Ohio State concluded spring practice with the spring game on April 15. After the end of the 15 practices, Ohio State’s coaches realized and recognized that there were still areas on the team that needed additional depth, and took advantage of the spring transfer portal that opened on April 15 and closed on April 30.
New transfer portal player additions were made with Notre Dame cornerback Lorenzo Styles Jr., San Diego State offensive tackle Josh Simmons, and Ole Miss defensive lineman Tywone Malone. Styles, Simmons, and Malone are part of a group that includes other transfers who participated in spring football. Those players were cornerback Davison Igbinosun, safety Ja’Had Carter, offensive lineman Victor Cutler Jr., quarterback Tristan Gebbia and long snapper John Ferlmann.
It is against this backdrop, and this week’s theme of #UnrealisticExpectations, that I ask the question: Will Ohio State fans be expecting too much of the new transfer portal additions? Below I break down three specific position groups, based on projected impact.
- Offensive Line
If there was an area that was a concern prior to the end of spring football, and one that was amplified in its concern during the spring game, the offensive line would be it for Ohio State fans, and probably, its coaches. Losing three starters from the 2022 team made finding replacements a high priority, and based upon the additions of Josh Simmons and Victor Cutler Jr., something that the coaching staff believes that they have effectively addressed.
Will Josh Simmons make an immediate impact? Simmons was recruited out of high school by Justin Frye, and is coming off a year at San Diego State that saw him start at right tackle. While Simmons will need to compete for the job versus Tegra Tshabola and Zen Michalski, it is possible that Simmons could emerge as the new starter at that position.
Could Josh Simmons be moved to left tackle? I ask that question as Simmons performed better in pass protection than run blocking while playing for San Diego State at right tackle. Perhaps the coaching staff will move Josh Fryar from left tackle to right tackle, and put Simmons in the critical left tackle spot that will be protecting the Ohio State quarterbacks’ collective blind sides.
As for Cutler Jr., the initial thoughts by Ohio State fans were when he announced his transfer was that he would be involved in the center position. While Cutler is still competing against Carson Hinzman for the starting spot, it is possible that Cutler is going to be more of a crucial depth player at both center and guard, in the event a projected starter is injured. Think about the kind of role that Enokk Vimahi plays along the Ohio State offensive line, and that is a possibility for the role Victor Cutler, Jr. may have this season.
My verdict on the #UnrealisticExpectations for Simmons and Cutler: No reason to be unrealistic, especially for Cutler. I can see the expectations for Simmons to be high, but they will veer into the unrealistic area if Simmons is moved to left tackle during fall camp.
2. The Secondary
Davison Igbinosun and Ja’Had Carter enrolled at Ohio State in January, and fully participated in spring practices. Both were starters at their previous schools before they became Buckeyes. Lorenzo Styles Jr. began spring practice at Notre Dame, before entering the spring transfer portal window.
My verdict on the #UnrealisticExpectations for Igbinosun, Carter, and Styles: Again, no reason to be unrealistic. Yes, Igbinosun has impressive physical traits, and showed Ohio State fans an aggressive and physical style of play in the spring game, but keep in mind — Denzel Burke is a projected starter at one cornerback, while Jordan Hancock seems to have conquered the injury bug that impacted him so much in 2022. Igbinosun will play a great deal, but he may not be a starter when the 2023 season begins.
As for Carter, spring football was going well for him, until he suffered a knee injury that kept Carter out of the spring game. While Ryan Day has reassured the beat reporters and fans that Carter will be fine, the reality is that Ohio State returns several players at the safety position, in Lathan Ransom, Josh Proctor, and Sonny Styles, among others. In other words, look for Carter to be in the rotation, but perhaps not as a starter.
Styles Jr. was a wide receiver the last few years at Notre Dame. As a matter of fact, the reason why Styles chose Notre Dame instead of Ohio State out of high school was because Ohio State wanted him to play defensive back, instead of wide receiver. It was after Notre Dame moved Styles to defensive back that Styles made the decision to enter the portal and become a Buckeye.
Styles last played defensive back in high school. While the talent is certainly there, missing out on spring football will put him behind the other cornerbacks on the roster. It will not surprise me if Styles is redshirted in 2023, with the intentions of trying to get him more into the cornerback rotation more in 2024.
3. Defensive Line
Tywone Malone was the most recent of the transfer portal additions. Formerly recruited out of high school by Ohio State, Malone will be a welcome addition to the interior defensive line group.
My verdict on the #UnrealisticExpectations for Malone: Ohio State returns projected starters Mike Hall Jr. and Tyliek Williams on the interior, as well as Ty Hamilton, Jaden McKenzie, and Hero Kanu. Malone should be in the rotation, but may not play as much as some of the players listed here.
In the field of #UnrealisticExpectations, it is my belief that these 2023 transfer portal additions to the roster will be more of minimizing depth concerns at key areas on the team for the 2023 season. Josh Simmons and Davison Igbinosun seem the likeliest to have substantial roles this upcoming season. Perhaps the 2024 season will see more of them playing starting roles at their respective position groups.