Harry Miller-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State will need Harry Miller to take the next step in his career at center. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Five (non-QB) Buckeyes who can elevate championship ceiling in spring

COLUMBUS — The most important position battle isn’t up for debate at Ohio State.

And getting the quarterback decision right will almost certainly determine whether or not the Buckeyes are capable of winning a national title this year.

But Ohio State also isn’t going to get back to the College Football Playoff without surrounding the next signal-caller with talent or complementing the attack with a dominant defense. So, while the three-man race at quarterback will probably determine the championship ceiling for the Buckeyes, the foundation will be established elsewhere.

“The good news going into the spring is we’re going to be able to get a lot of guys reps,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “If it was a normal spring where we were down at certain positions, you just wouldn’t have as many reps in practice. We’re expecting to get a lot of reps, splitting them up as equally as possible and letting them compete. But I also think the way that I look at it is you have 15 practices in the spring and then you have preseason. And preseason No. 1 is just the next practice of spring. They’re not two separate entities. They’re all a lead-up into the preseason.

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Ohio State coach Ryan Day must replace Justin Fields at quarterback. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“We’ll know when the time is right, like we have in the past year. But they all have a lot of learning to do. They haven’t had a lot of snaps. To be fair, they need to kind of spend some time in this offense learning. And then as we start to get them in the game situations through the spring and through preseason, we’ll have a better idea.”

That process all ramps up on Friday morning when the Buckeyes report for spring camp. And while the quarterbacks are obviously critical for Ohio State, Lettermen Row is turning its attention to five other guys who could make the difference in another chase for College Football Playoff crown heading into Ryan Day’s third year leading the program.

DE Zach Harrison

The buzz around the former five-star prospect is getting louder this offseason, and it’s telling that Ryan Day made a point during his pre-spring press conference to mention Zach Harrison by name twice. The Buckeyes are typically cautious about singling anybody out, so raving about the defensive end’s winter workouts and praising his improved leadership are flashing-neon signs that a breakout could be coming for Harrison. Now a junior with two years of development under his belt, the Buckeyes have long projected that he could have a Bosa Brother- or Chase Young-type impact on the pass rush. Ohio State generated pressure more as a committee last season, so it would undoubtedly benefit from the emergence of a game-changing individual if Harrison is ready for that responsibility.

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Ohio State defensive end Zach Harrison is looking to take another step forward. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

C Harry Miller

Somebody has to get the football to the next quarterback. With Josh Myers off to the NFL, replacing him at center is one of the most critical items on the spring to-do list for the Buckeyes. Perhaps it’s because the plan has long been in place for Harry Miller to take over that role after starting at guard last season, but the importance of this camp for the junior has flown a bit under the radar this offseason. Miller was the nation’s top prospect at center coming out of high school, and his intelligence, impressive physical tools and tireless work ethic all point to a successful transition to the apex position. Yes, Miller struggled in a spot start at Michigan State last season. But with a full set of spring practices, hours of summer workouts snapping and training camp all ahead of him to drill fundamentals, Miller should be on track to give the Buckeyes what they need up front.

DB Josh Proctor

The versatile athleticism Josh Proctor provides is his biggest strength, and Ohio State needed it badly last year as it shuffled him around the field as COVID and inexperience created Whack-a-Mole roster issues in the secondary. Eventually the Buckeyes figure to pick a spot for him and let the hard-hitting, ball-hawking defensive back get comfortable. But the options still appear to be open since Proctor has shown the cover skills to play slot-cornerback, the physical tackling needed to fill the box against the run and the awareness to diagnose plays as a deep safety. One way or another, Proctor will be a key part of the plans for the Buckeyes before heading to the NFL.

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Ohio State running back Miyan Williams has been a pleasant surprise for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

RB Miyan Williams

There are multiple contenders in a wide-open race in the Ohio State backfield, so it might be easier to just throw a dart to pick who will emerge considering how much talent is on hand for position coach Tony Alford. Master Teague has proven he can find the end zone at this level, Marcus Crowley flashed before his knee injury and two of the nation’s most-coveted recruits are now on campus for spring ball. But there’s just something intriguing about Miyan Williams, and the way he was using his unique size and underrated speed late last season hinted at big-time potential waiting to be tapped. Maybe the bowling-ball back won’t win the starting job, but it seems likely that he’s going to be involved in some capacity. No matter what, Ohio State needs to establish a new lead rusher with Trey Sermon now off to the NFL.

LB Teradja Mitchell

After three years as the Next Big Thing, it’s finally time for Teradja Mitchell to show what he can do for the Buckeyes in a full-time role. The glimpses at his freight-train hits off the bench and on special teams have been jaw dropping, and if he can do that consistently from an inside spot then the Silver Bullets should be able to reload at linebacker without much trouble. Mitchell has always had the highest projected expectations of anybody in that unit for Ohio State, and the pressure will be on his shoulders to lead the way after the Silver Bullets lost four seniors after last year. This is the moment Mitchell has been building for over the last three years.

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