Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: Which Ohio State position group are you most concerned about?
Jami’s Take: Quarterbacks
I’ve come down pretty hard on the Ohio State secondary (fairly, and with good reason) over the last two seasons, but they showed some real signs of life during Spring football.
After breaking up 10 passes during the 2023 Spring Game, the Ohio State secondary is no longer the thing I’m most concerned about heading into the fall. In fact, the safeties in particular (an area of concern for me heading into the Spring) shone during the matchup. Sophomore safety Sonny Styles broke up two passes, and sophomore safety David Igbinosun, a transfer from Ole Miss, recorded five tackles.
Generally speaking, the safeties were faster and more agile, ready to prevent big plays from the offense. Seeing as this was a huge source of trouble for them last season, it looks like they’re trending in the right direction.
This brings me to my new biggest concern — our quarterbacks.
It’s not that we don’t have several talented options (we do!), but Spring Football didn’t provide indisputable evidence that any of our options stack up to the level of QB play we’ve become accustomed to in Columbus.
For starters, we don’t actually know who our starter will be! We saw two QBs in the Spring Game — Junior Kyle McCord and Tristan Gebbia, the graduate transfer from Oregon.
McCord threw for 184 yards and a touchdown, while Gebbia went 14-for-24, with 127 yards through the air and a touchdown, for his part.
Our most likely starter will be either McCord or sophomore Devin Brown, who missed the Spring Game after having a procedure done on his hand. But we got a good glimpse of McCord a few weeks ago, and it left me wanting more.
Ryan Day himself said the Spring Game was a pretty good indication of where McCord is at, so it feels like a fair lens through which to evaluate him. And the good news is there were some very strong moments! He connected well with receivers and showed a few signs of life.
The bad news is it was nowhere near the level of quarterback play we’ve come to know and expect from the Buckeyes, and QB1 will have massive shoes to fill come fall. C.J. Stroud was a two-time Heisman finalist, just went as the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft, and is considered one of OSU’s all-time greats.
Neither McCord nor Brown, thus far, have shown us that same magic touch. These are two very solid quarterbacks. But they’re not two-time Heisman-finalist solid.
Realistically, you can fake it til you make it in some positions, but you can’t do that at quarterback unless you have a near-professional caliber offensive line (i.e. Georgia in 2022). Our offensive line looked sluggish and slow-developing at many points throughout the Spring Game, meaning the Buckeyes likely won’t be able to get away with mediocrity at quarterback.
Mediocre feels a bit harsh a description of McCord, but the point is, if he’s still one of the heavy favorites to start, we need to see marked improvements at QB between now and August.
My biggest concern is actually the leadership requirements of the position itself. He was deeply inconsistent with his decision-making in the Spring Game, and if he’s going to step into the primary leadership role on the field this season, he’ll need to make decisions under pressure with confidence and a steady hand.
It’s also hard to fairly evaluate McCord when we were missing a slew of receivers and running backs due to injury (please football gods, let us not be injury-plagued this season).
But we also saw some major holes in the O-Line, and while that’s not McCord’s fault, if the O-Line isn’t giving him the coverage he needs, we will need a quarterback who can think clearly under pressure and decide how to proceed. The number of “sacks” we saw in the Spring Game (“sacks” in quotes because they weren’t allowed to hit the QB) is cause for concern about McCord’s ability to respond to pressure. Some of that responsibility falls on the O-Line, but at the end of the day, if that line of protection fails, how our QB responds is critical. I’m not convinced McCord can handle it just yet.
Overall, if the quarterbacks can’t even really pull their weight against a defense that has struggled to rebuild itself, it raises some questions about how they will perform against top competitors this fall. They’ve got to get a grip on the inconsistency, the starter will need to step up as a leader, and something is going to have to snap into place.
When you consider OSU’s offense has operated like a well-oiled machine for the past few seasons, the offensive breakdown we saw during the Spring Game is cause for concern about the caliber of talent we have at the quarterback position and whether they can keep the offense on track in high-stakes settings.
Matt’s Take: Offensive Line
Look, it brings me no joy to have to continually talk about how bad the offensive line situation is for the Buckeyes. I was really hoping Jami was going to take this position group so that I could spin something up where I threw cold water on something... anything other than the o-line.
But, alas, we are back here. My colleague Gene Ross broke down the recruiting failures that have led the Buckeye offensive line to the position that it currently finds itself in, but it’s more than just that. The unit is suffering from a lack of development from the previous regime and a couple of bad decisions by upperclassmen who opted to forgo further eligibility in favor of the NFL Draft.
At this point, it looks like Josh Fryar is locked in as the starter at left tackle (although that could change) and Donovan Jackson is at one of the guard positions — unless Justin Frye decides to move him to right tackle — with Matthew Jones getting the start opposite him. From there, it seems like everything else is up in the air without a ton of great options.
Zen Michalski and Tegra Tshabola come out of the spring as the contenders for the right tackle position, but OSU recently added San Diego State transfer Josh Simmons. While he has started double-digit games in his career and has three seasons of eligibility remaining, he also accounted for 17 penalties in 2022, and Pro Football Focus had him graded lower than any player on Ohio State’s offense. So, while the former four-star prospect has potential, he is far from an easy plug-and-play guy.
At center, you’ve got fourth-year player Jakob James who missed the spring due to a shoulder injury, allowing second-year lineman Carson Hinzman to take most of the first-team reps. Hinzman was also joined in the rotation by Louisiana-Monroe transfer Vic Cutler, who still needs to work his way into shape to compete in the Big Ten.
None of this is especially encouraging. I have faith in Frye to get players in the best position possible to compete, but more so than practically any other position on the football field, offensive line requires time for players to develop, both physically and mentally. When Frye took over for Greg Studrawa, the cupboard was incredibly bare, especially in terms of young players, so it’s going to take some time for him to get his own guys into the room and coach them up.
It would have been a completely different situation for the Buckeyes had Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler decided to remain in Columbus for another year. That would probably would have meant that Fryar and Dawand Jones would have been the tackles, Matt Jones and Jackson would be at guard, with Wypler at center. That is a pretty solid, while not great, offensive line. But, considering that the Buckeyes are going to need to protect a first-time starting quarterback, it would have been a much better situation than what McCord or Brown will have to play behind this fall.
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
This poll is closed
Matt: Offensive Line