Ohio State’s 2023 offense: 8 thoughts on the Buckeyes’ explosive attack

Spring practice is sure to bring a lot of questions for the Ohio State offense.

The wide receiver corps is arguably the best in the country, but there are still unknowns. Who will play quarterback? How does the offensive line shape up? And how will the running back hierarchy get sorted out?

The Buckeyes have averaged more than 40 points per game in six consecutive seasons, and they have more than enough talent to continue that streak.

Here are eight early thoughts on one of college football’s top offenses.

1. Let’s take a look at Kyle McCord to start. In 2022, McCord completed 16 of 20 passes for 190 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He’s the front-runner for the starting quarterback spot CJ Stroud off to the NFL.

His one touchdown was a 72-yard pass to Jayden Ballard against Toledo.

Ballard was wide open, and McCord underthrew him a little, but the play showed some of McCord’s mobility. He sold the play fake and took the designed rollout to his left. He was forced to turn his body and reset his feet before throwing the ball. He does all of that quickly, and although the ball is a bit underthrown, it gets to Ballard. You’ll want those throws to be more accurate, but McCord moved well during the rollout.

If McCord can show off some mobility, Ohio State can use a variety of plays to help him get into a rhythm, whether that’s in the pocket or getting him on the move with various play action and rollouts.

2. Devin Brown is another talented, but young, quarterback. He was a top-50 prospect in the Class of 2022 who threw for 7,961 yards and 85 touchdowns in high school. He made two appearances in 2022 but did not attempt a pass. We saw a bit of him in the practices leading up to the Peach Bowl, and he showed off a strong arm and good accuracy. He’ll challenge McCord for the starting job.

Brown was an early enrollee, so this will be his second spring with the Buckeyes.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Josh Proctor’s return, elite talent on the edge: Ten thoughts on the Buckeyes defense

3. Ohio State will return its entire running back corps next season: TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams, Dallan Hayden, Chip Trayanum and Evan Pryor. That’s a lot of competition, so there’s always a chance somebody ends up in the transfer portal in May.

Last season, Ohio State’s running game was a little inconsistent. The running backs averaged 2.1 yards before contact, third in the Big Ten and No. 43 nationally, according to TruMedia. The same group averaged 3.6 yards after contact, second in the Big Ten and No. 13 nationally.

Henderson was the best of the group before contact, averaging 2.7 yards despite being hampered by a foot injury much of the season. He also averaged 2.7 yards after contact. Williams, who also battled injuries this season, excelled after contact with a 4.4-yard average but averaged only 2.1 yards before contact.

Those will be the two top running backs next season unless something drastic happens between now and opening day. Henderson has said he expects to be healthy in the spring but isn’t sure if he’ll be a full participant in practice.

Hayden will have an opportunity to showcase his talents in the spring after emerging as a surprise contributor as a freshman. He rushed for 553 yards and averaged 1.7 yards before contact and 3.2 yards after contact.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Who are the winners and losers in the Big Ten’s transfer portal moves?

4. Pryor is the wild card among the running backs. A former top-100 national recruit, he rushed for 98 yards and one touchdown in 2021 while playing in four games and preserving his redshirt. He was drawing positive reviews last summer before being sidelined by a season-ending knee injury.

Where he fits in the running back equation is uncertain, but he was expected to back up Henderson and Williams before his injury. It will just be good to see him back on the field this offseason whenever that happens.

5. The strength of this offense will be the receivers. Ohio State is bringing back its entire receiving corps, most notably Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming. This is a group that runs good routes and doesn’t drop the ball.

As a team, Ohio State dropped just 3.5 percent of catchable targets, the ninth fewest in the country and the fewest in the Big Ten, according to TruMedia.

Harrison, considered by most to be the best receiver in the country, had just three drops on 118 targets and caught 77 passes for 1,263 yards and 14 touchdowns. Egbuka had five drops on 106 targets and caught 74 passes for 1,151 yards and 10 touchdowns. Fleming had three drops on 52 targets and brought in 34 passes for 533 yards and six touchdowns.

Those three will lead another loaded receiving corps that will also feature a versatile weapon Xavier Johnson, who is returning for his sixth season. Oh, and the Buckeyes are bringing in three more top-100 wideouts in the Class of 2023.

6. In 2021, the receiving corps made program history when Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba became the first Ohio State duo to top the 1,000-yard mark. It was almost a trio; Chris Olave finished the season with 936 yards.

One year later, Harrison and Egbuka joined the club. With both backs, the expectations for Ohio State’s offense will be high even with a new quarterback. But just how good can Harrison and Egbuka be together? In September, Egbuka suggested that he and Harrison can be as productive as before LSU stars Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson. In 2019, Chase and Jefferson both exceeded 1,500 yards with Joe Burrow as their quarterback.

Harrison and Egbuka’s 2022 season looked similar to that of Alabama‘s DeVonta Smith (1,163 yards) and Jerry Jeudy (1,256) in 2019.

What’s in store in 2023? It depends on the quarterback play, among several other factors.

7. Ohio State is bringing back just two starting offensive linemen: left guard Donovan Jackson and right guard Matthew Jones. They’ll be a crucial part of the line as they transition to life without Paris Johnson, Luke Wypler and Dawand Jones.

Breaking in a new quarterback is hard enough, but protecting Stroud’s replacement with a new group is concerning as well. Jackson and Matthew Jones were solid in pass protection last year and are two good building blocks. Jackson gave up just two sacks and 13 pressures on 449 pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Jones allowed three sacks and 11 pressures on 391 pass-blocking snaps.

8. Harrison and Egbuka stood out as second-year players who emerged in 2022. Who will step up next season? Hayden is a strong candidate, but tackle Zen Michalski — entering his third year in the program — is someone to watch. Could he contend for starting duties at tackle?

(Photo of Marvin Harrison Jr.: Joseph Maiorana / USA Today)

Leave a Comment