There is perhaps not a more exciting time of year than when the leaves start changing color, the temperature drops, holiday fever grows stronger, and best of all: football season kicks off. At least in Columbus, football means more than anywhere else. Wake up on Sunday morning, and you’ll quickly know whether or not Saturday was a good day for Ohio State fans.
As with every season, going undefeated, winning the Big Ten, and competing for National Championships as a College Football Playoff team is the only reasonable standard, and people expect nothing less. The bar is set high. The hype and buildup around Ohio Stadium and the Woody Hayes Athletic Center this fall are uniquely strong, given the past two years' lack of success against Michigan.
All eyes are on Ryan Day as he looks to avoid going 1-3 against Jim Harbaugh in The Game this November. Meanwhile, more eyes have been set on the Ohio State offense, as they are staring down at what may be one of the better offenses the Buckeyes have had in a very long time.
That being said, let’s examine the current offensive depth chart as we draw closer to Week One of the 2023 Season.
- Kyle McCord - Junior
- Devin Brown - Sophomore
- Tristan Gebbia - Senior/Transfer
- Lincoln Kienholz - Freshman
After C.J. Stroud departed for the NFL, it left some big shoes to fill and an immediate battle at the most important position on the field. McCord, meanwhile, carries the most experience, as he sat behind Stroud for two seasons and played sparingly in games where the scoreboard indicated a blowout.
A five-star recruit out of New Jersey, McCord certainly has plenty of potential and talent on his side — although, as of right now, there's hardly any meaningful playing time to speak of. He brings a very pass-heavy approach with decent rushing mobility. Accuracy will be his biggest question mark, but make no mistake: that may not be too much of an issue considering Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming, and Cade Stover are only a small handful of the many delicious appetizers lined up at skill positions.
While McCord would appear to be the next in line, Devin Brown is certainly not a name to look over either. A highly coveted four-star recruit out of high school, there has always been speculation that Brown could eventually one day start. Known for throwing on the move and having great rushing ability, Brown may very well mimic the mobile quarterbacks from years past. The bigger question is if his passing game has matured enough to be considered startable.
Like McCord, having the best weapons and receiving cast in the country by a large margin doesn’t hurt. If the first guy somehow (barring a surprising development) doesn’t translate his star rating to star numbers on the field, Brown will undoubtedly get the nod and play off a relatively shorter leash on McCord.
Tristan Gebbia slots in as the third-string after spending four years at Oregon State. He should provide solid depth behind McCord and Brown in the case of an injury. As for Kienholz, he won’t see any playing time anytime soon unless in massive blowout situations.
All in all, this is to be deemed a good problem and not a bad one. Whoever wins the starting job should do more than well enough to run this offense, helping maintain its very high expectations.
- Miyan Williams - Senior
- TreVeyon Henderson - Junior
- Dallan Hayden - Sophomore
- Chip Trayanum - Junior/Transfer
- Evan Pryor - Sophomore
Only second to Michigan’s running back room in the country, this is an exceptional group of rushers who could pop off at any given moment. Putting all bias aside, it’s really hard to top a tandem such as this one when fully healthy.
Miyan Williams sits at the top of the depth chart as the likely 1A to TreVeyon Henderson’s 1B (or vice versa). Williams is well-built and can bully defenders up the middle and through the gaps. He brings a very physical element to his running style, something that proves to be valuable in great rushing attacks. Playing in place of Henderson sidelined in 2022 was instrumental to William’s pedigree and value to the team.
Henderson, meanwhile, is an extremely talented rusher who has shown flashes of an early-round NFL draft pick. His biggest struggle was staying healthy and being on the field. Last year was a disappointment considering the massive numbers he put up in 2021. Needless to say, everyone knows what he’s capable of, so as long as he stays off the sidelines, the sky is the limit for him and the offense in front of him.
Some sleeper names to keep an eye out for are Dallan Hayden and Evan Pryor.
Hayden filled in for Henderson and Williams in Week 11 on the road versus Maryland, rushing for 146 yards and three touchdowns, immediately making a name for himself for next year’s running back pecking order. And the week prior against Indiana, Hayden rushed for 102 yards and a score. This dude can play, but it's a matter if he’ll receive playing time in 2023.
As for Pryor, he was generating a lot of excitement during the 2022 training camp but unfortunately suffered a season-ending injury. Now healthy heading into 2023, expect Pryor to establish himself down the line when given the chance. Many Buckeye fans like him, and it’d come as no surprise if he worked his way onto the field this season.
