Realistically, Ohio State's quest to win the 2023 College Football Playoff began the moment it lost to Michigan and knew it would be left out of the 2022 CFP.
The Buckeyes played the Rose Bowl short-handed and pulled out one of the most thrilling bowl wins in program history. But in an age where everyone is pushing limits in the sport and for a program that defines success with national championship trophies, the Rose Bowl win was simply a good first step towards getting back to the promised land.
Spring practice was productive in Columbus as we finally got a glimpse of how new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles will try to resurrect the Silver Bullets after three pretty poor showings in the last four seasons.
After there were lots of coaching changes in the spring and a reasonably uneventful summer for the staples of the program moving forward, it's finally time to get back on the field.
Today, the Buckeyes report for fall training camp and the first official practice of the fall is slated for tomorrow (Thursday) morning.
As the team prepares to embark on it's journey one month prior to kicking off against Notre Dame at The 'Shoe, here are the most pressing questions facing the Buckeyes:
Who is going to be the catalyst for toughening up the defense?
November 27, 2021 was a rough scene up in Ann Arbor. While Ohio State played well enough to stay competitive throughout the game (especially in the first half), Michigan ran the ball right through Ohio State's defense. Nobody is off the hook here - the interior of the D-Line and the linebacking corps have to take a big step forward here.
Jim Knowles made it pretty clear in the spring he essentially wants to have three safeties on the field. That means there are questions to be answered in a linebacking room that has new blood with DeaMonte Traynum transferring to Columbus. Tommy Eichenberg played the game of his life in Pasadena and continues to receive a lot of praise from the coaching staff. He and Steele Chambers sure seemed to be the front-runners there after spring ball. I expect Cody Simon to factor in as well. We'll see what happens with Teradja Mitchell, Reid Carrico and true freshman C.J. Hicks.
Ohio State also needs to stiffen up the interior in the trenches. I loved the way Tyleik Williams played as a true freshman last year, but Larry Johnson has to figure out how to get this group to be substantially better.
How quickly can the offensive line develop some depth?
The Buckeye front five last year often looked a bit clunky. It felt too often like the unit featured four tackles and a center - something that has to change in 2022. Dawand Jones is reportedly in the best shape of his life and could be one of the premier right tackles in the country. There are awfully high expectations for Paris Johnson Jr., who will move out to left tackle. Luke Wypler will be the center again this fall.
Matthew Jones and Donovan Jackson appear to be the starting guards at this point and both saw substantial time last year. Josh Fryar missed spring practice, but he's back and ready to go, and it appears he's the primary backup across the board right now.
Beyond that, they really need to develop some depth in this group. Training camp will be extremely important towards that.
Who will be C.J. Stroud's backup?
Kyle McCord played several games last year and has a leg up on Devin Brown, but the true freshman from Canyon, Utah is highly-thought of by the coaching staff. Both guys should approach this fall with the mentality that they're ready to play if called upon, but ultimately trying to be as comfortable as possible in Ryan Day's offense to earn the starting job in 2024.
Be sure to check out our new message boards, Buckeye Forums. We'd love to have you part of the conversation during the season.
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