More than in years prior, Ohio State has seen a large number of players enter the transfer portal. Over a dozen names from the Buckeyes’ 2023 roster are already looking for new homes next season, and there are almost certainly a good amount more to come. With the program missing on its ultimate goals once again and a number of athletes now on their way out, is there reason to panic?
The short answer is no. With the extra year of eligibility players were afforded as a result of the COVID-19-shortened season in 2020 and a lack of graduating seniors, Ohio State is now faced with a bit of a numbers crunch.
Division I FBS football teams are allotted 85 full-ride scholarships. Unlike at the FCS level, where they are allowed 63 but can divvy them up to give some players partial scholarships, therefore increasing your number of potential players on the roster, it is all-or-nothing in the FBS.
At the end of the regular season, Ohio State was officially at 89 scholarship players — over the limit, but again this was a result of the COVID-19 rules affecting the 2019 and 2020 classes. Only four players on the team are exhausting eligibility at the conclusion of the year: Tristan Gebbia, Xavier Johnson, Matthew Jones and Josh Proctor. Losing those four brings your total down to 85, which would be perfectly fine if the Buckeyes didn’t plan on signing a recruiting class at all in 2024...
As of right now, there are 22 players committed to Ohio State in this year’s cycle, and there is still a chance Ryan Day and his staff add a few more players if they can flip guys like Florida commit Amaris Williams or Notre Dame commit Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa, among other uncommitted prospects. In addition to the incoming 2024 class, the Buckeyes also had two greyshirt players on their roster this season that didn’t count towards the scholarship limit in Notre Dame transfer Lorenzo Styles and Northwestern transfer Nigel Glover.
Without any other player movement outside the four graduates, this would bring Ohio State’s scholarship total next season to 109. I’m not a mathematician, but 109 is definitely greater than 85, and so the Buckeyes need to make some room for their incoming players.
Thus far, Ohio State has had 13 players enter the transfer portal, one player officially declare for the NFL Draft (Miyan Williams), and two players medically retire (Jack Forsman, Grant Toutant). Including the four that exhausted eligibility, that brings the total departures to an even 20, bringing the scholarship total for next season to 89.
The Buckeyes still have a number of players with NFL Draft decisions to make, including Denzel Burke, Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr., TreVeyon Henderson, Jack Sawyer, J.T. Tuimoloau, Tyleik Williams and more. Burke, Harrison Jr. and Tuimoloau seem like locks, but the rest are truly up in the air. We won’t know the official total for sure until the declaration deadline passes, but just those three leaving brings you to 86 scholarships in 2024.
Of course, there is a good chance that more than just those three guys leave for the NFL. On top of the players mentioned, some other underclassmen among the likes of Mike Hall, Jordan Hancock, Donovan Jackson and Cade Stover could also decide to go pro. However, on the flip side of the uncertainty around NFL Draft declarations, Ohio State will also want to add a few names via the transfer portal, and any additional players acquired there will also add to the scholarship total.
All that is to say: we will almost definitely see more Buckeyes enter the transfer portal in the coming weeks. This is just the reality of the new world of college football, where all methods of improving your roster must be taken into account — whether that be through signing larger recruiting classes or bringing in a handful of impact transfers. This sort of thing is happening at many of the big programs around the country, but with so few graduates this season in Columbus and the way the year ended, it could seem to some like the sky is falling at Ohio State; That is not the case.
Ohio State will come out of this offseason just fine. Outside of Kyle McCord and Julian Fleming, none of the players that have entered the transfer portal were in line to start next season. The Buckeyes will bring in a handful of transfers that will improve the roster in areas of need, potentially at quarterback, offensive line, defensive line and maybe even linebacker and secondary. The personnel on the field will be good, just as it always is at Ohio State. I’m far more worried about the coaching staff decisions — looking at you, Parker Fleming — than I am any of the player movement going on right now.
It will take a bit to adapt and shift to a new reality of college football free agency, but this is how rosters will be built moving forward. At a place like Ohio State, you have to make some tough decisions on the bottom and middle levels of the roster to improve the top. So as Brad Pitt said in Moneyball, “Adapt or die.”