The 2023 edition of the Ohio State football team is going to have a number of new faces in the starting lineup. Last year, quite possibly the largest breakout of any of the Ohio State offensive players was Marvin Harrison, Jr. All eyes will be on 18, and for good reason. How about the next men up who could be household names?
In total, the Buckeyes have to replace their quarterback and three offensive linemen due to the NFL Draft departures. This gives way to a few new names to step up.
The quarterback battle between Kyle McCord and Devin Brown is still red-hot. While Ryan Day would have liked to have selected his guy at this point, this race has been neck and neck. With weapons like Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka — not to mention the deep running back room — Day could line up Orlando Pace at quarterback and he could succeed.
McCord comes in as the favorite. He’s been in the system the longest and even has a start under his belt. McCord was a highly-rated recruit and has only given the Buckeyes a taste of what he can do. He and Harrison Jr. already have a rapport due to the fact that they are from the same high school and played together for a few years.
In total, McCord comes into the year with 606 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions off of 41/58 passing. Of the two, McCord actually has a little tape to go off of.
Now, that’s not to say Brown is a slouch. He has his own backing within the fanbase and is more of a mystery. The two quarterbacks are similar but Brown has a little more razzle dazzle to his game. With an uncertain offensive line, Day may have to go with the quarterback who can make plays happen with his feet. In today’s game (at least at the NFL level), creating out of structure and off-schedule is a key attribute to great quarterback play. As a relatively mobile quarterback, Brown seems to fit the Day system better.
Ideally, one player separates himself in the coming days so they can have full reign of the offense. While going into Indiana with both quarterbacks may be the plan, the Buckeyes need to make sure they don’t repeat 2015. In both 2015 and 2023, Ohio State offensive players dominate the hype. Unfortunately, they could not decide between two quarterbacks and squandered a season with several NFL prospects on the roster.
True Freshman Wide Receiver
The top three receivers in the Buckeyes’ offense are set and at least two of them are first-round talents. So how can a true freshman even think that he can break through? This year’s freshman crop of receivers is different. Noah Rogers and Brandon Inniss have been showing out in Fall camp but Carnell Tate is going to break out first.
Tate has been on campus since the Spring due to enrolling early. Ohio State has a tradition when it comes to new players. The coaches put a black stripe on the player’s helmet to cover up the scarlet and “losing” the black stripe signifies a player “officially” becoming a member of the team. Talented freshmen often lose their black stripe early but Tate was different.
He lost his black stripe on March 25th. He was by far the quickest freshman to shed his black strip since the tradition began.
The six-foot-two, 180-pound receiver is turning heads. In the Spring Game, Tate recorded one of the few touchdowns after losing his man and getting wide open for McCord’s pass. He comes to Columbus already a polished route runner and possesses big-play speed.
The Ohio State offensive players lining up against Indiana will likely not include Tate. However, with a few winnable contests at the top of the schedule, Tate could break through the old-fashioned way: garbage time. Give Tate the opportunity to show his skills in the second half and watch him end up a regular member of the Buckeyes’ rotation by the end of the season.
Offensive Line Transfers
Finally, the Buckeyes earned the commitments of a couple of offensive line transfers. The competitions at both tackle positions as well as center are wide open. While the left tackle battle is seemingly between a freshman and an established veteran, the center and right tackle battles include Vic Cutler and Josh Simmons.
Cutler came to Ohio State by way of the Transfer Portal from Louisiana-Monroe.
At UL-Monroe, Cutler started 21 games over the past three seasons as a left tackle (13 times), right tackle (four), and center (four). The six-foot-three, 302-pound lineman is actually not going to battle for one of the tackle jobs. Cutler has been battling with redshirt freshman Carson Hinzman to be the next starting center.
As a tackle, Cutler struggled a bit, allowing eight sacks. However, moving inside will allow him to work his big frame a bit more efficiently. Plus he won’t have to face off against a defense’s top pass rusher as a center.
Recently, Day noted that four players were vying for the two tackle positions. Evidently, the Buckeyes have been rotating the group from left to right to try and get the best out of each player and Simmons is among that rotation.
When the six-foot-six tackle committed to Ohio State, he was not concerned with immediately starting. He has three years of eligibility so he’s patient. However, he did say that a major factor bringing him over from San Diego State was the opportunity to improve and compete. Needless to say, the EDGE talent he’s facing in practice is a tad different than what he faced before.
He’s incredibly athletic and has good footwork for his size but his false starts will need work. Freshman nerves or not, he was penalized a total of 17 times last year and most were false starts. Either way, if Simmons wins either tackle job, he will look to take the opportunity and run with it.
Speaking of black stripes, both Simmons and Cutler lost theirs on August 10th.
Keep the Foot on the Pedal
The Buckeyes had the ninth-best offense with over 490 yards per game. However, they were the most explosive in the nation, leading the way with just over seven yards per play. They’ll need to continue that in 2023.
Replacing C.J. Stroud, Paris Johnson, Jr., Luke Wypler, and Dawand Jones will be a challenge. Regardless, a program like Ohio State goes through NFL players yearly so this is not new. They’ll need new faces to step up and the Ohio State offensive players lining up are primed for the challenge.
Both the quarterback (whoever it ends up being) and Tate can become household names by the time November rolls around. The offensive lineman, unfortunately, will not be. That doesn’t mean Simmons and Cutler can’t make an impact and earn the respect of Buckeye fans everywhere.
All eyes are on Columbus again. They possess some of the top offensive talents in the nation. What are they going to do about it? Will they use it to propel them to glory? Or will we see another wasted year? Only time will tell.