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Confidence to concern: Ranking Ohio State’s position groups from most confidence to least ahead of spring practice

The Buckeyes have a ton of talent, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t positions of concern.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 23 Ohio State at Indiana Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ohio State was a team that battled itself with injuries for the entirety of the season in 2022. Part of that had to do with roster construction creating a lack depth concerns at certain positions, and there were some new faces who were heavily relied upon. Combine that with a new scheme, and there was an up-and-down season with high expectations that was a field goal away from a national championship appearance.

Heading into the offseason, there are health concerns at running back, depth concerns on the offensive line, and a secondary with a lot of turnover. A quarterback competition headlines this offseason, and the Buckeyes are looking to fill both tackle spots in addition to the vacancy at center.

Looking at each position group ahead of the Buckeyes’ spring practice gives an insight into what position groups have the most depth and talent. This will give a gauge on which offseason positional battles are most important, and where the Buckeyes might struggle if they don’t get the position right this offseason.

The scale will be a 1-10 with 1 being least confident and 10 being most confident, starting with 10.

10a. Receiver (Most Confident)

The obvious choice for the unit that deserves the “most confidence” label is Brian Hartline’s receiver room. Replacing Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson was no small task. To add to that, the Buckeyes lost projected first-round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the first game. All Hartline did was mix-in the highly touted receiver recruits that were up next in Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming.

Harrison Jr. and Egbuka return after 1,000-yard seasons and 70 plus catches. Fleming had stretches that showed his ceiling, including five touchdown catches in a stretch of five games. The Buckeyes have these three back, elite back-to-back recruiting classes, a speed threat in Jayden Ballard, and the Swiss-Army knife Xavier Johnson. There is no lack of returning talent or production, which is why this room carries so much confidence. Having the best receiving room in the country is the perfect situation for a young quarterback.

10b. Linebackers

This room’s confidence level rose when Tommy Eichenberg decided to return for his final season with the Buckeyes. That decision led to the two leading tacklers on the team in Eichenberg and Steele Chambers. With another year in Jim Knowles’ scheme, there is no reason to think there shouldn’t be another step forward taken by the two returning starters.

The depth is not the most experienced, but there is a ton of talent behind the two starters. Cody Simon rotated in as the third linebacker, and was solid in the role as well as fill-in duty. Behind him, former star-studded recruits Reid Carrico, Gabe Powers, and C.J. Hicks will look to bide for playing time. If the room is healthy, there is no reason to be concerned about this room in the slightest.

9. Interior Offensive Line

Donovan Jackson is going to be an early draft pick next season and brings a freakish athleticism to the left guard position. On the right side, the Buckeyes have Matt Jones in his fifth season and second as the starter. The lack of turnover is why there is confidence here, and behind the two starters the Buckeyes have a couple of players with some years in the program. The center position will likely be manned by Victor Cutler or Carson Hinzmann, which I’m really not concerned about.

The back up depth does not have a lot of play time, but having a player like Enokk Vimahi ready to play on either side is valuable. If there are some of the younger players like Ben Christman can take a step forward, there should be enough depth to feel confident at guard, but the spring will be big for some players. The stability of the returning guards are why this is a group that should receiver confidence.

8. Running Back

Injuries plagued this room last year, but every player who set foot on the field at the running back position last year was productive. The two starters coming into the year in TreVeyon Henderson, who was explosive when healthy, and Miyan Williams, who had a five touchdown game while also tying for the lead on the team with 14 touchdowns were productive. Both players missed significant amounts of the time for injuries, which is a big reason this position group is down the list.

Behind them, Evan Pryor was the presumptive third back heading into the season, but tore his ACL in the spring. This led to Dallan Hayden seeing more time than expected, as the freshman returning some experienced depth was not expected. Getting Deamonte “Chip” Trayanum into the room full time makes this one of the deepest running back rooms in the country.

After all this hype, you might be wondering why they’re only seven on the confidence scale, and that is because of the health concerns.

7. Quarterback

There is no easy way to say that the quarterback room is a group hanging out in the middle. On one hand, there is a level of confidence that Ryan Day has a talented room with players that can be developed. On the other hand, the Buckeyes once again got little meaningful game experience for the quarterbacks competing for the job on the roster – and I know Kyle McCord started against Akron.

McCord and Devin Brown both bring in blue chip pedigrees. They also have incredible arm traits that will translate to success with the elite receiving group. The lack of experience is the only reason the quarterbacks end up in the middle, but the Buckeyes are in their best stretch of quarterback play ever. Continuing that trend is not a given, but the talent is there to have an elite quarterback once again.

6. Defensive End

There is no lack of talent here, as each player that will potentially contribute next year was top-100 recruit. Looking at the entire room including the new class, there is not player that was ranked lower than 200 in the 247Sports Composite. There is a ton of confidence in J.T. Tuimoloau, but consistency in maintaining his high level of play he can reach is the next step.