- Marvin Harrison Jr. - Junior
- Julian Fleming - Senior
- Ekeka Egbuka - Junior
- Carnell Tate - Freshman
- Jayden Ballard - Sophomore
- Xavier Johnson - Graduate
Others Worth Mentioning
- Kojo Antwi - Sophomore
- Noah Rogers - Freshman
- Brandon Inniss - Freshman
It goes without saying, but this is the best wide receiver room in the country. Possibly not one, not two, but three receivers from this group can be high NFL draft picks next spring.
Marvin Harrison is projected to go top five overall, and his stat line backs that up. Emeka Egbuka, while not quite in the same stratosphere as “Route Man Marv” most definitely is in a tier of his right own now in college football and the likely No. 2 WR in the 2024 NFL Draft right after Harrison Jr. Raking in 1,151 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2022, Egbuka proved to be the 9th best receiver in the country from a statistical perspective.
Julian Fleming isn’t the most talked about receiver on the depth chart, but he displayed strong ability as a third wide receiver behind Harrison Jr. and Egbuka. Going into his senior year, Fleming topped off the 2022 season with 500 yards and six touchdowns. It’s very possible he can push for more in his final season of eligibility.
There are so many quality mouths to feed that it becomes exhaustive to write up on every single one of them. Carnell Tate, a five-star recruit, sits behind Harrison Jr. and is in line to potentially contribute sooner rather than later. Jayden Ballard and Xaxier Johnson both made some noise in specific portions of the year while buried on the depth chart.
Digressing, you can’t go wrong with any of the weapons listed above. It’s more like a next-man-up mentality for Ohio State’s “Wide Receiver U,” who continually churns out the NFL’s best receivers.
- Cade Stover - Senior
- Joe Royer - Junior
- Gee Scott Jr. - Senior
- Jelani Thurman - Freshman
To everyone’s surprise, Cade Stover opted to return for his 5th year of eligibility. While on the field, Stover was consistently establishing his presence in 2022 and is a reliable security blanket for whoever wins outright at quarterback. He was unfortunately injured during the College Football Playoff semifinal versus Georgia, but when healthy, Stover brings an undervalued role to the offense by blocking and spelling the top receiving targets when double-covered.
Joe Royer and Gee Scott Jr. have been around for a minute, mainly sitting behind Stover and playing in garbage time of blowouts. If needed, they’ll be fine backups filling in.
Jelani Thurman, meanwhile, is starring down the barrel of taking over the TE1 spot in 2024. A prized four-star recruit in the class of 2023, expectations are super high for Thurman now and in the future, a name to watch for the long term.
- Left Tackle: Josh Fryar - Senior, George Fitzpatrick - Sophomore
- Left Guard: Donovan Jackson - Junior, Victor Cutler - Grad
- Center: Carson Hinzman - Sophomore, Jakob James - Senior
- Right Guard: Matthew Jones - Grad, Enokk Vimahi- Senior
- Right Tackle: Tegra Tshabola - Freshman, Josh Simmons - Junior
Others Worth Mentioning
- Luke Montgomery. - Freshman
- Austin Siereveld - Freshman
- Joshua Padilla - Freshman
- Toby Wilson - Junior
- Zen Michalski - Junior
With the departures of Paris Johnson Jr., Luke Wyper, and Dawand Jones, the offensive line once again became a question mark. Although not of significant concern, there are several spots along the line needing to be filled. As training camp wears on, clarity has started to emerge.
It seems all but certain at this point that Josh Fryar, Donovan Jackson, and Matthew Jones are penciled in as starters. All three are returnees proving to be key components.
San Diego State transfer Josh Simmons appears to be pulling away and impressing coaches throughout camp thus far, increasing his odds of beating out Tegra Tshabola. Carson Hinzman may very well have an easy path to playing time at center, given the lack of threatening competition behind him. Despite being just a sophomore, Hinzman by far is the best talent under center on the roster.
Luke Montgomery, Austin Siereveld, and other notable prominent underclassmen linemen will be vying for starting roles in 2024, as several guys potentially in Jones, Jackson, and Fryar could all declare for the NFL Draft next spring. Expect them to eventually slide in as starters, but for now, Ohio State boasts of a very solid offensive line unit finally coming together two weeks before kickoff.