Where does Ohio State's QB battle stand? 6 thoughts after the Buckeyes' spring game (2024)

Ohio State has had one of the best offseasons of any program.

It returned a bulk of its impact juniors, added a strong transfer class led by freshman All-American Caleb Downs and reshaped its coaching staff.

All of it led to a highly-anticipated spring game.

Just over 80,000 people filled Ohio Stadium on Saturday and watched the offense win 34-33, benefitting from a strong second half even with most of its starters on the bench.

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In the midst of a quarterback battle, Will Howard and Devin Brown only played the first half, but each had bright spots. Brown completed 5-of-7 passes with a touchdown. Howard didn’t throw a touchdown but completed 9-of-13 passes.

The defense shined too, showing off its depth and forcing three turnovers.

Here are six thoughts from the spring game, including two 2025 commitments to push the Buckeyes to No. 1 in the country.

GO DEEPERAfter an embarrassing Cotton Bowl loss, Ohio State donors went on a spending spree

1. Up and down day for quarterbacks, but Howard’s best day in front of the media

I’m not sure we saw enough to think there was a separation in the quarterback battle on Saturday. Howard and Brown combined to throw just 20 passes and neither played past the second quarter. I think it’s fair to say this battle isn’t finished unless one of them enters the transfer portal and concedes that way.

Both quarterbacks had good moments. Brown had a nice drive that he capped with a touchdown pass to walk-on receiver Brennen Schramm. His throws were on time and he hit David Adolph on the sideline in a tight window.

I think Howard had a better day, though.

His highlight was this throw to Emeka Egbuka, which was an impressive catch, to say the least. The thing I really liked about the throw was Howard’s pocket awareness.

Emeka Egbuka 👀👀👀 pic.twitter.com/NvU8J34o54

— Barstool Ohio State (@BarstoolOSU) April 13, 2024

Tegra Tshabola, who is playing right guard here, comes around on a pull and just whiffs on J.T. Tuimoloau. Howard does a nice job of stepping to his left and buying just enough time to get the ball off and put it in a nice window.

It showcased two of Howard’s strengths: experience and pocket awareness.

Day has praised Howard for those qualities already this spring and Howard has looked more comfortable as spring went on.

“That’s something that is difficult to teach that your eyes are downfield but you’re feeling the rush,” Day said. “It does help that he’s 6-4, but he stands in there. You can see that. Over the spring, the timing is increasing and he’s getting better.”

There’s room for improvement — Howard was sacked on the same drive as the Egbuka throw because he held the ball too long. But still, there’s something to build on.

It’s clear, though, that Ohio State’s quarterback decision is between Howard and Brown. Howard threw for 77 yards and Brown threw for 66 yards. They played the least amount of snaps, limiting any injury. The starting quarterback is not something Day is ready to decide on, yet.

“We will look at the film and decide where to go from there,” Day said. “But I don’t have much to say about it right now.”

Lincoln Kienholz and freshman Julian Sayin had the most reps of the quarterbacks. Kienholz completed 10-of-17 passes for 71 yards and had two interceptions. Sayin completed 10-of-17 passes for 85 yards and one interception.

At times, you could see things moving a bit too fast for both of them and a few poor throws led to interceptions. Kineholz’s first interception looked like an overthrow that he never got a handle on and it went right to Calvin Simpson-Hunt. Sayin’s interception was a ball that stayed in the air too long on a crosser, which allowed Jaylen McClain to catch up to the route and score on the interception. He also had another pass that should’ve been intercepted, a comeback route to Jayden Ballard that Sayin threw too early and freshman Aaron Scott dropped the interception.

There’s talent in the quarterback room at the top and with Kienholz and Sayin. With Sayin, specifically, you can see the potential, but it might be too early to consider him a potential starter, at least until fall camp begins.

Lastly, freshman Air Noland had some good moments, completing 5-of-7 passes for 47 yards, but also threw an interception. He didn’t get a rep until the third quarter.

We’ll see if all five remain on the roster after the portal opens. I’m under the belief that at least one leaves.

GO DEEPEROhio State has options at QB — and a star receiver in the making in Jeremiah Smith

2. Offensive line shuffling continues

First, I’m glad we can finally put the “Josh Fryar plays some right guard” conversation to bed. He’s the right tackle and it doesn’t seem like Ohio State will move on from him unless the Buckeyes go into the portal and find somebody so good that they have to move him inside. I don’t think he had a bad day during the spring game, either.

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The biggest question is still right guard.

For much of the spring I thought Luke Montgomery would be the guy to take that step, but at some point this spring he fell to the wayside. He took second-team reps for most of the spring game. Instead of Montgomery, you saw Ohio State rotate Carson Hinzman and Tshabola at right guard. There were some questionable moments for both.

