COLUMBUS — The main course during Ryan Day’s first season at Ohio State is still cooking.
But the spring appetizer had plenty that will go down as appealing for what’s to come with the Buckeyes.
Sure, the exhibition game at the Horseshoe had a snoozer of a first quarter. The passing attack remains a work in progress as Ohio State breaks in a young, new quarterback. And there wasn’t enough hitting to really get a solid feel for the revamped Silver Bullets in a light scrimmage to close out camp.
But the 14 workouts leading up to the end of spring counted more for Ohio State anyway. And as Day heads into the summer, it’s still clear he’s got a potential Big Ten champion on his hands with a roster that is absolutely loaded.
“This is just the first step for the season,” Day said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a good team, though, I think. This is a part of the season, we then have this offseason, the summer, preseason and so we’ll just keep building from here.
“But there are a lot of good pieces, we’ve got some leadership forming out there. … The overall spring was excellent. The energy was really good. I thought guys got tougher, and it was a physical spring.”
All that previous work meant the last day of camp didn’t need to be a grind for the Buckeyes, although they still turned in some reps in the sunshine in the Horseshoe that will whet the appetite heading into the summer. Here’s what Lettermen Row learned about Ohio State and its first-year coach as the offseason begins.
Ohio State quarterback battle will carry over into August
The presumptive leader in the race hasn’t changed, and Justin Fields will still be the odds-on favorite to take over the offense for Ohio State when training camp opens in August. But there hasn’t been enough clear separation at this point in Day’s eyes to officially name the five-star transfer from Georgia as the starter for the Buckeyes, and Matthew Baldwin showed at times why there’s no need to rush. Fields is a dynamic athlete, and his dual-threat ability has been clear even when he’s not allowed to be hit during practice. If he can continue to get a firm grasp on the offense and get a little more comfortable with his responsibilities as a passer, Fields can be a dangerous weapon. But Baldwin shouldn’t be ruled out with the strong arm that was on display a couple times on Saturday — especially since Ohio State is fully aware of the value of having a capable backup waiting in the wings.
Next wave of Rushmen ready to attack opposing quarterbacks
Tyreke Smith put down another marker that he’s ready to explode as a sophomore, and it was no surprise to see him chipping in on a pair of sacks in the spring game. The progress of that talented defensive end has been impossible to ignore during camp, and he’s going to push for a prominent role in the lead rotation up front with Jonathon Cooper and Chase Young. Maybe it also doesn’t qualify as much of a shock that Zach Harrison finished up his first 15 workouts with the Buckeyes looking like a future star either, since he arrived as an early enrollee as one of the highest-rated recruits in school history. But position coach Larry Johnson has already got Harrison looking like somebody who can help the Buckeyes right away.
Buckeyes aren’t short of weapons in passing game
No matter who is throwing passes for Ohio State, the next quarterback is certainly going to enjoy the luxury of targets at his disposal this season. And Saturday proved as a useful reminder that the Buckeyes will be just fine even after losing three seniors who are about to be drafted into the NFL this month. Garrett Wilson is already showing signs of stardom after his first camp, which he closed with a highlight-reel grab in the corner of the end zone from his old buddy Baldwin. And Jaelen Gill continued his rise during spring with a game-high seven receptions, continuing to build his case for more work as a versatile H-back in the Ohio State offense. Look out for those two youngsters this season.
Bullet position proving valuable in a hurry
The struggles at safety were well documented for Jahsen Wint, and there didn’t seem to be much need to try him as a linebacker to help unlock his potential. But it appears the hybrid Bullet position might do the trick and help get his career back on track, even if a spring game with two interceptions might not mean all that much in the grand scheme of things for the Buckeyes. But Wint was moving confidently, aggressively and with the kind of athleticism he didn’t show much last season, and getting his hands on the football in any practice setting is noteworthy. Brendon White is the starter in that role for good reason, and the expectations for him this season are soaring. But it looks like Ohio State has identified a solid No. 2 in that spot — and Wint is running with the opportunity.
Ryan Day strikes right tone with Ohio State
The work isn’t done yet, and that was quite clear during portions of the public scrimmage at the Horseshoe. It would have been foolish to act like Ohio State was a finished product, and Day didn’t as he summed up what he had seen both on Saturday and throughout camp. Day has already proven that he won’t be shy about providing honest assessments of the Buckeyes, and his message about the potential on his roster and the need for more consistency was a solid one to take into the summer. Ohio State can be a championship team yet again this fall, but it isn’t there yet — pretending otherwise wouldn’t have made much sense.