Spring football concluded for the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday after the annual Spring Game went final, with Team Gray (Defense) coming out on top over Team Scarlet (Offense) 40-31. The Buckeyes took a while to get going offensively, and the rhythm they found was later in the day as the defense dominated much of the first half.
In front of a record crowd for an Ohio State Spring Game of 75,422 people in attendance, the Buckeye fans were treated to some explosive plays and a defense flying all over the field. One of the more exciting moments was Chip Trayanum’s touchdown, which got Team Scarlet their first TD of the day. Freshman receiver Carnell Tate also showed he was not your average freshman with his touchdown later in the game.
Despite, the few individual moments of brilliance by offensive players, the defense was dominant for the majority of the day. The defensive line created issues, the linebackers flowed well, and the secondary seemed much more comfortable in Jim Knowles’ scheme in year two.
The question that arises — and one that won’t be answered until the Buckeyes play a real opponent — was the defense dominant because the offensive line was not ready and the inexperienced quarterback play was apparent? There were questions answered, but after the spring, Ohio State is still a long way away from being where it needs to be to compete for a title.
The offensive side of the football should not raise cause for concern despite a pedestrian showing. Junior quarterback Kyle McCord was sharp in his progressions, but overall did not wow spectators with his performance. The injuries to the receivers opened up some opportunities for younger guys who did step up with some huge second half plays, but the overall feel was Ohio State’s offense struggled.
In the first half, they only managed 10 points, and outside of a few big plays never found consistent ability in sustaining drives. It felt like having Miyan Williams playing touch football was disadvantageous to the ones offense, forcing a lot of unmanageable second and third downs. The Buckeyes struggled in pass protection, forcing the quarterbacks Kyle McCord and Tristan Gebbia to get rid of the ball quickly.
Overall, the Buckeyes offense wasn’t what we’ve become accustomed to seeing. There is a long way to go, and a few questions that need to be answered were not, leading to more questions as we head into the summer.
Quarterback battle far from over
The first takeaway is the fact the quarterback battle is far from over. McCord had an opportunity with Devin Brown out with a finger injury to run away with the job in the eyes of the Buckeye faithful. He showed flashes, like the 37-yard touchdown pass to freshman receiver Tate, and he showed comfort in moving through his progressions to find the correct receiver when given time.
These moments were not enough to lock up the starting spot, and were not even enough to win over a crowd that long presumed he was the front runner. Day in the post game presser aired the same thoughts he’s had the entire spring — there were sparks, but overall the quarterbacks lacked the consistency he is looking for.
The 6th-year senior Gebbia had some nice moments, but definitely looked the part of a back up quarterback. He was apart of arguably the most exciting play of the day to freshman receiver Noah Rogers.
More Chip Trayanum than many expect coming in 2023
Where the quarterbacks didn’t play consistently, Trayanum was a spring game star. Carrying 235 pounds of weight, he out-ran the entire defense for Ohio State’s first touchdown. His explosiveness and comfortability in Ohio State’s stretch and outside zone schemes made him incredibly dangerous. Combining that feel with a rare size and burst, many defenders were making spring business decisions.
Being unable to get a read on Miyan Williams with him being non-contact, he looked healthy, and had a bit of burst at the line of scrimmage. This led to Traynum being the lead back on the day in a relatively direct matchup against Dallan Hayden. Hayden was not bad by any means, but there was just different level of explosiveness from Trayanum.
With that size, speed, and skillset, even with Treveyon Henderson and Williams healthy, it’ll be hard to not get Trayanum his touches.
Freshman receivers will have an impact this year
This will be a short section, but this has been a common talking point on the Buck Off Podcast. The incoming freshman receiver class at Ohio State is built different, which was incredibly evident on Saturday.
The Buckeyes had two true freshman early enrollees score two long touchdowns. The first of the two was a long fade ball to Carnell Tate for 37-yard score. The play was a well run route to create separation and a well placed ball by McCord to give the Buckeyes their first passing touchdown of the day.
The most incredible play of the day though was Noah Rogers taking a slant to the house on this RPO concept. Gebbia is doing a half-field read. Once the linebackers commit to the run, he knows the back side slant has off-man coverage. Rogers catches the ball, breaks a bunch of tackles, and has one of the most memorable spring game touchdowns in recent memory.
