“Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day...” ~ Elizabeth Bowen
Personally, as a lifelong Ohioan, I do not know if we truly get the close of a winter day in Ohio. It just seems as though we get less and less cold, and then suddenly, we have summer weather.
As Ohio State spring football has officially started, I have decided to write a series of articles on a weekly basis to identify and rank the position groups, from least to most concerning, as they pertain to the upcoming 2023 season. Each week, I will point out questions I have about these position groups, and it is my hope that several, if not all, of these questions will be answered by the Ohio State Spring Game on April 15.
Special Teams Units | Concern Ranking: 5th
- Scholarship Players Lost From The 2022 Squad: K Noah Ruggles
- Scholarship Players Returning From The 2022 Squad: LS John Ferlmann, K Parker Lewis, P Jesse Mirco, K Jake Siebert
- Freshmen Players Participating In 2023 Spring Football: None
Reason for my ranking: Special teams is always one of those areas that fans overlook or take for granted, but will certainly notice when or if something goes wrong or not as planned. Think about the last play of The Peach Bowl, when Noah Ruggles’ field goal attempt to win the game, or during “THE GAME” when a fake punt was not called, and could have been truly impactful.
- Who will replace Noah Ruggles as Ohio State’s placekicker?
It is truly unfortunate that a lasting memory for Ohio State fans of Noah Ruggles is that field goal attempt in the Peach Bowl that was not successful. Ruggles was 17 of 20 in 2022 on field goals, and 20 of 21 in 2021, so Ohio State fans may want to stop and reflect upon how consistent Ruggles was at making field goals.
Ruggles showed up at Ohio State as a transfer, after the 2021 spring game caused Ohio State head coach Ryan Day concern and angst over the placekicking that was on hand.
Jake Siebert returns, and former USC kicker Parker Lewis seem likely to be the primary competitors for the placekicking job. Walk-ons Casey Magyar and Jayden Fielding will also be in the mix. Fielding handled the kickoff responsibilities last season, so perhaps Fielding may not be involved in the placekicking duties.
2. Can Ohio State find a consistent punt or kickoff returner?
Before I continue too much further — no, Ohio State fans, Marvin Harrison, Jr. is not going to be this year’s punt returner. Much angst about this topic has been on social media, and Harrison let the media know why he was involved on the punt return team after Ohio State concluded its second spring practice.
Said Harrison, “I just go back there more so just enhancing ball tracking skills and everything like that. There’s a good chance I won’t be back there at any point during the season. But in an emergency situation, if I need to go back there, I think I can.” Hopefully, that will put that issue to rest.
Now as to the larger issue, here are some sobering facts that many Ohio State may have forgotten, or have overlooked. The last time Ohio State returned a punt for a touchdown? 2014, when Jalin Marshall single-handedly saved the game for the Buckeyes versus Indiana. The last time Ohio State returned a kickoff for a touchdown? 2010, when Jordan Hall did it in THE GAME in what would be the unfortunate and unforeseen last game for Jim Tressel as Ohio State’s head coach.
I am willing to cut Ohio State’s kickoff returners some slack, as the new rules for fair catching a kickoff make it more likely for a team’s returner to not attempt a return. That being said, Ohio State has so many highly-recruited athletes that it is puzzling the Buckeyes have not found a consistent returner in nearly a decade. And that leads to...
3. Can Parker Fleming regain the faith of the fans?
Fleming was recently the recipient of a two-year contract extension. The aforementioned fake punt that was not called against Michigan was not the only blemish on Fleming in 2022. Ohio State was going to try for a fake punt versus Georgia in The Peach Bowl, but Georgia called a timeout to snuff it out. Ohio State was actually fortunate, as they have 12 men on the field.
Late in the game at Maryland game, Ohio State had a PAT blocked that was returned for two points. Ohio State won the game, but these type of mistakes have led Ohio State fans to openly question how effective Fleming is at directing the special teams units.
If Urban Meyers special teams coach failed 3 fake punts, continued 12 men on the field, awful kick coverage, and no return game . A body would be missing— Official Ohio State DG (@DylanEveryday) February 15, 2023
PARKER IS THE BILL DAVIS OF THE RYAN DAY ERA