We are now just a few weeks away from the start of the college football season. Ohio State is in the midst of their preseason camp as they prepare for their first game of the season against Indiana on September 2. Even though the Buckeyes just checked at the third spot in the first AP Top-25 rankings of the 2023 season, there are still a number of questions that Ohio State fans are itching for answers heading into the opener.
Unlike the NFL, it can be a lot harder to get a read on some of the position battles in college football. Even though NFL preseason games are rather meaningless, you can at least get an idea on who is making moves on the depth chart depending on how much they are used and also how they perform when their numbers are called. Also, NFL preseason camps have a lot more open practices than you’ll see from a college football team, so it’s easier to see who is trending up.
Today we want to know what position battle you are most interested in heading into Ohio State’s season. This year there certainly aren’t any shortages of questions still remaining to be answered for the Buckeyes. Who is going to replace C.J. Stroud at quarterback? What will the offensive line look like? Has anyone stepped up in the secondary to claim a starting spot? What will usage at running back look like? These are all questions that Ryan Day and his staff are working towards finding answers for.
Today’s question: What position battle is most interesting heading into Ohio State’s 2023 season?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Offensive line
Not only will Ohio State have to break in a new starter at quarterback after C.J. Stroud moved on to the NFL, but they’ll also have to find three new starters on the offensive line. Along with Stroud, Paris Johnson Jr., Dawand Jones, and Luke Wypler are currently all in NFL training camps. There are a couple of obvious choices for starting spots on the line, as left guard Donovan Jackson and right guard Matthew Jones will be looked at as the leaders of the line because of their experience.
After Jackson and Jones, things get a little tougher to get a read on. Ohio State was active in the transfer portal when it comes to the offensive line, bringing in Josh Simmons from San Diego State, and Vic Cutler from UL-Monroe during the offseason. There have been great reviews on what Simmons has done since arriving in Columbus, while Cutler will be very important because of his ability to play multiple spots on the line.
It sounds like Carson Hinzmann is the favorite to take over at the center position. Hinzmann has earned the inside track to the starting position with his performance in spring ball and preseason camp. While it’s impossible to create an atmosphere like what Hinzmann will see in an actual college football game, the coaching staff needs to make sure he is ready for the pressures that come with playing center. Doing it in practice is one thing, doing it in an atmosphere like South Bend at the end of September is a whole different animal.
Luckily for Ohio State, they have one of the best offensive line coaches in the country, as well as some highly-rated talent. There’s not a question about if the Buckeyes have offensive linemen that can protect Kyle McCord or Devin Brown, it’s just how they are going to fit best on the offensive line to fully maximize not only the winner of the starting quarterback battle but also to open up holes for TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams.
Matt’s answer: Safeties
Honestly, Brett stole my answer. Not only is it an incredibly important position group, but with so many 2022 starters now off to the next level and a ton of unproven guys in the mix, there is a lot of intrigue on the offensive line. But, since that has been claimed, I’m going to jump over to the other side of the ball and go with the safeties.
While the cornerbacks were likely the biggest issue on the defense last year, the entire secondary was suspect, so it is interesting to see that there is likely going to be a whole lot of turnover at the safety position. Throughout the spring we kept hearing about how good Josh Proctor looked after being the Game 1 starter last season, only to be benched by halftime. The assumption was also that Cam Martinez would be a starter in the Nickle/Slot position as well, given all of his years in the system.
However, on the first day of fall camp, those two guys were not running with returning strong safety starter Lathan Ransom and the 1s. Instead, it was 18-year-old sophomore Sonny Styles at Nickle and Syracuse transfer Ja’Had Carter at free safety. I imagine that Martinez and Kye Stokes will get a decent amount of run as well, but having a physical freak like Styles on the field alongside a transfer that has never played a regular-season game for the Buckeyes is pretty compelling stuff.
For much of the 2022 season, Ransom was an all-conference-level safety, but as the season wore on, his productivity and reliability waned. Healthy and energized, it appears that he will be the cornerstone of a potentially game-changing unit that has the ability to imbue the defense with an incredibly solid backbone that it hasn’t had in recent years.
So, while — I believe — the starters are essentially set, the way that this camp has worked out at the safety position has been very interesting and very exciting for me.