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Ohio State spring game takeaways: Ryan Day’s offense has a long way to go



Ohio State spring game takeaways: Ryan Day's offense has a long way to go

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The joy of school soccer’s first nationally televised spring recreation radiated via Ohio Stadium lengthy earlier than kickoff on Saturday afternoon. There have been rigorously curated tunes being spun by an on-field DJ and droves of recruits shaking arms with the Buckeyes’ coaches. There was a pep discuss from FOX Sports activities analyst Joel Klatt on the video screens and scores of high-profile alumni roaming the sidelines.

Greater than 80,000 followers flocked to The Horseshoe for his or her first glimpse of a extremely anticipated workforce in a extremely anticipated season for head coach Ryan Day, who cannot afford many slip-ups — if any — after dropping to Michigan three consecutive years. The message Day shared with Klatt throughout a pre-game interview was prescient: This season is all about “beating the workforce up north and profitable a nationwide championship.”

At first blush, the items is perhaps there for the Buckeyes to make that sort of run. Saturday’s spring recreation, which pitted the offense towards the protection and used a modified scoring system, turned a showcase for Ohio State’s super depth on the talent positions and general expertise on protection. That the primary stringers could not be tackled — a call made by Day and his employees — did little to quell the joy in Columbus.

The afternoon ended as a 34-33 victory for the Scarlet (offense) over the Grey (protection), however the ultimate rating was hardly an correct reflection of what unfolded. This 12 months’s spring recreation belonged to the protection so long as the primary and second items have been on the sector. The offense nonetheless has a method to go and one other quarterback competitors to settle. 

Listed below are three takeaways from the sport: 

Quarterback roulette 

At the same time as kickoff for Saturday’s spring recreation approached, there was a layer of uncertainty surrounding which quarterback Day and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly would choose because the starter, albeit on a brief foundation. Wouldn’t it be Will Howard, the high-profile switch from Kansas State? Or wouldn’t it be Devin Brown, probably the most skilled returner and the backup to Kyle McCord final season?

When the offense trotted onto the sector for the opening possession, it was Howard who earned the nod, his 6-foot-4, 237-pound body definitely wanting the a part of a mature and skilled signal-caller. Brown, sophomore Lincoln Kienholz and true freshman Julian Sayin additionally took reps with the primary unit as Kelly rolled his personnel all through the sport. 

Ohio State soccer spring recreation highlights

Ohio State football spring game highlights

On a day when the offense struggled, Brown produced the primary landing on a cross to huge receiver Brennen Schramm with 1:33 remaining within the second quarter. The connection gave Ohio State’s offense a 1-point lead over the protection in a modified scoring format. Brown additionally added a number of good features together with his legs on quarterback runs, a component of the offense Day says he plans to include no matter who wins the job, and gained 24 yards on the bottom. 

Howard’s finest second got here on a deep throw to huge receiver Emeka Egbuka, who punctuated his nook route with an exquisite one-handed seize that drew an audible gasp from the group. The completion gave Ohio State’s offense the ball close to the 20-yard line, however three subsequent throws by Howard into the top zone fell incomplete: two to star freshman Jeremiah Smith, one to Egbuka. 

“I wouldn’t say that I’m gonna make any declarations proper now,” Day mentioned when requested concerning the beginning job. “However we’ll take a look at the movie and see what it appears to be like like. After which, you already know, determine the place to go from there. However I don’t have a lot to say about it proper now.”

This is how every quarterback carried out: 

  • Howard — 9-of-13 for 77 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
  • Brown — 5-of-7 for 66 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs
  • Kienholz — 10-of-17 for 71 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs
  • Sayin — 9-of-15 for 77 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT

Ohio State’s Will Howard hyperlinks up with Emeka Egbuka who makes a RIDICULOUS one-handed seize

Ohio State's Will Howard links up with Emeka Egbuka who makes a RIDICULOUS one-handed grab

Dominant protection

One of many greatest storylines from Ohio State’s offseason was the super participant retention by Day and his employees, particularly on the defensive aspect of the ball. The collective choices by starters JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Denzel Burke, Tyleik Williams, Ty Hamilton and Lathan Ransom to return for an additional 12 months after ending the 2023 marketing campaign ranked third nationally in complete protection (265.4 yards per recreation) gave coordinator Jim Knowles a nucleus that’s among the many most gifted in faculty soccer. It is the rationale the Buckeyes’ protection has reportedly outperformed the offense throughout the workforce’s 15 spring practices.

