This is the ninth installment in a series where Buckeye Huddle looks back on each member of Ohio State’s 2023 signing class and the impact they had as rookies, as well as the impact they could have during the upcoming 2024 season. Up next is quarterback Lincoln Kienholz.
As the starting quarterback at TF Riggs High School in Pierre, South Dakota, Lincoln Kienholz led his team to three state titles. He set back-to-back state records as a junior and senior with 3,359 yards passing and then 3,522 yards passing, respectively. In his career at TF Riggs, he threw for over 9,000 yards, rushed for over 3,000 yards, and accounted for nearly 150 touchdowns. He is South Dakota’s all-time passing yardage leader.
Kienholz was originally committed to the University of Washington. The Buckeyes had a commitment from four-star quarterback Brock Glenn, but Glenn decommitted in November of 2022, which was then followed by an official visit to OSU by Kienholz a week later. About two weeks after the official visit to Ohio State, Kienholz flipped his commitment to the Buckeyes. He was ranked the No. 15 quarterback in the nation and the No. 190 player overall. He was a standout in the All-American Bowl last January.
Last year was a tale of two seasons for Lincoln Kienholz. He didn’t see his first action until the 10th game of the season, where he completed 2-of-3 passes for 18 yards against Michigan State. Then the next week against Minnesota he completed both of his attempts for a total of seven yards. Just those five attempts were the second-most for an OSU true freshman quarterback in a dozen years. Then came the Cotton Bowl.
With Ohio State starting quarterback Kyle McCord jumping into the transfer portal, Kienholz moved up to the No. 2 quarterback in the Cotton Bowl behind Devin Brown. Early in the second quarter, Brown went down with an ankle injury and Kienholz for the first time was brought into a game with the outcome still undecided. He was blitzed relentlessly and completed just 6-of-17 passes for 86 yards in OSU’s 14-3 loss to Missouri.
After the game, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day acknowledged the difficult situation his freshman quarterback was facing.
“I mean, when you’re a freshman quarterback who comes in during the summer, you don’t have the spring, you really don’t have much of a preseason, you get thrown into it with the scouts a little bit here and there, but when Kyle [McCord] was in there and Devin [Brown] was getting reps in the twos, Lincoln didn’t really get many reps,” Day explained.
“He did get reps in bowl practice, but that’s not like playing in a game. I think his first few drives were inside the 10-yard line. That’s a tough place to be. But I give Lincoln credit. He got put in a tough spot, and he battled out there and did make some good throws. But that was a tough ask right there.”
So Now What For Lincoln Kienholz?
When Kyle McCord went to the portal, that opened things up for Lincoln Kienholz — at least temporarily. The Buckeyes soon added Kansas State starting quarterback Will Howard and his 27 career starts in January. Kienholz will battle this spring with Howard and Devin Brown. The Cotton Bowl may not have gone his way, but it’s still something he can build on.
“I’d say I think it’s an awesome experience,” Kienholz said after the game. “Just going out there. Just playing in the Cotton Bowl is crazy fun. I mean, I think being out there was hard at first, but I think just the experience of playing a lot and just being out there throwing, running a little bit. I mean, it just helps me build my platform for the next four or five years.”
Along with Howard and Brown, the Buckeyes have also added a pair of five-star quarterback signees in Air Noland and Julian Sayin. Howard may be the favorite to win the job this season, but don’t expect Lincoln Kienholz to just sit back and make it easy for him.
“I think first and foremost, Lincoln is a competitor in everything he does,” TF Riggs High School head coach Steve Steele told Buckeye Huddle last spring. “That’s one of the reasons he stayed here this spring, I think, is that he wanted to be able to compete with basketball one more time. And he wanted to be able to compete in baseball one more time for his town and for his high school and friends and all that, but he’s just a kid that loves to compete.
“I don’t know that he knows how to turn that off. I mean, if you’re messing around, and you play a game of Xbox or something like that with him, he won’t lose. He won’t want to lose. Drills or whatever it is, he hates not being competitive and not being the best. I think to him, Ohio State represented an opportunity to show that.”
Safety Malik Hartford
Receiver Brandon Inniss
Safety Jayden Bonsu
Offensive Tackle Luke Montgomery
Defensive End Joshua Mickens
Tight End Jelani Thurman
Defensive Tackle Will Smith, Jr.
Cornerback Calvin Simpson-Hunt