As I mentioned above, when Howard stepped away from the pressure, Tshabola completely missed on Tuimolaou. Hinzman gave up a sack to Jack Sawyer and got completely bullrushed in the process.

I think we can pick apart offensive line play all we want in a game like this, but we also have to understand that’s probably the best defensive line Ohio State will play before the postseason. You can argue it’s the best defensive line in the country, so I will give O-line some leeway there.

On Wednesday, Day said he wanted to come out of the spring with a projection on the right side of the line. On Saturday he said he doesn’t think Ohio State is at that point right now.

“We will watch the film and then go back and evaluate the entire spring,” Day said. “We know Josh can play right tackle and he’s done that before, but we want to find the best five. We think Josh is one of our best five, he has played a little bit of guard, but he’s also a tackle. The goal is to find our best five.”

That’s concerning, but the spring transfer portal window will open on Tuesday. Ohio State can make moves if it feels the need to, which seems like the best idea.

I will say, I came out of the spring game more confident in this group than I did a year ago. But that could change once I rewatch this weekend.

"We've done a great job all spring. Unbelievable job."

That's a wrap for @OhioStateFB's spring game 🏈 pic.twitter.com/6aPSFPXhQL

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) April 13, 2024

3. This defensive line is talented and really deep

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson has quite the group.

Tuimolaou and Sawyer get most of the headlines, but there’s so much talent up and down that bench. They finally got to show it on Saturday.

Ohio State had six sacks in the game from all different players. Freshman Eddrick Houston got his first, Mitchell Melton had one, along with Sawyer, Hero Kanu, Jason Moore and Caden Curry.

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That doesn’t even account for the pressures that Tuimolaou had and a nice move from Tywone Malone against Montgomery early in the game.

All spring the talk around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was about how deep Ohio State was on the defensive line and how much it needed that depth. Saturday was the first time we got to see it in game action and the group didn’t disappoint.

One person who continues to stand out, but won’t get the pass rush numbers, is Kayden McDonald. He had two tackles in the game, but he’s a massive guy who can make tackles while being blocked. He’s going to be an important piece for this group going forward.

But just think about it this way.

On the edge, Ohio State has Tuimoloau, Sawyer, Curry, Kenyatta Jackson Jr., and Melton. Five deep.

Inside, Ohio State can run in Williams, Ty Hamilton, Moore, McDonald, Kanu and Malone. If the Buckeyes can keep getting production, that’s six deep there. Ohio State might not play everyone every game, but in a 17-game season, having that many players is a massive strength.

Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles knows he needs the depth there, too.

“You have to play to your strengths and that’s my job is to see what we have and what we do best,” Knowles said. “When you have defensive tackles that make tackles, which is what we have right now, it changes the way you call a game.”

4. Once again, the Ohio State secondary looks elite

Day has been around a lot of good teams and defenses, but he said this corner back room is one of the deepest he’s been around.

Denzel Burke and Davison Igbinosun were fantastic on Saturday. Igbinosun only got credit for one pass breakup in the game, but he was all over every pass thrown his way, especially in the red zone. Burke didn’t get credit for one, but he was his normal lockdown self. Those are your top two guys with no debate, but then you go deeper.

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Jordan Hanco*ck had a good day in the nickel and Ohio State is experimenting with Jermaine Mathews there, too. That is interesting because if Ohio State wants to go with a Dime look it can with Mathews and Hanco*ck on the field at the same time.

In the last few years we’ve seen Ohio State have to go down its bench to fill injured cornerback spots. Last year it was Mathews who stepped up, but it could be a number of players this season.

Calvin Simpson-Hunt had a great spring game with an interception and four tackles.

Burke, who didn’t play a lot this spring, said he has been impressed with the corners.

The depth there is a credit to corners coach Tim Walton and his ability to recruit and develop players behind the starters.

Knowles said that mixing with their attitudes on the field is bringing the “BIA” (Best In America) culture back.

“They’ve taken that spirit, a competitive spirit, it’s an expectation now,” Knowles said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re going against, that unit has a standard.”

5. The running back room has plenty of talent beyond the top two players

Everybody knows how good TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins are, but Saturday was a nice reminder.

There were a few plays that could’ve gone for touchdowns had the whistle not been blown during the “thud” periods. They each only had four carries, but their explosion is there. It’s like they hit the hole after being shot out of a cannon. The idea of them splitting reps is going to be tough for opposing defenses.

But the question is who fills the No. 3 spot with Dallan Hayden set to enter the portal when it opens on Tuesday.

Freshmen James Peoples and Sam Williams-Dixon were impressive in the second half. Williams-Dixon led the team with 75 yards, one touchdown and averaged 6.8 yards per carry. Peoples had 10 carries, one less than Williams-Dixon, and had 36 yards, one touchdown and caught three passes for 23 yards.