Jack Sawyer is locked in as a true defensive end according to Larry Johnson, so expect his sack total to climb this season without the expanded role. Behind him, Caden Curry is expected to take a step forward, but three players is not enough depth. This room’s true measure will come from the amount of drop off when the backups come into the game. Due to the starters they are right in the middle with a five confidence level out of 10. The depth is why the defensive ends aren’t higher.

5. Tight End

Ohio State returns Cade Stover, who finished with 36 catches for 406 yards and five touchdowns. That is the most catches since Rickey Dudley in receptions, and the most yards since Jeff Heuerman. This season, another step forward as a receiver could make him one of the greatest tight ends statistically in school history. Where he needs to improve is as a blocker in space, that is where is NFL prospects will be most improved.

The question is not Stover though. The question is who steps up behind Stover. Ohio State relied on Joe Royer in the Peach Bowl against the Georgia when Stover went down. Gee Scott Jr. has shown some promise at the position, but they will need to be reliable blockers to see the field regularly. Stover will take on most of Mitch Rossi’s H-Back duties, which means there will be opportunity in all 12-personnel looks, which Ryan Day loves to run. With no true consistency, the tight end position begins the concern side of the scale.

4. Safety

Ohio State is not lacking talent or experience when it comes to the safety position. Lathan Ransom will likely move to the adjuster. He brings back a ton of experience and should be in a better spot as the free safety. At bandit, the Buckeyes have Josh Proctor — a surprise returnee to go with Superman on a football field in Sonny Styles. The athleticism at the Bandit position is absurd.

Bringing in Ja’Had Carter from the Syracuse is a huge bump in talent and experience at the nickel spot. The depth there is Cam Martinez, who will be looking to take another step forward this year, and shows as a whole this room has a lot of talent. The issue is last season when the floor fell through, it crashed and burned when the Buckeyes needed them most. They are the start of the less confident group, and it’s because of the way things ended last season.

3. Defensive Tackle

Now no one is arguing about the level of talent in this group, but there are quite a few questions heading into next season. Starting with Mike Hall and Tyliek Williams, they will need to take on expanded roles. Both have showed incredibly high ceilings, but neither have stayed healthy enough to be seen as reliable anchors on the defensive line. They also had stretches last season where they disappear from making an impact, which is also a problem.

Building on that, the Buckeyes have Ty Hamilton who started multiple games last season, providing the first layer of depth to go with Williams and Hall. They will be relying on Hero Kanu and Jaden McKenzie to step into bigger roles. Bringing in Kayden McDonald give this room that is thin on depth another body, but expecting contribution from a true freshman is not a fair standard to hold. Depth and consistency is why they are the three on the scale, falling in the somewhat unconfident category.

2. Cornerback

Ohio State has talented corners. Denzel Burke was a freshman All-American, and transfer Davison Igbinosun was freshman All-SEC at Ole Miss. This room was plain-and-simple not good enough last year, partly due to injury, but mostly due to lacking consistent fundamentals. Adding Igbinosun gives an experienced player to pair with Burke, but this room needs depth. The Buckeyes started five corners last year while playing six total on the year due to injuries.

If the Buckeyes want to have success at corner, it starts with health. This group needs practice to build comfort in the man-heavy scheme of Knowles. Hancock, Jyaire Brown, and Ryan Turner will all have opportunities to compete, but they also need to be ready to be a starter in the event of an injury which wasn’t the case last year. Adding two blue chip freshmen should help with the competition in the room. Almost the most concern, but I have a feeling the group will be significantly improved this year.

1. Offensive Tackle

The group with that I have the least amount of confidence in is offensive tackle. Two potential first round picks are off to the NFL in Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones. Looking at the players vying to replace the two, they aren’t five star all-world prospects, or 6-foot-8 athletic behemoths. The recruiting drop off under Greg Studrawa will be felt this year, and Justin Frye will be looking to prove his ability as a talent developer this season.

If Josh Fryar and Zen Michalski are not up to the challenge, this will impact the team more than any position. Having a first year starting quarterback adds to the pressure for the Buckeyes to get this right. If they don’t, the talented receivers and running backs won’t matter because the blocking won’t be good enough. This group does not inspire a lot of confidence on paper. That is why they are the group with the most concern entering the season.

The confidence scale is subjective, but there are concerns for every group heading into the offseason. Ohio State has the usual insane amount of talent across the roster, but health concerns and inexperience at key positions will be monitored closely. Last season showed how an injury here and a bad performance there can derail games or keep opponents in games longer than expected.

Looking at the positions with the least amount of confidence, the Buckeyes will need to coach at a high level to make sure those groups are meeting the standard. Last season also showed that groups can take a hit unexpectedly. The groups with the most confidence in them are the ones with the established depth that can overcome those issues.