If this is any evidence for future production, buy stock in this freshman class of receivers because they will be on the field making these plays against opponents before you know it.
Noah Rogers is a true freshman who has been in college for all of three and a half months.— Chris Renne (@ChrisRenneCFB) April 17, 2023
He should not be doing this. This freshmen receiver class is crazy. pic.twitter.com/ezjaeQVPhy
The offensive line is not close
There should be no expectation that the offensive line would be a finished product at this point. The group will have three new starters with two competitions very much still in full swing. Not to mention, Ohio State’s defensive line has the talent to be one of the best units in the country. This was not a recipe for success on Saturday.
The first unit struggled to get consistent push in the run game, especially in short yardage, and the first unit of pass-rushers racked up early points for Team Gray, getting a few sacks. It could have been worse, but the offensive line has a long way to go until they are game ready.
The bright side is for a true sophomore Carson Hinzmann held his own, and left tackle Josh Fryar did not look lost on that side despite playing against two of the more talented, veteran defensive linemen in the country. Justin Frye has decisions to make, and until the Buckeyes play somebody else, it will be hard for us to get a real feel of how good this group can be.
Ryan Day said the defense was vanilla on Saturday and they stayed away from blitzing. A huge reason for that is so they can evaluate the players on individual responsibility in a more clear manner.
The Corners got their hands on a lot of footballs
Denzel Burke had his confidence back. He was locked in early, making multiple plays on the football and giving little room for receivers to breathe. The health of Jordan Hancock was a site to see, and the Buckeyes looked significantly deeper. The addition of Davison Igbinosun has not only created competition in the room, but has brought the best in himself and his fellow corner mates.
Looking at the game as a whole, there were a few big plays the defense would like to have back, but the overall feel of the game was that the corners were much more comfortable in the techniques required to play in Knowles’ defense. The group was also whole and healthy, which gave the Buckeyes a ton of depth — something that wasn’t the case at this time last season.
Defensive line made it hard to evaluate offensive line
The defensive line has so much talent. The names include J.T. Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Kenyatta Jackson Jr., Mike Hall, Ty Hamilton, and Tyliek Williams. This group had their way with the offensive line, making plays at and behind the line of scrimmage. They were responsible for the early points the defense scored on that side.
The older guys took care of business with sacks early. They also showed a consistency in the run game that shows a point of emphasis this offseason was emphasizing the line of scrimmage. After the way last season ended, this group will define 2023’s level of success.
Last year, the defensive line had dominant stretches, but never maintained a dominant level for extended periods of time. With the current level of talent emerging behind the starting four, the step back in upside will be significantly less than in previous years, and the recent work Larry Johnson did on the recruiting trail is starting to rear its head. Jackson is next in line, and if his classmates can develop with him, this defensive line can be scary.
Young linebackers shined, but showed they’re still raw
C.J. Hicks got to start due to the spring injury to Steele Chambers, and Reid Carrico played a ton of snaps. These two young backers probably won’t carve out a consistent role with both Tommy Eichenberg and Chambers likely being healthy in the fall, but they showed that the development process is in the works.
Hicks made some plays in the passing game that flashed his athleticism, even almost coming up with a pick. And after Carrico got run over to start a series, he showed he has sideline to sideline linebacker ability. This group would not be complete without talking about Sonny Styles, who is not a linebacker, but will definitely play in certain packages.
Styles is the ideal player in Knowles’ defense to be utilized in a variety of ways. This group will not be asked to do a lot this year, but showed they have the makeup for future success. Much like the rest of the defense, this was an impressive showing form the group.
Spring is now concluded. The rest of the week will be filled with conversations about what the spring game can tell us about the Buckeyes this fall. Ohio State is now on to the next steps, with a quarterback competition, an offensive line that has a ways to go, a defense that looks to have gotten comfortable in Knowles’ scheme and young group of receivers that will fuel the rest of the Big Ten with future nightmares.
Overall, Ohio State is a college football team who lost a No. 1 overall pick at the quarterback position and multiple first round pick scattered across the rest of the roster. They were never going to be a finished product after 15 practices, but there were enough positives to fully believe that the Buckeyes will get this figured out.
The competitions will drive the remainder of the offseason, but the Buckeyes look like they’re going to take another step forward defensively. If they can answer the offensive line questions and the most deserving quarterback wins the job, this team will have a national championship ceiling.