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Five Questions for Ohio State heading into summer workouts

Ryan Day-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State coach Ryan Day is heading into his first summer in charge of the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Five Questions for Ohio State heading into summer workouts

COLUMBUS — The work never seems to stop at Ohio State, and summer will be anything but a vacation for the program.

The coaches are already recruiting. The roster is already being tweaked now that another quarterback is in the transfer portal, which means another will need to be plucked out of it by the Buckeyes. And the players themselves are gearing up for conditioning drills, occasional workouts with the staff and throwing sessions on their own time.

So, there isn’t a break coming even with spring ball now wrapped up — and three longs months to go before training camp at Ohio State.

“This is just the first step for the season,” Day said last week. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Where does it all begin for the Buckeyes? Lettermen Row is starting with these Five Questions for Day and Ohio State as the program moves into the next phase of preparations for the 2019 season.

Justin Fields-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields heads into the summer as the starter. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

How will Buckeyes build quarterback depth?

Ohio State didn’t officially name a starter after the spring game, but that’s no longer even necessary. Midway through camp, it was becoming clear that Justin Fields would eventually be the guy for the Buckeyes — Matthew Baldwin entering the transfer portal just made it official. In terms of high-end potential, the program is in good hands with the most decorated recruit in school history. But the depth behind Fields isn’t ideal, and Ohio State will now have to get active once again on the transfer market to see if it can add a graduate with immediate eligibility who can come in to provide a security net in the backup role. The Buckeyes have a lot to sell to potential candidates, but one thing they can’t pitch is immediate playing time, which will be the challenge for Day over the next few weeks.

Should Ohio State be concerned about the offensive line?

Once the program has a full cupboard to work with again, there shouldn’t be much for Ohio State to worry about up front. Spending the spring short-handed wasn’t ideal for settling starting jobs or building chemistry, but the Buckeyes knew from Day One that they would have to wait until Thayer Munford was healthy and Jonah Jackson was on campus before that kind of work could really begin. Once those two and signee Harry Miller arrive, Ohio State has enough quality, quantity and flexibility to build a unit that should be among the best in the Big Ten. But without definitively settling the issue in spring, the question will linger.

What is Ohio State going to do at linebacker?

There were encouraging signs throughout spring for a position group that has struggled more than any other at Ohio State over the last two years, and the linebackers should be poised for a major bounce-back season under new assistant Al Washington. In fact, the hard part for the Buckeyes might be figuring out the best way to use all the talent on hand — a juggling act that won’t be easy with a handful of guys pushing the three returning starters for reps. Malik Harrison is entrenched in the lineup, but that’s about the only true certainty at this point. Teradja Mitchell looks like a future star, so can he supplant a captain in Tuf Borland? Dallas Gant and Baron Browning seem to be ready to help, but Pete Werner has done plenty to show that he can be reliable for the Buckeyes as well. Certainly that’s a good problem to have, but it’s one that remains a bit unclear heading into summer.

How much will freshmen help the Buckeyes?

After stacking up a couple of the best recruiting classes in school history and with so much returning talent, Ohio State shouldn’t need to call on freshmen to provide much help in the bid to win the Big Ten for a third straight year. But a couple options have already started building compelling cases for a role right away, with wide receiver Garrett Wilson at the top of the list. After arriving early, the five-star from Texas capped his first camp with the Buckeyes with an eye-catching touchdown in the spring game and looks more than capable of living up the enormous expectations for his career in a hurry. There could be work for Marcus Crowley as a backup tailback if he builds on his solid spring, and five-star defensive end Zach Harrison is likely going to work his way into the rotation at some point for the Rushmen as well.

Will Ryan Day inject more of his personality for Ohio State?

There is no need to dramatically change the way Ohio State does business after winning back-to-back Big Ten titles, and Ryan Day is well aware of that. But he’s also completely in charge of the Buckeyes now, not just serving as a temporary caretaker of Urban Meyer’s program. The program can’t remain stagnant if it’s going to continue to compete at the highest level nationally, and that means continually coming up with cutting-edge methods for everything from eating meals to summer workouts. Another key part of the summer for Day? In a lot of ways, he’s still relatively unknown despite his key role for the Buckeyes over the last two years — at least compared to Meyer’s high-wattage celebrity. A big part of Day’s job at this point could be letting people get to know him and see some of his personality in action to make sure a huge, passionate fanbase knows the Buckeyes are in good hands.

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dan lucas

the way the media guarantees fields will be a success, i wonder how they’d spin it if he was NOT a success. i certainly hope the fields that was at the spring game is not the qb we get in real games that matter.

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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