Ryan Day starts his first spring practice as Ohio State head coach with plenty of work to do
Replace a legendary head coach. Assemble a coaching staff. Finish off a competitive recruiting class. All three of those items can be checked off for Ryan Day, Ohio State's new head football coach.
Now, it is time for some football.
Ohio State football fans are legendary for their offseason devotion to the Buckeyes, regularly packing the venerable seats of Ohio Stadium for the spring football game. April 13 will mark the conclusion for Day's first spring as Ohio State head coach, and there is no lack of things to do between now and then.
5 Storylines To Watch During Ohio State's Spring Practice
1. Will Justin Fields be ready?
The hype and hoopla surrounding Fields' transfer to Ohio State has been noticeable throughout the college football landscape.The immediate eligibility granted to Fields after his transfer from Georgia has sparked comments, both for and against the Buckeyes' new quarterback.
More importantly to Ohio State fans, Fields arrives with the starting quarterback job for the taking, following the departure of Dwayne Haskins to the NFL. Fields will battle redshirt freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin for the job, but the former is expected to win. Buckeyes fans who have grown accustomed to the stellar quarterback play of J.T. Barrett and Dwayne Haskins under Ryan Day's tutelage will have high expectations of Fields if he is the new signal-caller.
We need your votes and comments on this as we think about Justin Fields and the Buckeyes heading into the spring.
February 26, 2019
2. Who will emerge on the offensive line?
Fields is not the only player to take advantage of the opportunity to transfer. A two-year starter and team captain at Rutgers, Jonah Jackson joined the Ohio State program as a graduate transfer. While it has not yet been established where Jackson will line up, the speculation is that he will have opportunities at left guard or at center.
The arrival of Jackson helps to solidify the offensive line, but there are questions remaining. Returning left tackle Thayer Munford may be the only sure starter heading into spring practice. The decision by Michael Jordan to enter the 2019 NFL Draft has created an opening at center where Josh Myers is the favorite. Wyatt Davis started the latter portion of the 2018 season for the injured Demetrius Knox at right guard, and should line up there when the upcoming campaign kicks off. Isaiah Prince's departure means right tackle is another spot that's open, with players such as Josh Alabi and Nicholas Petit-Frere expected to compete. Regardless of who wins the jobs, developing chemistry and cohesion up front will be a priority this spring and beyond.
3. Has the linebacker position been fixed?
Bill Davis, a popular target of the Ohio State fan base over the past two seasons, is now the linebackers coach for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. Al Washington was brought in as Davis' replacement, and Ohio State fans are wondering what personnel changes may be forthcoming for a unit that has struggled over the last two seasons. Speculation is that Ohio State may be moving towards a 4-2-5 scheme, similar to what Washington and new Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison ran at Michigan. No matter the personnel or scheme, Ohio State fans are looking for improvement from the linebackers across the board.
4. Who will step up at wide receiver?
Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and Johnnie Dixon are all off to ply their trade in the NFL, taking their combined 167 receptions and 31 touchdowns from last season with them. Fortunately for Ohio State, K.J. Hill returns, along with Bin Victor, Austin Mack, Chris Olave, and C.J. Saunders. The time is right for Jaylen Harris to make a move on the depth chart, and true freshman Garrett Wilson will be participating in spring practice. With a new quarterback, developing chemistry with the wide receivers will be crucial.
5. How will the secondary look?
New co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley takes over a secondary that struggled in 2018. Jordan Fuller returns as a starter at one safety position, but the other spot is in a state of flux. Brendon White played well as the starter during the latter part of the season but he could be moved to a hybrid linebacker role should a new scheme (see above) be implemented. At cornerback, Damon Arnette returns as a probable starter, with Jeffrey Okudah considered the favorite for the other spot. No matter who emerges as starters in the secondary, Ohio State fans are eager to see the impact Hafley has on this group.
Asked new co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley how he analyzes a whole new roster and finding the right guys to start. He said" "I've started free agents over first-round draft picks. The best guy is going to play."— Ari Wasserman (@AriWasserman) February 6, 2019
(Screengrab courtesy of ohiostatebuckeyes.com)