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Football: Quarterbacks, shifting linebackers highlight Ohio State position battles

The quarterback competition between sophomore Justin Fields (1) and redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin (12) is yet to be decided. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

With the Spring Game over, Ohio State heads into the summer with plenty of areas already decided.

Junior J.K. Dobbins is solidified as the starting running back, while redshirt senior K.J. Hill and seniors Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack are at the top of the wide-receiving core.

On the defensive side, junior Chase Young and senior Jonathon Cooper are firmly coming in as the starting defensive ends with sophomore Tyreke Smith, sophomore Tyler Friday and freshman Zach Harrison backing them up.

But there are still plenty of positions that Ohio State will need to have decided prior to Aug. 31, when the Buckeyes open their season against Florida Atlantic.

Ohio State sophomore quarterback Justin Fields (1) throws a pass during warmups prior to the start of the 2019 Spring Game on April 13. Gray beat Scarlet 35-17. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Managing Editor for Design

Quarterback

Likely Starter: Justin Fields

In Contention: Matthew Baldwin

While sophomore Justin Fields holds a sizable advantage in this “battle,” the quarterback competition between him and redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin is yet to be decided.

Throughout the spring and following the Spring Game, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has not given anything away as to which quarterback is in the lead, saying he will have to look at completion percentages throughout practice to get an answer.

But Fields spent much of his practice time with the first team, earning the “start” in the Spring Game for Team Gray. In the start, Fields completed 4-of-13 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, while also running for 38 yards and a score.

Baldwin played for both Gray and Team Scarlet, combining for 246 yards, completing 20 of his 36 pass attempts and throwing a pair of touchdowns and interceptions.

Not from what’s been said, but has been shown, signs are pointing toward Fields earning the spot.

Ohio State redshirt sophomore tight end Luke Farrell (89) catches a pass in the second half of the game against Purdue on Oct. 20. Ohio State lost 49-20. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Tight End

Likely Starter: Luke Farrell

In Contention: Rashod Berry, Jeremy Ruckert

While the tight-end position had been a blocking-heavy position for all of Urban Meyer’s tenure as head coach, the position has an opportunity to change under Day.

That said, it appears that redshirt junior Luke Farrell is leading the pack among the group. Farrell was the starter in 2018, but that does not mean redshirt senior Rashod Berry will be held off the field.

It seems that Ohio State will implement two tight-end sets more this upcoming season, which would bring in Berry, who has shown a strength in run-blocking.

For more of a receiving threat, sophomore Jeremy Ruckert will be the option, who has gotten reps at H-back this spring. But only time will tell how much Day will bring him in instead of the two veterans ahead of him.

Ohio State freshman offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere (77) blocks a Tulane player in the fourth quarter of the game against Tulane on Sept. 22. Ohio State won 49-6. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Offensive Line

Likely Starters: Thayer Munford (LT), Jonah Jackson (LG), Josh Myers (C), Wyatt Davis (RG)

In Contention: Josh Alabi, Branden Bowen, Nicholas Petit-Frere (RT)

With junior Thayer Munford out this spring due to injury, there has been an opportunity for offensive line coach Greg Studrawa to move around some of his players to get the best five on the field.

Munford, being the only major returning starter from this past season, is expected to stay at left tackle. Redshirt sophomore Wyatt Davis seems locked into the right guard position, as does redshirt sophomore Josh Myers at center.

Redshirt senior Jonah Jackson, who will spend his final collegiate season with the Buckeyes after transferring from Rutgers, will likely take over at left guard, leaving one spot at right tackle to be won.

A pair of redshirt seniors will be vying for the spot: Josh Alabi and Branden Bowen, while former five-star, sophomore Nicholas Petit-Frere, continues to impress in spring and is making a run for the position.

In the Spring Game, with Munford injured and Jackson not playing, Day started Alabi at left tackle, Bowen at left guard and Petit-Frere at right tackle.

While it should be expected that all three will find time in 2019, there is no clear frontrunner to who will earn the spot in the starting lineup.

Ohio State redshirt sophomore linebacker Tuf Borland (32) celebrates in the fourth quarter of the game against Michigan State on Nov. 10. Ohio State won 26-6. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Linebacker

Likely Starter: Malik Harrison

In Contention: Tuf Borland, Baron Browning, Pete Werner, Teradja Mitchell, Dallas Gant

The linebacker position was a talking point for many this past season, with Ohio State’s group seemingly faltering by giving up dozens of deep plays in the course of the year.

With new linebackers coach Al Washington, the position has a chance to be revamped, and so far senior Malik Harrison is the one who should be a lock to start come fall.

Redshirt junior Tuf Borland is still a likely starter, but with an injury keeping him out of much of the spring, there is a chance he can be switched out with junior Baron Browning, who has been playing middle linebacker in his place.

Still, the more likely scenario for Browning could be placing him in junior Pete Werner’s place on the outside.

Sophomores Teradja Mitchell and Dallas Gant are also in contention as some of the less-experienced members of the linebacker room that hold loads of potential.

The entirety of the starting linebackers group is back from a season ago, but because it was not necessarily a strong point, there is still plenty for Washington to experiment with before making a decision in August.

Ohio State sophomore safety Brendon White (25) intercepts a pass in the second half of the game against Michigan on Nov. 24. Ohio State won 62-39. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Bullet

Likely Starter: Brendon White

In Contention: Jahsen Wint

There will be a new position on the Ohio State defense in 2019, and it is yet to be seen just how much it will be used.

The “bullet” position, played by Jabrill Peppers while at Michigan under the name “viper,” is considered a linebacker-safety hybrid that was created by Washington for this season.

With the position, the frontrunner was and still is junior safety Brendon White. The position was seemingly built for his larger frame, and would allow someone like redshirt sophomore cornerback Shaun Wade to have more time on the field.

But don’t count out redshirt junior Jahsen Wint. After failing to win a starting role in 2018, eventually being almost completely replaced by White, Wint has been named as a candidate for the new position.

His chances may have been helped after a two-interception performance in the Spring Game, and if he continues to show progress, maybe White would retain his traditional safety spot alongside senior Jordan Fuller.

Nothing is set in stone, so while White has a firm hold over Wint, performances like the one from Saturday could add up and help Wint make progress.

 

One comment

  1. THE LINEBACKERS WERE HORRIBLE LAST YEAR IF BORLAND OR WERNER PLAY I WILL NOT WATCH

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