While sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow had an impressive day going 14 of 22 for 262 yards and three touchdowns, it is clear who will be under center (or rather five yards behind the center) for the Buckeyes in the fall. Senior Quarterback J.T. Barrett has accounted for 100 touchdowns in his career in Columbus and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The change in the Buckeyes passing game will come on the receiving end where the team has very little experience. Junior receiver Johnnie Dixon was extremely explosive catching five passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Dixon has struggled with injuries during his career. If he can stay healthy, he could be the biggest weapon the Buckeyes’ passing game has had in its arsenal for many years. Sophomore Binjimen Victor also had some flashes and is another receiver to keep an eye on in the fall. There was more involvement of the tight end in the passing game than Ohio State is known for. Whether this is a spring game anomaly or the influence of new offensive coaches Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day is yet to be seen.
Sophomore running back Mike Weber will still be the go-to guy in the Buckeyes’ running game in the fall. Upfront Billy Price slides in the center position vacated by soon-to-be NFL draftee Pat Elfein. The offensive line is hard to judge from the spring game but seemed to operate smoothly with the change in personnel.
The Buckeyes are anticipating having three defensive backs taken in the first round. Two of them have top five potential, and the third could slip into the top ten. Replacing that type of talent is not something that comes easily. The secondary had its struggles but showed some flashes as well. Early-enrollee Jeffrey Okudah looked particularly impressive. Okudah can run with anyone on the field and showed a knack for defending passes. Okudah should find his way into one of the starting corner spots in the fall. Okudah could be joined in the secondary by another early-enrollee Shaun Wade who impressed as well. Sophomore Jordan Fuller seemed to be a step short of making a lot of plays from the safety position. He was all over the field making tackles and should be able to have a major impact on the passing game with quicker decision making.
The best friend of a young secondary that needs to develop is a skilled defensive line. Fortunately, the Buckeyes have the best in the country. The group is led by junior Sam Hubbard who looks to build on last year’s success. Senior Chris Worley looked impressive shifting from outside linebacker to middle linebacker. He has big shoes to fill as he looks to replace Raekwon McMillan who led the team in tackles last season.
The Buckeyes have a great group of players ready to step into the roles vacated by last year’s seniors and others who have declared for the NFL draft. The team looks like they could be much more threatening in the passing game with the emergence of a few key players. The secondary is very talented but will need to grow up in a hurry. Fortunately, the team has an excellent defensive line that can pressure the quarterback, relieving some pressure from the defensive backs. We will not be able to appreciate the impact of coaching staff changes until next season is underway, but with continued