Ten things to look for Saturday in Ohio State’s spring football game:
1. The quarterback competition.
We might as well start with the most obvious question. Will it be Kyle McCord or Devin Brown who is the starting quarterback for Ohio State in its opener at Indiana on Sept. 2?
It’s possible Ryan Day already knows who the starter will be. It’s possible he knew who he wanted a year ago.
What’s probably impossible is Day making a quick announcement of who will be the starter. That probably won’t come until late August.
Coaches almost always take a long time to reveal their starting quarterback decision. With the transfer portal, they work even harder at keeping the back-up QB from thinking too much about exploring other opportunities.
McCord and Brown will both get plenty of throws on Saturday. And at least one of the guys who will be the No. 3 quarterback will also get some.
2. C.J. Hicks and Sonny Styles.
Hicks, a linebacker from Kettering Alter, and Styles, a safety from Pickerington Central, were the two 5-star recruits in OSU’s 2022 recruiting class.
But Hicks, ranked as the No. 1 2022 recruit nationally at linebacker by 247sports.com, and Styles, ranked No. 1 overall at his position, got most of their playing time on special teams last season. Styles played 12 snaps against Georgia in a College Football Playoff semifinal and Hicks did not play a non-special teams snap all season.
Both could be looking to make one final spring practice statement for more playing time this season with a big play or two.
3. Who is a freshman who might make an “Oh, wow!” type of play?
When wide receiver Garrett Wilson enrolled early in 2019 he made one of the most memorable plays I’ve seen in 30 years of going to Ohio State spring games when he elevated like an NBA slam dunk contest winner over Sevyn Banks for a touchdown catch.
Carnell Tate, a 4-star wide receiver from IMG Academy who enrolled early in January, might not be in the same level as Wilson, but he might be a guy who could produce an explosive play on Saturday and on some Saturdays in the future.
4. The offensive line.
Finding solid replacements for offensive tackles Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones and center Luke Wypler, who all declared for the the NFL draft, could be the difference between a good season and a great season for OSU.
Because of the limitations on the defense in the spring game, like not being able to hit the quarterback and restricted tackling, it’s not easy to judge offensive linemen. But it’s still something to look for, especially if the defense dominates.
5. How do Ohio State’s transfer portal acquisitions look?
OSU brought in five new player via the transfer portal. Five is not a large number but it’s the most transfers Ryan Day has had as the Buckeyes’ coach.
The two most interesting players to come in through the portal are cornerback Davison Igbinosun, who started 10 games at Ole Miss last season, and safety Ja’had Carter, a three-year starter at Syracuse.
Igbinosun should be on the field Saturday but Carter is questionable after suffering a knee injury in practice.
6. The kickers.
Noah Ruggles is gone after two seasons as Ohio State’s kicker. USC transfer Parker Lewis, who made 26 of 35 field goal attempts in two seasons for the Trojans, and Jake Seibert appear likely to battle it out for the starting job between now and the opener.
7. Dallan Hayden.
The sophomore running back made a big bet on himself when he stayed at Ohio State where he goes into his second season as, at best, the No. 3 man on the running backs depth chart behind TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams, instead of exploring the transfer portal. So he might be a player with something to prove.
Hayden rushed for more than 100 yards in three games last season, including 146 yards on 27 carries against Maryland. But in the Buckeyes’ final two games last season he got only two carries against Michigan and nine against Georgia.
8. Jack Sawyer.
The former 5-star defensive end is from Pickerington North High School, so he never really left home. But position-wise he is going home this season when he will be a full-time defensive end and will not line up in the “jack” position, a combination of a defensive end and a linebacker in Jim Knowles’ defensive scheme.
The hope is that Sawyer, who had 4.5 sacks last season, will be more of a force on defense as strictly a defensive end.
Another reason to watch him Saturday is that he always gets a sack in spring games. He had three of them two years ago and one last year.
9. Denzel Burke.
The third-year cornerback had a big freshman season in 2021 but several injuries set him back last fall. The spring game could provide a clue if he is ready for another big season in 2023 as a junior.
10. Marvin Harrison Jr.
Even if he doesn’t catch a pass, watch Marvin Harrison Jr. Even if he spends the whole day on the sideline, watch Marvin Harrison Jr. He’s a special athlete.