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You’re Nuts: What is Ohio State’s biggest need in the transfer portal?

The Buckeyes have seen players go, but have not yet added through the portal.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Texas A&M at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/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: What is Ohio State’s biggest need in the transfer portal?

Josh’s Take

Ryan Day’s football roster has experienced plenty of attrition since the end of their regular season, while at the same time adding... Well, nothing. To this point 14 Buckeyes have entered the transfer portal since last week, while Miyan Williams has officially declared for the 2024 NFL Draft, and several others are still destined to join – both the portal and the draft.

Fortunately, the increasing number of outgoing players is just fine, because OSU needs the roster spots, frankly. Due to roster makeup, eligibility, lack of turnover in the past, and most of all, the stupid, stupid Covid rules, Day and Co. were projected to be significantly over the scholarship limit with the eventual arrival(s) of their 2024 recruiting class. And if Ohio State wants to add others – new recruits, flips, and/or incoming transfers – then the outgoing number really needs to approach 30 (or more). Sounds crazy, I know. But this is college football in 2023.

With roster turnover being such a hot-button topic, Gene and I decided to weigh in as part of today’s (edition of) You’re Nuts. We wanted to be funny, sarcastic, or off-the-wall, but ultimately found it interesting enough to just look at who/what the Buckeyes have lost and who/what they need to add. And perhaps rather quickly, as several programs have already begun to take serious advantage of ‘CFB free agency’.

When it comes to the biggest or most impactful personnel losses, I am going to throw my partner a curveball here: Because I do not believe that Kyle McCord’s transfer is, was, or will prove to be a big deal for Ohio State. Sure, I was the president of McCord’s fan club, but he was too inconsistent and showed little progress from beginning to end in Columbus. Nor am I going to say that Julian Fleming is a major loss... Even though I was also the president of his fan club.

Instead, I am going to look toward a position that seems to be cast aside by many nowadays. I am talking about running back (and eventually Chip Trayanum).

The first domino to fall was Evan Pryor, who entered the transfer portal on the morning of Dec. 4. Later than same day, Williams declared for the draft, leaving OSU with three scholarship running backs on their roster. Neither announcement was incredibly disappointing, although I would have liked to have seen Williams get healthy and play another season – whether in Columbus or elsewhere.

But then Trayanum entered the portal on Dec. 6, and that one stung a bit. Not only did Chip Tha Ripper’s exit leave the Buckeyes with just two RBs (we think?) for the Cotton Bowl, but it also seriously brings into question depth for 2024 and beyond. If Treveyon Henderson ultimately decides to enter the NFL Draft, Ohio State will be left with Dallan Hayden and a few incoming freshmen at the RB position... Not great, Bob. Especially when we’ve seen so many recent injuries in the team’s backfield.

While others could seemingly care less about the RB position – especially at the next level – it is of the utmost importance to OSU. When the running game struggles, so do the Buckeyes. So Trayanum’s transfer, combined with the other moves, is/was a big deal in my book. I believe that Ohio State will miss his presence both on the field and off it.

As for what the Buckeyes need, I guess I will go with offensive line. Just, like, a whole new one. A better one. With better play, better coaching, and better talent. That is where I would like to see Day and Justin Frye get very, VERY aggressive in the transfer portal. Because I’m not sure that I can take another season like the one we just experienced – with copious amounts of missed blocks, missed assignments, penalties, and the whole deal.

OL play in Columbus was unacceptable this season, and it needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, I do not see a quick fix coming from within. The starters weren’t great, and worse, not a single backup showed great promise (not that they were given a real opportunity) or threatened to steal a starting role, other than maybe Luke Montgomery. I still have high hopes for Tegra Tshabola, but I fear that I am the only one. And while not technically part of the program yet, I would also point out that Ohio State’s incoming OL class is comprised of primarily three-star interior guys.

So, uh, yeah, OSU needs to flash the bat signal for any and all proven offensive linemen. Otherwise, the Buckeyes risk taking another step back at that position. Which is scary.

