Moments after Ohio State’s season-ending loss to Michigan, fans were ready to see a change at quarterback.
Kyle McCord called your bluff on Monday when he announced his intention to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal and now the Buckeyes have a major question at the position for the 2024 season.
The last one-year starter that Ohio State had at quarterback was Dwayne Haskins and was followed up by two years of Justin Fields and then two years of C.J. Stroud.
Now with the knowledge that the Buckeyes will have a new starter in 2024, the question of ‘Now What’ is on the lips and fingertips of most of Buckeye Nation and there are plenty of unknowns for Ohio State fans to sort through.
First and foremost, there really is no reason for McCord to play in the bowl game. Ohio State has to look at what is in the cupboard now, and what better way than in a bowl lead-up and game against an actual team in Missouri?
True freshman Air Norland is not on campus yet, but this will be a chance for both Devin Brown and Lincoln Kienholz to stake their claim to the position, or at least get a leg up before the first mat drill or spring practice rep starts.
So, what are the option here for Ryan Day and the Buckeyes?
Next man up is next man on the depth chart
Generally, the decision is to go to the next man on the depth chart and that would be Devin Brown.
The second-year quarterback was a one-time five-star prep star and was firmly in a battle with McCord leading up to the start of the 2023 season.
A hand injury derailed Brown’s attempt to secure the starting quarterback position as Brown missed the final week-plus of spring camp as well as the spring game.
Brown would play in five games this past season for Ohio State, attempting passes in four of them and coming in as a short-yardage option for the Buckeyes in goal line packages.
Ohio State’s back-up would go 12-22 throwing the ball for 197 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. As a runner, Brown would carry the ball 19 times for 35 yards and a score.
The “Brown package” would hit a snag as Brown got injured running the offense and would miss a couple of weeks, further delayed by a small “tweak” during warm-ups prior to a game.
That would open the door for his teammate, Kienholz, to see more action down the stretch.
The Buckeyes would have a quarterback who would be entering his third year in the program, by far the most out of any of the options, at least in terms of being within the Ohio State system.
But Ohio State would also have a situation very similar to the start of 2023, a third-year quarterback with limited experience trying to hold off a second-year quarterback with even less experience.
It’s the land of Lincoln
There has been a portion of the Ohio State fanbase that has felt that Lincoln Kienholz is the answer and that the Buckeyes were just buying time to get the first-year player ready to see game action.
Let’s not kid ourselves, the Buckeyes don’t go to South Dakota often to recruit, so there had to be something about the one-time Washington commit. The Buckeyes and Brock Glenn (who ended up at Florida State) went their separate ways, Ohio State got heavily involved with Kienholz and landed a quarterback that is big on potential but maybe didn’t have the toughest competition to showcase that against in the Great Plains.
Would Kienholz have been more in the mix if he were a January enrollee rather than a June one? That is up for debate, but Kienholz, a talented basketball player as well, wanted to finish out his senior year of high school in Pierre (S.D.).
So Kienholz comes into Ohio State without the benefit of a spring and is in the third-string role, learning what it takes to be an Ohio State quarterback.
Kienholz did see action in a pair of games, playing against Minnesota and Michigan State in a couple of Ohio State routs. He would go 4-5 passing for 25 yards in limited action.
Have the Buckeyes seen enough of Lincoln to elevate him to the main role? Five pass attempts in games aren’t a lot but a full season of practice is something else, entirely.
If Kienholz were to get the job, the Buckeyes would know that they are getting (potentially) a two-year starter with current NCAA rules, so there would be a measure of stability there, but can a decision like that be made at this point with what seems to be a very limited sample size.
It’s time to Air it out
Then there is the incoming freshman, Air Noland.
This is probably the least likely of the scenarios, just because it is rare for a top program to roll out a true freshman.
Something that works in the favor of the Langston Hughes high school star is the fact that he will enroll in January to Ohio State, giving him the spring practice period that Kienholz did not get in year one.
Noland has that running ability that the Buckeyes have lacked since Justin Fields, and if we are being honest, Ohio State never really utilized that running ability. So, do we have to go back to J.T. Barrett for the last running quarterback?
First year quarterbacks don’t know what they don’t know, and the learning curve is about as steep as can be.
Let’s use the portal as well
And then there is the option that fans have been talking about for weeks, the Buckeyes looking to the transfer portal.
That option seemed to be far-fetched up until about 48 hours ago, bringing in a quarterback can devastate your quarterback room and bringing in a quarterback with several years of eligibility could take the damage even further as quarterbacks who have been ‘waiting their turn’ see someone coming in to upset the apple cart.
Names in the portal (outside of McCord) include the likes of Cam Ward, Dante Moore, Dillon Gabriel, Riley Leonard, Will Howard, Tyler Van Dyke and Grayson McCall, just to name the top end of the list.
Each quarterback has their own reason for entering the portal and you have to imagine that many players entering the portal already have a list of destinations that are on their mind.
Ohio State’s position in portal acquisition was not really known until Monday morning, does that change the calculus for any of these players? Ohio State has to be a desirable location with the depth of talent the quarterback will have around them, playing in the Big Ten and being on a team that almost assuredly will make the 12-team playoff in 2024.
But does bringing in a quarterback with a couple of years of eligibility left chase off not only Brown but maybe Kienholz as well?
Nobody is on the record saying anything about the portal at this point, but they are things that need to be considered as roster moves create ripples that run through a locker room.
Ohio State’s ‘meaningless exhibition game’ against Missouri suddenly became much more important for the future of this program. While we may not come out of the December 29th knowing what is in store for the future, we certainly will know a lot more, unless we know more before that (if the Buckeyes sign a portal quarterback).