COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Football was back at Ohio Stadium on Saturday when the Buckeyes took the field in front of more than 75,000 fans for their annual spring game.
The game wasn’t quite what coach Ryan Day had in mind for the ongoing quarterback competition after Devin Brown was ruled out earlier in the week with a finger injury. Below are a few takeaways from Saturday’s inter-squad scrimmage.
Kyle McCord’s performance
All eyes were on quarterback Kyle McCord with Brown unavailable. McCord showed moments of what he can do, including a 37-yard touchdown to Carnell Tate on a go-route in the fourth quarter. A few nice throws to Marin Harrison Jr. on the second drive set up what looked to be a scoring chance until a pass breakup by Denzel Burke on third down.
McCord was inconsistent and nearly threw an interception on the third play of the game. He also missed two sideline passes late in the second quarter on 3rd and 7 and 4th and 7. Part of that inaccuracy is due in part to an unstable pocket behind an unproven offensive line.
“I think what you saw I the game was what you see in practice. There were some good things and some things he’ll want to improve on,” coach Ryan Day said. “Overall 15 [spring] practices and there was improvement there.”
It’s hard to tell what McCord can do from this game alone. He’s a versatile quarterback who can run, but the defense couldn’t tackle him so running was virtually nonexistent. Plus, he played without starting receivers Julian Fleming, Emeka Egbuka and Xavier Johnson.
Both McCord and Brown said after the game they have no intention to transfer if they’re not named the starter during summer camp.
The OSU defense dominated early and often, beating the offense 40-31. The Silver Bullets forced two three-and-outs on the first four drives, including an early sack by Kenyatta Jackson and a near interception by McCord to linebacker C.J. Hicks on the third play of the game.
Ohio State didn’t score a touchdown until less than two minutes left in the second quarter on a 65-yard run from linebacker-turned-running-back Chip Trayanum. That play, along with a couple of passes from McCord to his former high school teammate Marvin Harrison Jr., were about the only highlights for the offense in the first half.
D-Line Depth and O-Line Struggles
The Buckeyes’ defensive line overwhelmed OSU’s inexperienced offensive line. Jackson’s sack on the first series was a sign of things to come for the rushmen. Tyleik Williams started the second quarter with a sack, Jaden McKenzie had a QB hurry later in the quarter and Hero Kanu showed his potential, including a sack to end the first half.
Pickerington’s Ty Hamilton showed his range, making a tackle on the perimeter on a wide receiver screen and following that up with a run stop for no gain. Caden Curry also stepped up, rotating at defensive end with returning starters Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau.
On the flip side of that was OSU’s offensive line struggling against the rushmen. Day said the o-line was ‘inconsistent’ and has room to improve in the summer.
“I thought there was some good things but we need some more consistency there. The good news on defense is we’re getting in the backfield and creating confusion,” Day said with a sly smile.
The most concerning part about the defensive line’s ability to create chaos was the fact that Ohio State did not blitz once in the game, so the mistakes came from losing one-on-one matchups.
Emerging Buckeyes to watch
Two Buckeyes to watch for this fall: safety Sonny Styles and linebacker C.J. Hicks. Styles was the No. 2 ranked player from the Buckeye state for the class of 2021 while Hicks was Ohio’s No. 1 ranked player. Both Buckeyes flashed during OSU’s spring game with Styles nearly getting an interception with 43 seconds left in the first half followed by a huge hit on freshman receiver Noah Rogers a few plays later.
Hicks nearly had two interceptions that he wishes he could’ve had back, but both plays showed his ability to cover in space and an instinct for reading the quarterback. Finding a way to get both players on the field this fall will be a science given OSU’s depth at safety and linebacker but rest assured defensive coordinator Jim Knowles will find a role for both players who can be a difference maker.
Denzel Burke returns to form
Cornerback Denzel Burke gained national attention his freshman year for playing more than 100 consecutive snaps without allowing touchdown. He hit a sophomore slump last season and has been eager to show he’s capable of recreating his lockdown ability. He did just that in the spring game breaking up a would-be touchdown pass on OSU’s second drive and breaking up a long pass from McCord to Jayden Ballard on 3rd and 7 that would’ve put OSU’s offense inside the redzone.
Chip Trayanum in his natural habitat
Akron, Ohio native DeaMonte “Chip” Trayanum was the No. 5 ranked player from Ohio in 2019. He was recruited by the Buckeyes to play defense, but Trayanum wanted to be a college running back, so he committed to then coach Herm Edwards and Arizona State. He spent two years with the Sun Devils before coming back to the Buckeye state to play linebacker under Knowles.
Trayanum saw sporadic playing time on special teams until OSU’s injury-plagued running back room required him to switch back to his original position. He took the majority of snaps in the backfield against Michigan and was a featured back in the spring game with Miyan Williams in a limited role and TreVeyon Henderson unavailable. Trayanum took advantage of the opportunity rushing for 110 yards on eight attempts, including that 65-yard touchdown run.
“He’s got some high-end speed, some top-end speed coming out of the back end. He had that long run,” Day said. “Chip has done a nice job. He’s changed his body a little bit, gotten stronger. He’s a load in there. You can see it. He has big play ability.”
Trayanum also flashed out of the backfield as a receiving option, but finding a way to split carries amongst Henderson, Williams, Trayanum, Dallan Hayden and Evan Pryor just isn’t possible. The transfer portal opened Saturday, and one player might be there before summer camp.