I did not plan on naming names because the portal is a big, giant cluster-f***, but one guy that I would really like to see Day and Frye go after is Texas A&M transfer Chase Bisontis. The former Aggie OL was named to multiple All-Freshman teams and would obviously come in with plenty of eligibility. He was also a borderline five-star guy who held an offer from Ohio State coming out of high school, so there is some familiarity with the Buckeyes (even though Greg Studrawa was Bisontis’ primary recruiter).

At the very least, OSU needs to get busy doing... SOMETHING. The coaches cannot sit back, close their eyes, and hope for the best. Even if we agree on nothing else, I assume that Gene and I will be on the same side of this part of the argument.

Gene’s Take

Like Josh, I feel as though the running back position at Ohio State is not getting enough attention. Obviously quarterback is a huge deal, and McCord leaving is a surprise and one that will need to be addressed — whether that be internally or through the portal. However, with three of the five scholarship players in the running back room now gone, and potentially the biggest one to still enter the 2024 NFL Draft, the Buckeyes are quickly becoming dangerously thin at the position.

Could TreVeyon Henderson elect to return to Columbus for the 2024 season? It is absolutely possible, and I'm sure Ohio State has put together a lucrative NIL package to entice him to do so. However, the amount he can make as a college athlete likely won’t rival his opportunities as a professional, and as we know all too well, the wear and tear on running backs is far greater than at almost any other position. Even if Henderson won't be a first round pick, he would be best served getting his clock started now as a 21-year-old.

Should Henderson decide to enter the draft, that leaves just Dallan Hayden and incoming freshmen James Peoples, Jordan Lyle (who is a threat to flip to Miami) and Sam Williams-Dixon. Even if Lyle sticks with Ohio State, having only four running backs — three of which being freshmen — is not an ideal scenario. If Henderson leaves, I would imagine the Buckeyes look into the portal.

Ohio State wouldn’t be looking for a superstar caliber player, and would ironically probably be looking for a Chip Trayanum-style individual to replace Trayanum himself. There have been some rumors that the Buckeyes could have some interest in Florida transfer Trevor Etienne, who ran for 753 yards and eight TDs with the Gators this season, but that doesn’t feel all that likely to me. Regardless, they will need to add some additional depth to that room if Henderson does not choose to return, and that will preferably be someone with P5 experience.

As Josh laid out, the biggest need for Ohio State is clearly along the offensive line. Ryan Day waited too long last offseason to dip into the portal, and we saw the results on the field this season. I don't think Day and Justin Frye will make that same mistake again, and there are a number of impact players they could target that are already in the portal right now.

Bisontis is the big name, as my counterpart mentioned. There are some former ties there, as Ohio State was included among the New Jersey native’s top eight schools during his recruitment, but failed to make his final top five with Studrawa at the helm of the position group. Bisontis is the No. 1 transfer offensive lineman in the portal right now, per 247Sports, and although OSU is one of the handful of schools to reach out to him thus far, that marriage doesn’t feel all too realistic to me either.

There are a handful of other names that seem like easier gets for the Buckeyes. Indiana has a pair of offensive line transfers in interior lineman Zach Carpenter and tackle Carter Smith — both of whom are from Ohio. Carpenter is the No. 4 IOL in the portal, per 247Sports, while Smith is the higher priory of the two as a tackle who was formerly a four-star prospect and the No. 9 player in Ohio in the 2022 class. In addition, Ohio State has recently reached out to San Jose State transfer tackle Fernando Carmona, listed as the No. 5 OT in the portal, and it sounds like there could be some mutual interest there.

Elsewhere on the roster, it certainly couldn’t hurt to add anywhere there is a potential upgrade, whether that be along the defensive line, at linebacker or in the secondary. Obviously, quarterback remains an area Day could look to add an immediate starter, but nobody out there at this point in time really seems like a worthy gamble. The only quarterback I would say is a must-get would be if Tulane’s Michael Pratt decides to enter the portal after the team’s bowl game, but there is not yet any indication of that happening.