April showers bring May flowers, but Ohio State football’s renewal starts in March.
Ohio State took the field for its first spring practice Monday, complete with new starters, position changes and preparation for the 2020 season.
“Some other guys left, now they need to step up into different roles, and it’s different when you’re a starter, you’re the guy that they’re counting on to make plays,” head coach Ryan Day said. “So that’s a big step for those guys, but it’s also for the guys that don’t have a lot of reps to get some under their belt.”
The Buckeyes can be a revolving door of talent. Whenever players such as Nick Bosa, Denzel Ward or Dwayne Haskins leave for first-round selections in the NFL Draft, other projected first rounders such as Chase Young, Jeff Okudah and Justin Fields rise to take their place.
The college football season doesn’t open for nearly six months, but already there are clear frontrunners — mostly former four- and five-star recruits — to replace the 14 starters Ohio State lost to graduation or the draft following this past season.
Two of the more clear-cut choices are sophomore Garrett Wilson to replace one of three departures at wide receiver, and sophomore guard Harry Miller — who played center in 2019 — to replace All-Big Ten performer Jonah Jackson at left guard.
Both Wilson and Miller are former five-star recruits.
Day said Miller’s move over was in an effort to get the best five offensive linemen on the field, with redshirt junior Josh Myers returning as a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2019 and locking down the center position.
“Harry’s a high-function football player, he’s got a good IQ,” Day said. “He played at center. So that really helps in terms of identifying things early on, you’ve gotta make a lot of calls. I don’t think it’s gonna move too fast for him, but he does have to step up because we need guys to step up in that group.”
Wilson showed immense flashes as a freshman, with 30 receptions for 432 yards and five touchdowns.
Austin Mack, Binjimen Victor and K.J. Hill all graduated from Ohio State’s receiving corps, and while Wilson played on the outside in 2019, he took reps in the slot Monday.
“I think his ability to catch the ball, put it away, run after the catch so quickly is something you want out of a slot receiver,” Day said. “Running option routes, setting up defenders, understanding space and everything like that. It happens a lot faster in there, but I think his skill set fits that way.”
Wilson and Miller weren’t the only players to experience offseason position changes, however.
Redshirt senior wide receiver Demario McCall has moved outside from running back, a switch Day said will be fluid.
“We’ve always tried to find that role for him, where you can be a running back and then also be a matchup problem for teams like that,” Day said.
Redshirt freshman tight end Cade Stover has switched to offense from linebacker to provide depth at the end of Ohio State’s line, with three upperclassmen atop the depth chart leaving in the next season or two.
“When you look at his skillset, his basketball background, his spatial awareness, his toughness — we think that he projects into being a really good tight end,” Day said.
Entering 2020, Ohio State’s biggest question mark could be in the defensive backfield.
Three of Ohio State’s four starters in the secondary are gone, with defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs replacing Jeff Hafley as its top position coach.
Junior cornerback Cameron Brown, who received significant playing time in 2019 and is a prime candidate to take one of the two spots vacated by Okudah and former cornerback Damon Arnette, was limited in practice Monday. Junior safety Josh Proctor, likely to replace Jordan Fuller at the position, was out entirely.
One player who was fully healthy, however, was junior cornerback Sevyn Banks, in his new jersey number — seven.
“There’s a lot of guys there that got reps, but haven’t played a significant role,” Day said. “I think that combined with some of the younger guys who are gonna have to play in.
Ohio State will showcase its new-look team for the first time at its Spring Game April 11 at noon in Ohio Stadium.