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Column: 2022 was a letdown, so what does 2023 have in store for the football team?

Will this finally be the year Ohio State wins it all?

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

I think by this point, it has been belabored how much of a disappointment the ending of the 2022 season was for the football Buckeyes. There were high expectations entering the year, with sights set on a National Championship. Now, the focus switches to the 2023 season. What will happen?

Ohio State just hasn’t been able to get over the hump since its 2014 National Championship. It seems like they have the potential to get there every single year, yet somehow, they stumble along the way, suffer a key injury or they have one devastating loss that ruins the season for them.

The narrative was the same this season: new defensive coordinator, Heisman candidate C.J. Stroud at quarterback, the best receiving core in the nation, etc. All of this and it still wasn’t enough to get to the Natty. So, looking ahead to who is returning and who is coming in for 2023, what is the Buckeyes’ outlook for next season?

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The biggest player returning is obviously Marvin Harrison Jr. He will once again lead the WR room, and now with one year of starting experience under his belt, he should be able to assist whatever first-year QB will be named starter. Additionally, Emeka Egbuka and probably Julian Fleming will return too.

Staying with the receiver position, the Buckeyes will add five-star prospect Brandon Inniss, who is the fourth-ranked receiver in the 2023 class. Four stars Noah Rodgers, Carnell Tate and Bryson Rodgers are also coming in. Clearly the WR group will not be a problem, just as it wasn’t this year.

There will be a big decision to make for who the new QB1 will be. Kyle McCord, Devin Brown, Lincoln Keinholz? Whoever it is will most likely have to experience an adjustment period before the offense really comes together. Luckily, the first three opponents for the Buckeyes should be a nice way for them to ease into the season — Indiana, Youngstown State and Western Kentucky before a tough road game at Notre Dame.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The running backs will hopefully all be healthy at the start of the season, and that includes Evan Pryor. I’m very excited to watch him make his Buckeye debut and help carry the load with the other backs. The offense is looking to be just as impressive as it was this past season, possibly even more so with the addition of some new players.

Now, the main problem heading into next season: the defense. There will be many decisions to be made on who is staying and who will be going pro, but after the way the season ended, I see players choosing to stay and try to achieve that goal of winning the natty and boosting their draft stock rather than declaring for the draft.

Linebackers Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers are two of the biggest names who will have to make that decision. Both had great years, and most certainly could go pro. If so, there will be some big shoes to fill. If not, it would be great to have them back. As for the defensive line, Zach Harrison and possibly others will be difficult to replace, but the bulk of the talented line should be staying.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

The secondary needs help. So bad. If the secondary shapes up, that could be what Ohio State needs to get over the hump. Give Jim Knowles the offseason to truly work on the secondary and see what happens. There could be some transfers and there are also six four-star defensive backs coming in. While it may be a young group, change is definitely needed, as that is what ailed the team this year.

So, all of this being put together, what does it mean? Obviously, it is impossible to tell right now. The quarterback situation needs to be solved, players need to make decisions whether to stay or leave, transfers may be added and the secondary needs to be changed. However, the team is shaping up to be really good. Will they be great? That will depend on the secondary.

I will choose to be optimistic and say 2023 will be the Buckeyes’ year.