Devin Brown Ohio State Buckeyes Quarterback

Ohio State Football Notebook: ‘You’re seeing some separation’

Hot Pursuit

As a high school safety prospect, Jaylen McClain was never one of the highest-ranked players in the nation, but he’s always been one of the highest-motored players in the nation.

This spring with the Buckeyes as a true freshman, McClain is proving that once again by his pursuit to the ball and his effort every single day on the practice field.

With sophomore free safety Malik Hartford out this spring, McClain has been put in a spot of running with the twos at free safety, which is a tall order for a true freshman. He has handled his business, however.

“He’s been great,” said Ohio State safeties coach Matt Guerrieri. “First off we do a thing where we track how well you run to the ball every practice. It’s one of the things that we grade, right? So you can talk about all the schematics that you want, Coach Knowles has all that, but if you’re not running to the ball, you’re not playing good defense, right? We track that and he’s one of the guys that every single practice is one of our highest-graded guys running to the ball. So he’s been awesome from an effort standpoint first, attitude, he’s in early. He puts the work in and he’s made a bunch plays out here. So I’m excited about Jaylen McClain for sure.”

Coaches really don’t want to have to teach effort. It is supposed to be there because it does not require any kind of talent. Even still, McClain stands out in that regard. It helps that he is finding the football as well.

“We’re really tracking effort and how hard a guy is playing from there, is what we do. But I would say this too — he’s been around the ball a lot,” Guerrieri said. “Whether it’s alley running and he’s downing the ball on a breakthrough run or fitting gaps, things like that. And then he’s got really good range in the post or the half too, so he’s done a good job of both of those things. I guess all of the above.”

All Right, All Right, All Right

The right guard position is going to be the biggest concern on the Ohio State offensive line until it isn’t. But it’s also a relative concern because there are so few worries about the other four positions.

The Buckeyes have been trying sophomore Luke Montgomery there, along with redshirt sophomore Tegra Tshabola and a dash of redshirt senior right tackle Josh Fryar. Fryar is expected to stick at his right tackle spot where he was an All-Big Ten selection last year, however.

Recently, centers Seth McLaughlin and Carson Hinzman also began getting longer looks at right guard as head coach Ryan Day and offensive line coach Justin Frye try to gather as much information as possible while spring ball is still going on.

“The biggest thing is that right side, that right guard position, and that battle as things have gone on,” Day said. “We’ve moved Seth and Carson both there. We’ve used Luke, we’ve tried Tegra inside. So we’ve used a bunch of different combinations there. And I think by the end of this week, we need to at least identify where we’re going and where we project it. Even if it continues in the preseason, which it may.

“But I feel like both tackles have really improved. It’s noticeable. [Left guard] Donovan [Jackson] has improved. His leadership has been felt out there. I do think that Seth and Carson have both had good springs as well. So we really want to see if someone can take the next step at that right guard position, however that all shakes out.”

There is also the possibility that the Buckeyes could look into the portal following spring ball if they determine it would be in their best interest.

“I think we have to look at everything,” Day said on Wednesday. “I’m not sitting here and saying one way or the other. I think that I’d like to watch the film today. We did a couple things moving some guys around, so let’s see how that went. And then see how Saturday goes and then kind of go from there. But I can’t sit here and tell you that I know that that right side is solidified right now. So I think we’ve got to keep looking at all options.”

The Battle Of Five Arms

With five scholarship quarterbacks on campus right now at Ohio State, reps are at a premium. Different players are in different stages of their careers, so some quarterbacks may command more reps than others simply because they are more likely to be the eventual starter.

Current sentiment has redshirt sophomore Devin Brown battling with fifth-year senior transfer Will Howard for the starting job, but redshirt freshman Lincoln Kienholz is there as well. True freshman Julian Sayin has been impressive in spring camp, and fellow true freshman Air Noland is operating like most true freshmen who should still be in high school.

The competition isn’t expected to end until sometime in fall camp, but Ryan Day was still asked if they had started to whittle things down at the position so far through 13 practices.

“No, I don’t think we’ve narrowed it down,” he said. “But you’re seeing guys make certain plays and certain things that are showing up in practice. As we start to get into some of the movement stuff, and you get the situational things, you’re starting to just see commonalities. These guys bring great things to the table. Each guy brings either experience or a skill set that’s different from the others. The good news is they all can move and that’s certainly made an impact on the run game.”

While they haven’t necessarily narrowed things down just yet, a separation is starting to happen, though Day did not go into details about exactly who or what that entails.

“The passing game, there’s good things there,” he said. “There’s still things that they’re improving on, but you’re seeing some separation. I wouldn’t say that we’re ready to name a starter or anything like that, but there’s been good competition and guys have made plays. But I think ultimately what we’re looking for is that consistency over time.”

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