The Buckeyes return 13 players with starting experience on their defense this year, and that number doesn’t include guys like defensive end Jack Sawyer and defensive tackle Tyleik Williams, nor former five-star phenoms like linebacker CJ Hicks and safety Sonny Styles.
They may also have a secret weapon in a player who is never actually going to suit up for the Buckeye defense — true freshman quarterback Lincoln Kienholz.
Kienholz isn’t expected to contend for a starting role this year for the Buckeyes. Junior Kyle McCord and redshirt freshman Devin Brown will likely handle that. And the backup will also be decided over the course of that position battle.
As one of four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, Kienholz’s first job with the Buckeyes could be as the scout team quarterback. Each week during the season, the Ohio State defense will be preparing for a different offense and a different quarterback.
The range of quarterbacks they’ll face will span from inexperienced to record-setting, and extremely mobile to stand-and-deliver. The better those particular quarterback skills are represented by the scout team, the better prepared the Buckeyes will be on defense.
Head coach Ryan Day believes that Kienholz could give the Ohio State defense a particularly great look when preparing for mobile quarterbacks, such as Michigan’s JJ McCarthy.
“Yeah, I think he can really help us, especially with some of the quarterbacks we see that are more athletic,” Day said. “It’s one thing to go through a drill with a quarterback that maybe can’t disconnect. But when you’re reading a defensive end, or you’re scrambling or those type of things, to have somebody who really can mimic what the other quarterback’s going to do, that’s really good.”
Kienholz threw for over 9,000 yards in his high school career, and rushed for over 3,000 yards. He was able to keep plays alive and gave absolute fits to every defense he faced. Day is hoping he does the same for the Buckeyes.
“It’s different,” Day said. “The guys in the back end have to cover a little longer. The guys have to pursue a little bit more and you have caged the pocket a little bit. So all those things, I think Lincoln can do.”
That being said, Ryan Day is going to let fall camp play out before they start putting a scout team together. After all, there is currently no team to scout right now, save for their own.
Soon enough, however, the game planning will begin, and the scout team will get their marching orders. But until then, Day is going to let Lincoln Kienholz get his feet under him, and whatever happens in camp, happens.
“I’m not going to put a limit on what’s going to happen this year,” Day said. “But if it plays out the way we think it might, Lincoln will have a great opportunity to go against our defense and grow and learn. But I’ll be surprised if he also doesn’t have a chance to get in a game this year and get his feet wet. So we’ll see. But yeah, to your point, I think that’s going to be a weapon for us.”