Ohio State’s spring camp 2023 is in the books with the annual spring game on Saturday putting a bow on things. What have we learned this spring? Where are the question marks? Anything to glean from today’s spring game?
It’s a special edition of 10 Instant Observations.
1. The pieces are there for this 2023 Ohio State secondary to be much, much improved, especially at the cornerback position. Denzel Burke had a sophomore slump but was one of the spring game’s top performers and was consistently solid throughout spring practice. The Ohio State secondary has been at its best over the years when it had three reliable corners. Davison Igbinosun has been one of the top spring performers and Jordan Hancock has also had some very bright moments. It’s encouraging, but we have to see it when things are live in September.
2. The Buckeyes need at least one offensive linemen via the portal this spring. While there is no question that the offensive line should have been expected to be behind the defensive line this spring, and there is also no question that it takes an O-Line time to gel, the spring was largely dominated by the defensive line and a starting caliber tackle is needed. It will only push the competition and make this a deeper unit, because if someone like Josh Fryar gets injured at any point, things could go downhill in a hurry.
3. C.J. Hicks was a standout for me in Saturday’s spring game. While Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers give Ohio State a formidable duo, Hicks brings an extra gear athletically and has to factor into the mix this season. Whether it’s in obvious passing downs where you can get Hicks in for Eichenberg for a little more speed, or simply limiting reps for Chambers to keep him fresh, Hicks is one of the young guys that has to see meaningful opportunities this fall.
4. I don’t know what it really means moving forward for this upcoming season, but after viewing a handful of practices this spring, Saturday was by far the most noticeable performance from second-year defensive tackle Hero Kanu. The Buckeyes have an outstanding starting tandem in Mike Hall and Tyleik Williams, and Ty Hamilton should give them some good minutes as well, but it would be a huge bonus if Kanu can be ready to give the Buckeyes some depth reps.
5. You can’t put the Carnell Tate toothpaste back in the tube. I know that Egbuka and Fleming will be back for fall camp, but there’s no turning back now on the Tate Train. You’ve unleashed him this spring, he has been one of the top players on offense, and he has done everything right off the field. Can’t relegate him to the bench now, he’s going to play a real role in this offense this fall, I’m sure of it. He’s going to be on the high end of the all-time true freshman receivers list in terms of production. Book it.
6. Chip Trayanum wins the annual Bam Childress-Michael Thomas Spring Game Excellence Award. To be honest, Trayanum has had a really good spring and has broken a lot of explosive plays in the run game. He has earned carries this fall but it’s going to be fascinating how they manage snaps and carries with four backs with experience who feel like they’ve earned touches.
7. We’ve seen a wave of supremely talented OSU wide receivers not win the Biletnikoff in recent years. That ends this fall with Marvin Harrison Jr. Book it.
8. I know everyone is ready to just push these second-year receivers aside for the shiny new toys in the incoming freshman class, but Kaleb Brown quietly had a very good spring for the Buckeyes. Brown had a couple of good moments in today’s spring game on the heels of what I’m told was one of his better practices on Friday.
9. I also know everyone had their ‘OMG the offense didn’t do anything!’ posts ready to go. Then McCord hit Tate for a beautiful touchdown and Noah Rogers made one of the days most impressive individual plays. There’s no doubt the offense needs reps right now more than the defense, that’s what happens when you replace a top 3 draft pick at quarterback and the best offensive tackle tandem the program has had in more than 25 years, but we’ve seen more underwhelming offensive performances in a spring game (looking at you, Justin Fields) that ended up blossoming into an explosive offense come the fall.
10. Going into the spring, I felt this was the most genuinely open quarterback competition at Ohio State in many years, probably going back to the Justin Zwick/Troy Smith years. But I felt Kyle McCord had some built-in advantages that would ultimately propel him to the starting position. Before Brown’s injury, it was clear that both McCord and Devin Brown were being given fair opportunities to take the lead. I’m not sure that things moved drastically in one direction or another during the past few weeks but my call is still that McCord will be the starter this fall.