Wheels down the middle! 💨 @SamuelDixon24 x @OhioStateFB pic.twitter.com/15GBRJjMpw

— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) April 13, 2024

Offensive coordinator Chip Kelly said Peoples is one person that has stood out to him since he got here.

“James has a really good feel and vision,” Kelly said. “He did good things and I think Sam did some good things.”

Ohio State currently sits at five running backs and Day said he doesn’t think the team needs five of them. I tend to agree. Peoples only averaged 3.6 yards per carry, but he looks the part as RB3 and we’ve seen talented freshmen come in and make a difference.

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The old adage was always “a pair and a spare,” at running back, but with the expanded playoff, Kelly said they’ll need more than just three.

“We are constantly talking in our staff meetings about depth,” Kelly said. “We’re talking about 16 or 17 games, you’re going to get tested.”

Expect both freshmen to play this year after a good showing in the spring game.

6. Ohio State jumps to No. 1 in 2025 recruiting class rankings after two spring game commitments

Ohio State entered the day with the No. 2 recruiting class in the country with 12 commitments, per the 247Sports Composite.

The first was from four-star tight end Nate Roberts. The commitment from the Oklahoma native and No. 5 tight end in the country made it back-to-back years when the Buckeyes got tight end commitments on the day of the spring game (last year it was Max LeBlanc).

Roberts is a massive win for tight ends coach Keenan Bailey who beat out Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State and Ole Miss.

Ohio State went to the defensive side for the second commitment.

Three-star safety Cody Haddad became the latest in-state commit. The St. Ignatius product is the second safety in the class, joining three-star DeShawn Stewart.

Ohio State still has plenty of room to grow this class and build its lead as the nation’s top recruiting class. The Buckeyes recruiting rating average is 94.69 and they are in on multiple five-star players still.

(Photo: Barbara J. Perenic / Columbus Dispatch / USA Today)

Where does Ohio State's QB battle stand? 6 thoughts after the Buckeyes' spring game (2024)

FAQs

What was the scoring for the Ohio State spring game? ›

Share: COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State offense, Team Scarlet defeated the Ohio State defense, Team Gray, 34-33, in the annual LifeSports Spring Game, presented by Union Home Mortgage, Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium. A crowd of 80,012 was on hand on a lovely, 60-degree day.

What is the highest scoring Ohio State football game? ›

Half of the team's points were tallied in a 128–0 victory over Oberlin. The 128 points scored against Oberlin remains a single-game Ohio State record.

What Ohio State coach lost 10 games to Michigan over a 13 year span from 1988 2000? ›

John Cooper era (1988–2000) The 13 games during John Cooper's tenure as Buckeye coach were dominated by Michigan, as the Wolverines went 10–2–1 during the stretch.

What NFL team has the most Ohio State players? ›

Indeed, 11 of the 14 NFL playoff teams have Ohio State representation. The only exceptions are the Chiefs, Bills and Buccaneers. The Browns, fittingly, have the most Buckeyes on their active roster with five.

Who won the Ohio State spring game? ›

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State's offense beat the defense 34-33 in Saturday's spring game, but in the moment it was still clear just how good the defense was.

Has Ohio State ever had a first overall pick? ›

Ohio State has seen three No. 1 overall picks — Orlando Pace (1997), Dan Wilkinson (1994), and Tom Cousineau (1979) — to the NFL and a who's who of players that have left their mark at the professional level. The list also includes two supplemental draft picks.

Has Ohio State ever been to the College World Series? ›

Note: In 1951, Ohio State participated in the district playoffs, which it won, and moved on to the College World Series. Prior to 1954, district playoff games were not considered a part of the National Collegiate Baseball Championship, and thus are not counted in Ohio State's NCAA tournament record.

How many wins has Ohio State had? ›

Ohio State Buckeyes football
ConferenceBig Ten Conference
Past conferencesIndependent Ohio Athletic Conference
All-time record964–333–53 (.734)
Bowl record26–29 (.473)
29 more rows

How many people were at the Ohio State game? ›

"We got a beautiful day with 80,000-plus [at the game]." It is no shock Ohio State saw such an incredible attendance at the contest.

What was the attendance at the Red White Spring game? ›

The Huskers have one of the most attended spring games in college football on a year-by-year basis. The school's athletic department has confirmed that almost 54,000 tickets have been sold for this year's Red-White Game.

What is the largest attendance for Ohio State? ›

The largest crowd in stadium history is 110,045, set November 26, 2016, in a game against Michigan.

How much is the Ohio State spring game? ›

Tickets are free for students with their BuckID, and general admission tickets are $10. Be sure to wear scarlet and gray to show your team spirit! Registration is required. This is a family-friendly event, and we hope to see students, scholars and their families at this Buckeye tradition.

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