position room is overflowing. Crowley’s 40-yard dash times are as good as Henderson’s, but he played in only four games last year. Yet, he gained over 100 yards and averaged a respectable 5.2 yards per attempt. And, I’m sure that he wasn’t running behind the No. 1 offensive line. Crowley had only one reception in 2021, but it went for 21 yards. Maybe there’s a role for him in this offense. We’ll see at the spring game.
Dallan Hayden. Freshman recruit Dallan Hayden isn’t currently enrolled at OSU, so we won’t see him at the spring game. He averaged about nine yards per carry in high school at Memphis Christian Brothers. A four-star recruit, 247Sports ranks him as the 19th-best running back in the class. Hayden has a brother who’s a running back at Illinois, and the Buckeyes beat out the Illini, Notre Dame, and Tennessee to sign him.
What to look for from quarterbacks and running backs in the spring game:
1) Devin Brown: It’s always exciting to see a new, highly-touted quarterback for the first time. I bet that he shines.
2) New wrinkles in the running game: Although the spring game is not usually a time for experimenting, we might see what effect the hiring of Justin Frye as offensive line coach and associate head coach for offense will have on the running game. That’s Frye’s job – to fix the running game.
3) Running backs as receivers: I prefer to see the running backs catching passes wide to seeing wide receiver screens. We’ll likely see both in the spring game.
4) Key games for McCord and Pryor, in particular: Both have to show that they’re ready to go, without much drop off from the 1s.
Next up: Receivers (including tight ends).