We are just five days into the new year, and people are slowly getting acclimated to the normal, day-to-day realities of living their lives. The same is likely true at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. So, if Ryan Day and his coaching staff are a bit behind on putting together their 2023 New Year’s Resolutions, we figured we would give them a hand.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and it might not even hit the biggest of all things that need addressed this year, but we thought the least we could do is get the ball rolling. Feel free to include your resolutions for the Buckeyes in the comments below.
Get some secondary help from the transfer portal
This probably should have been a resolution in 2022 as well, but the coaching staff decided instead to not upset the applecart and stand pat with what they had, and that proved to be fairly disastrous. We all know that the poor secondary play largely costs the Buckeyes a chance at the national title and while the cornerbacks were bad all season (and the safeties struggled after a strong first third of the campaign), the issues started even before the Scarlet and Gray officially took the field.
With only six scholarship corners on the roster for 2022, when three guys — Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock, and Cam Brown — all suffered injuries of varying significance during fall camp, the team and position group was already behind the 8-ball. Unfortunately, whether due to lack of practice time, further injuries, or just not being ready to shoulder the load, the corners never got over the hump and were by leaps and bounds the worst unit on the team this year.
The safeties started the season strong, seeming to justify Jim Knowles’ new defensive scheme, but as the fall progressed, they got progressively less effective. Perhaps that was because there was more film for opposing offenses to study, but whatever it was, the OSU secondary as a whole in 2022 needs to make major improvements if the defense as a whole is ever going to get back to where Buckeye fans, coaches, and players expect it to be.
Already this week, former four-star cornerback, redshirt-freshman JK Johnson entered the transfer portal. There might end up being more players (either from the secondary or elsewhere) as rumors and general agita about the state of the program seem to be slowly returning to pre-playoff levels.
Fortunately, Knowles was able to land the commitment of former Syracuse safety Ja’Had Carter on Wednesday to presumably replace Tanner McCalister in a slot/coverage safety spot. With Ronnie Hickman presumably heading to the NFL, Carter will join Lathan Ransom, Sonny Styles, Cam Martinez, Kourt Williams, Kye Stokes, and perhaps Josh Proctor in a safety room that is filled with talent and athleticism but will have a lot to prove.
True freshmen prospects Jayden Bonsu, Malik Hartford, and Cedrick Hawkins will also be in the room but will have a long road to contribute significantly as freshmen.
At corner, the Buckeyes currently seem to have Burke, Hancock, Jyaire Brown, Ryan Turner, and Cam Brown as scholarship corners, but the latter Brown is expected to be departing as well.
Incoming corners will be top-100 talent Calvin Simpson-Hunt and No. 136 national player Jermaine Mathews. Unlike their safety counterparts, these two might have a chance to get on the field in their rookie seasons, especially if the Buckeyes don’t flesh out the room. If they don’t, they risk the possibility of being stuck in a situation similar to what they found themselves in this year.
The traditional way to do that would be to add to your 2023 recruiting class on next month’s National Signing Day, but a) the Buckeyes need someone who can contribute right away, and asking a true freshman to come in and do that isn’t likely to be the best option. And b) OSU does not appear to be in on any additional defensive backs that are currently uncommitted.
So, the next option is to hit the portal as hard as you can to try and find guys who can contribute right away. The top remaining DB in the portal is... coincidentally enough... Carter’s former Syracuse teammate Duce Chestnut. Before signing with Syracuse, Ohio State had shown some interest in the corner. He is a two-time All-ACC honoree and would make a perfect plug-and-play addition to the Buckeyes’ CB room.
At this point, I know that Day and company only like to bring in transfers if they can have an obvious impact, but in the case of the corners, you just need competent bodies there. They absolutely cannot allow an already thin position group to turn into a M*A*S*H unit simply because they don’t want to mess with the vibe in the room.
Currently, Chestnut is the only DB in the portal that looks like he could make an impact for 2023. Of course, there will be another transfer window open up at the conclusion of spring camps, at which point, the Buckeyes should have had an opportunity to evaluate what they have in their collective secondary rooms and what they still need to find.