“While you take a look at our protection,” Day mentioned, “whenever you take a look at the again finish, you take a look at the entrance after which these linebackers, I imply, it is a handsome group. And also you noticed that each one spring. They’re flying round, they’re getting it. They usually all wish to play extra and exhibit on this recreation.”

That pattern held true once more on Saturday because the protection compelled turnover after turnover and disrupted drive after drive when the Buckeyes’ main quarterbacks and most skilled personnel have been on the sector. Knowles’ third-down blitz package deal proved notably disruptive towards an Ohio State offensive line that solely misplaced one starter — proper guard Matt Jones — however was underwhelming for many of final season. In Tuimoloau and Sawyer, the Buckeyes have two established Massive Ten edge rushers. In linebackers Cody Simon, C.J. Hicks and Sonny Types, who transformed from security, Knowles has extra athleticism and velocity in the course of the sector.

All of which made life simpler for a secondary that snared three interceptions via the primary three quarters — at which level all main contributors have been eliminated — and tallied six further cross breakups. The spotlight of the afternoon got here from security Jaylen McClain, who picked off Sayin and returned the interception for a landing with a prolonged run down the left sideline.  

“I feel it is turn out to be an expectation now,” Knowles mentioned. “Our DBs (defensive backs), you already know, are BIA: Finest In America.”

It wasn’t till the again half of the third quarter that Ohio State’s offense lastly chugged to life and took the lead. However by that time, the gamers on the sector have been largely reserves and underclassmen.

Affect freshman

There was a motive why, through the early signing interval, Day feigned a collapse whereas addressing the native media for his annual information convention to debate the incoming recruits. In actual time, Day had simply been knowledgeable that huge receiver Jeremiah Smith, the No. 1 general prospect within the 247Sports Composite Rankings, had dedicated to Ohio State after last-minute pushes from different suitors. 

At 6-foot-3 and 215 kilos, and with a mixture of velocity, agility and physique management that might make among the finest receivers in faculty soccer jealous, Smith arrived at Ohio State with a status as arguably one of the best prospect at his place in almost 20 years. The participant most frequently talked about as Smith’s competitors for that honor is former Alabama star Julio Jones, a five-star prospect from the 2008 recruiting cycle.

The departures of huge receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. (NFL Draft) and Julian Fleming (Penn State) left loads of reps out there for the returners in a stacked receiving corps to say. Egbuka ought to elevate to the No. 1 function after catching 41 passes for 515 yards and 4 touchdowns in an injury-shortened marketing campaign final season, with rising sophomore Carnell Tate (18 catches, 264 yards, 1 TD) supporting him. And Smith does not appear far behind. 

“I feel that huge receiver room is admittedly particular,” Kelly mentioned. “I feel there is a bunch of men in there. And once more, when it’s important to play a number of video games after the common season is over, you are gonna want depth like that. And the truth that you’re feeling somewhat bit snug proper now, that we have some guys that may make some performs on the perimeter, [is a good sign]. And that actually dictates how persons are going to defend you.”

Lower than 1 / 4 elapsed earlier than Smith was taking reps with the first-string offense on Saturday, and the breadth of his talent set was readily obvious. He made a sure-handed catch with the defender in his air house and stretched the sector vertically with quickness and aerial means, even when the passes fell incomplete. He carried the ball on an finish round and tried his hand returning punts. 

The hype, it appears, is actual. 

 Michael Cohen covers faculty soccer and basketball for FOX Sports activities with an emphasis on the Massive Ten. Observe him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.

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