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Ohio State Football: Buckeyes' 2022 Spring Preview

Ohio State Buckeyes Football

A new defensive staff will be busily implementing a new scheme for the Buckeyes

"In winter, I plot and plan. In spring, I move." ~ Henry Rollins

Even with the chill of winter lingering in the air of Columbus, Ohio, the plotting and planning phase for the 2022 college football season is over. It is time to move, as the Ohio State Buckeyes will begin spring football practices on March 8, concluding with the spring game on April 16.

Ryan Day begins his fourth season as the head coach of the Buckeyes. While notable players such as quarterback C.J. Stroud, wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and running back TreVeyon Henderson return in 2022, it would be fair to say that Day and his newly-configured coaching staff will be working diligently to prevent a repeat of the disappointments that periodically plagued the Buckeyes in 2021.

Below are five key areas that Day and his staff will be scrutinizing during the spring practice sessions. It is possible that these questions may be answered by the conclusion of spring practice, but by no means are they guaranteed.

5 Storylines to Watch During Ohio State's Spring Practice

1. The linebackers

In 2021, Ohio State continually shuffled players at the linebacker position, due to injuries and poor overall play. Enter new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State, who will also be tutoring the linebackers in 2022.

Ohio State presently has an abundance of linebackers on the roster. With Knowles running a 4-2-5 scheme, it is going to bear watching which players emerge at the two starting spots for 2022. Steele Chambers demonstrated a nose for the ball after coming over to the linebacker position last year, while Tommy Eichenberg had a stellar Rose Bowl performance, racking up 17 tackles.

2. The Leo

Part of the intrigue associated with Knowles is the introduction of a versatile weak-side defensive end, termed a Leo in Knowles' scheme, who can be moved around to cause confusion for the opposing offense. The Buckeyes' roster has a number of talented players who are being rumored as possible Leos, with Cade Stover among the most popular names discussed. The pass rush has not been dominant since Chase Young left for the NFL after the 2019 season, and the use of the Leo has sparked hope among fans that a better pass rush will be coming back to Columbus.

3. The secondary

You may be starting to pick up on a theme here, and that is how the defense will be the main focal point of Ohio State spring football conversations. Besides hiring Knowles to coordinate the defense, Day also brought in Tim Walton (cornerbacks coach) and Perry Eliano (safeties coach) to revamp the secondary. Tanner McCalister joined the team as a graduate transfer, and he is well-versed in Knowles' defense from their time together at Oklahoma State. McCalister is expected to not only start, but also serve as a "coach on the field" for his new teammates, as they all will try to get acclimated to the new defensive coaching staff and terminology.  Ronnie Hickman and Cameron Brown are among the returnees likely to start in the secondary in 2022.

4. The offensive line

New offensive line coach Justin Frye has talented players returning, but he has to identify his starting five. Paris Johnson Jr. will move out to left tackle following the departure of Nicholas Petit-Frere to the 2022 NFL Draft. Matthew Jones seems likely to assume the starting left guard spot, previously filled by Thayer Munford, another draft-related departure. Dawand Jones will maintain his starting job at right tackle. This leaves center and right guard open with Luke Wypler, Harry Miller, and Donovan Jackson in the running.

Miller was a starter in 2020 and he has the versatility to play either interior spot. Wypler started at center last season while Jackson was often brought in as an extra blocking tight end on running plays.

5. Tight end

Jeremy Ruckert is preparing for the draft, so someone will need to emerge as the top option at the position. Returnees include Mitch Rossi, Joe Royer, Gee Scott Jr., and Sam Hart, with incoming freshman Bennett Christian already on campus and also in the mix. With a tight end expected to be a blocker first and foremost in Ohio State's offense, and a receiver second, it will be interesting to see which player claims the starting job.

Podcast: Examining Returning Starters and Teams With the Most/Least Talent Returning for the 2022 Season

— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He also is podcasting for Buckeye Scoop. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.