Need to add depth at offensive tackle
Similarly, the Buckeyes need to add some talent at offensive tackle. Dawand Jones and Paris Johnson Jr. will both be in the NFL by next fall, leaving Josh Fryer as the only experienced tackle in the Buckeyes’ locker room. Though the cupboard isn’t as bare as in the secondary, finding some players who can compete for jobs, or at least serve as inevitable spot-starters and/or injury replacements will be helpful.
There aren’t a ton of top-line offensive line talents remaining in the portal right now, but the eighth-rated lineman is still on the board. Washington State’s Jarrett Kingston is on campus visiting the Buckeyes today. Not incredibly highly regarded, but he does come with a lot of collegiate experience, having been a member of the 2018 recruiting class.
Western Kentucky’s Gunner Britton is pegged as the best remaining o-line player remaining in the portal. He has visited Mississippi State already, and I haven’t seen any conjecture as to Ohio State being in on him, but whether it’s waiting until after spring or really planning on young guys stepping up, the Buckeyes need to develop some depth across the offensive come fall.
Pick a starting quarterback by the end of spring practice
Based on how Day operates, not to mention the realities of coaching in the transfer portal era, I know this one is just never going to happen, but I firmly believe in not prolonging your quarterback competition a single second longer than you have to.
We saw how devastating the uncertainty was for the Buckeyes when Urban Meyer hemmed and hawed between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett in 2015, and that was with two experienced, championship-level QBs in the mix. Whether Day ultimately decides on Kyle McCord or Devin Brown as his next starting quarterback, it would benefit that player, the offense, and the entire team if that decision was made sooner rather than later.
Let the guy know he’s the guy so that he can grow into his leadership position over the summer and work on developing his rapport with the team’s wide receivers. I think the safe bet is that the older McCord will eventually get the nod — whenever that might be. Not only does he have additional time in the program, but he was also the high school quarterback for one Marvin Harrison Jr., so you know that there is a strong connection between them.
The word is that Brown is an exceptional athlete and showed just that during open bowl practices. With how much we have seen folks clamoring for Buckeye quarterbacks to run more over the past four years, perhaps though, Day will figure that into the equation.
Personally, I don’t care much which QB the coach chooses, I think at least when it comes to quarterbacks he’s earned the benefit of the doubt, but I just don’t want to see it get dragged out. I understand that you have to maintain the morale in the room when anyone can transfer at any point (or at least during the NCAA-designated transfer windows), but things just work so much more smoothly when you have a field general in place; and after the rigamarole of the last couple of seasons, I just don’t know if I can deal with any extra drama.
Don’t screw up this playcalling decision
My thoughts on Ryan Day’s play calling have been widely known (essentially he is one of the best when he has time to do it properly... as a head coach, he rarely has time to do it properly; so he should find someone else who does), so if he does decide to give up play-calling duties as he has reportedly been considering, he has to make the right decision.
In the article linked above, I laid out my case for why I think it will be (and should be) Justin Frye who gets the promotion to offensive coordinator and play caller, but like with the quarterback, I don’t have any personal need to be right. If Day goes with Tony Alford, Brian Hartline, or someone else completely off the board, that’s fine with me, as long as it works.
Day made a big step last offseason in dismantling his defensive staff. While that worked in spats this season, there is still a ways to go on that side of the ball. But, in bringing in someone else to take over the offense, there won’t be nearly as much slack given if things don’t go well right away.
The Buckeye head coach has made his name as an offensive savant, his units are routinely at the top of college football in yards and points, if he chooses the wrong play-calling successor, and the OSU offense backslides, that could be catastrophic for the program, especially if it takes Knowles another season or two to get the right guys in to completely turn the defense around.
The Buckeye offense is what separates Ryan Day from so many other coaches in the country. Coupled with a new quarterback, if he brings in a new OC who doesn’t knock it out of the park, it can lead to truly unfortunate ramifications for the program and his legacy.
Extra Quick Hitting Resolutions
- Stop giving up so many 30+ yard touchdown plays.
- Stop doing whatever it is that the program is doing that means once players get injured, they are incapable of healing in time to play the rest of the season.
- Teach defensive backs how to defend at the point of the catch.
- Give backups — especially at quarterback — meaningful snaps in blowouts.
- Play young guys when appropriate. This helps future development and keeps guys from feeling the need to transfer.
- Beat Michigan.
- Win the Big Ten.
- Win the national title.