Now that the dust has settled from the fallout of Kyle McCord’s decision to leave Columbus, thoughts turn to the upcoming season and what the offense might look like given the current quarterback room. Clearly Will Howard would not have committed to Ohio State out of the transfer portal without a good feeling about starting in 2024, as the former Kansas State Wildcat has only one season of eligibility remaining.
Howard will battle with Devin Brown, Lincoln Kienholz, and incoming freshman Air Noland for the right to lead the Buckeyes on offense. He’ll likely arrive with plenty of confidence. After all, he has a lot more snaps of live game action under his belt than the entirety of his competition. He attempted 357 passes last season alone, which is 307 more than Brown and Kienholz combined for in their careers, and of course Noland has yet to take a collegiate snap.
While Howard’s 2023 numbers don’t compare favorably to McCord’s, the two signal callers were pretty close and McCord was surrounded with far more riches on offense than Howard was. It’s not unreasonable to assume the passing game won’t look too much different for Ohio State in 2024. The Buckeyes will still take their shots downfield and run both inside and outside routes to keep the defense off balance. There will still likely be plenty of maddeningly ineffective wide receiver screens, too.
The big difference in what Day calls on offense will be that Howard will likely be asked to use his legs. That’ll mean more run-pass options and zone reads to utilize Howard’s ability to run. He’s not only a big kid at 6-foot-5 and just a tick over 240 pounds, but he can also move. I figure Howard and Brown are universal fits in the same kind of offense, while Kienholz is more of a pocket passer type of quarterback.
Howard will have more designed runs or options to run than McCord, but he’ll also be more likely to scramble if the play breaks down than McCord was, and he’ll have the green light to do that. Day will want him to keep his eyes downfield as long as possible, but Howard will be able to keep plays alive with his legs and also won’t be afraid to tuck and run — and he’s got the experience to know when to do that.
The offense shouldn’t look drastically different with Howard at the helm, assuming he beats out the competition in camp for the job. There will merely be more yards there on the ground for the quarterback. That’s a good thing, as it should make for more positive results when plays break down, but also it will help keep defenses a bit more off balance. To account for quarterback runs, it could open up more deep throws, and the Buckeyes can lean on the run with a bit more variety if teams keep their safeties deep.
The most interesting thing will be to see what kind of routes get called repeatedly, as that’ll be an indicator of what Howard is most comfortable throwing, especially on critical downs.
There were other quarterbacks in the portal that many Ohio State fans wanted more than Howard, but his skill set might be what the Buckeyes need. Here’s a look at what he can do: