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Ohio State spring recreation takeaways: Ryan Day’s offense has an extended option to go

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The thrill of school soccer’s first nationally televised spring recreation radiated by means of 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 fingers with the Buckeyes’ coaches. There was a pep speak 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 shedding 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 successful a nationwide championship.”

At first blush, the items is likely to be 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, grew to become a showcase for Ohio State’s super depth on the talent positions and total 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 last 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 models have been on the sphere. The offense nonetheless has a option to go and one other quarterback competitors to settle. 

Listed here 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 short lived 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 sphere for the opening possession, it was Howard who earned the nod, his 6-foot-4, 237-pound body actually trying 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 go 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 good points along 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 a phenomenal 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 tip 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 in regards to the beginning job. “However we’ll have a look at the movie and see what it appears like. After which, you understand, determine the place to go from there. However I don’t have a lot to say about it proper now.”

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

“Once you have a look at our protection,” Day mentioned, “while you have a look at the again finish, you have 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 sphere. Knowles’ third-down blitz bundle proved significantly 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 Kinds, who transformed from security, Knowles has extra athleticism and velocity in the midst of the sphere.

All of which made life simpler for a secondary that snared three interceptions by means of the primary three quarters — at which level all main contributors have been eliminated — and tallied six further go 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 believe it is turn out to be an expectation now,” Knowles mentioned. “Our DBs (defensive backs), you understand, 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 sphere have been principally reserves and underclassmen.

Influence freshman

There was a cause 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 total 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 will make a few of the finest receivers in school soccer jealous, Smith arrived at Ohio State with a repute as arguably the very best prospect at his place in practically 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 accessible for the returners in a stacked receiving corps to assert. 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 believe that huge receiver room is absolutely particular,” Kelly mentioned. “I believe there is a bunch of fellows in there. And once more, when it’s a must 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 are feeling somewhat bit comfy proper now, that we have got 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 sphere vertically with quickness and aerial skill, 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 school soccer and basketball for FOX Sports activities with an emphasis on the Massive Ten. Comply with him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.

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