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Bold Predictions: “Put me in, coach”

There is no substitute for better substitution this coming season.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Media Day Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about making predictions that may or may not be reasonable, in fact, some might say they are bold. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”Bold Predictions” articles here.

“The bold enterprises are the successful ones. Take counsel of hopes rather than of fears to win in this business...” ~ Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States.

Spoken like a true Buckeye, President Hayes. Born in Delaware, Ohio, Hayes’ words of advice will be readily welcomed by Ohio State fans, and hopefully, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day.

Throughout the 2022 season, Ryan Day would keep starters such as quarterback C.J. Stroud in games, despite the many occasions when Ohio State had the game well in hand. Eventually, backup players would be inserted into the game, albeit late. A common practice coach Day would use, especially on the offensive side of the ball, would be for quarterback Kyle McCord to simply hand the ball off, versus actually throwing some passes. This only added to the frustration of fans, such as myself.

While my prediction for better player substitution may not be as bold as blocking six or more kicks in 2023, I do believe that Ohio State will be rotating more players throughout games this upcoming season. I also believe that it is not only going to be a matter relative to their opposition, as the Buckeyes have several games where they will be substantially favored by the oddsmakers. Below are three reasons why the Buckeyes are going to be better with their player rotation in 2023...

  1. Threat of injury

You are probably thinking, “Minnich, that’s not a new concern! Injuries have been and will always be a concern!”. True, but think about last season, especially at the running back position. Evan Pryor missed the entire season, TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams both battled injuries all season. By the time of the Michigan game, Ohio State was using Chip Trayanum at running back in their biggest game of the year.

After going through a season like 2022, where key players were missing games due to injury, don’t you think the coaching staff will be more likely to rest the starters after the game is no longer in doubt? Instead of waiting until only the five minute mark in the 4th quarter, and holding a sizable lead, perhaps those starters will be pulled mid-3rd quarter. Perhaps Ohio State fans will get to see the backup quarterback do more than just hand the ball off.

And that leads me to another key point to consider...

2. Transfer portal

Again, you are probably thinking, “Minnich, that’s not a new concern!”. Again, this is true. But the reality is that Ryan Day recognizes that players today are more apt to enter the transfer portal than even a couple seasons ago, and that meaningful playing time is a crucial ingredient to maintaining the strength of the roster.

Everyone knows that Ohio State will have a new starting quarterback in 2023, and the favorite going into fall camp is Kyle McCord. Devin Brown is also in the mix, but missed the latter portion of spring practice due to an injury on his right pinky finger that required surgery. When asked about the quarterback competition at the 2023 Big Ten Media Days, Coach Day said,

“This one’s close. These guys are going to continue to battle. Kyle wants to be the starter. That’s why he hung around for three years, and Devin came to play as well. They have to do a great job of competing. We need that room to be great. This is one of the first times we have depth in that room.”

Does that read to you like the kind of situation where the backup is not going to be seeing some appreciable playing time? Would Ryan Day truly jeopardize the depth of the quarterback room by not giving the backup opportunities to do more than just hand the ball off with five minutes left in the game? And that leads me to my third point...

3. The 2024 NFL Draft

The early projections for the 2024 NFL Draft have several Buckeyes being selected, with many of the players underclassmen giving up their eligibility. An example is quarterback Kyle McCord. If McCord were to have a tremendous 2023 season, like the Ohio State coaching staff and fans are hoping, who’s to say that he does not declare for the 2024 NFL Draft? That situation is essentially what transpired after the 2018 season with the late Dwayne Haskins.

Against that backdrop of the 2024 NFL Draft, knowing a sizable portion of highly-talented players may be leaving, and a newly-configured divisionless Big Ten with USC and UCLA added, as well as a 12 team College Football Playoff on the horizon for the 2024 season, it certainly makes sense that getting as many players on the 2023 roster experience for 2024 a priority.

I realize that the 2023 season has not even begun, but Ryan Day and the coaching staff have to contemplate what the roster for 2024 and beyond will look like, and getting backup players into games in 2023 is a terrific start.