Observations And Videos From Ohio State's First Spring Practice of 2023

By Dan Hope and Griffin Strom on March 7, 2023 at 9:54 am
Marvin Harrison Jr.

Spring practice is officially underway at Ohio State.

With Meek Mill’s “Dreams and Nightmares” playing over the speakers, Ohio State opened practice just before 8:30 a.m. Tuesday inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, giving us our first glimpse at the 2023 Buckeyes on the field. Media members who cover Ohio State were able to watch the first four periods of practice before being ushered out.

Not coincidentally, the end of the media viewing window coincided with the start of the portion of practice that actually simulated scrimmaging, leaving it unclear what the depth chart actually looks like at the beginning of spring. But as it was the Buckeyes’ first 30 minutes of practice of the year, there were some notable observations nonetheless.

Marv takes first-team reps as punt returner

With Emeka Egbuka out for the spring, Marvin Harrison Jr. handled first-team punt return duties during the first period of practice on Tuesday. Harrison has never returned a punt or kick for the Buckeyes in a game.

Ryan Day said after practice that the decision to put Harrison at punt returner was prompted by Egbuka’s absence and because the Buckeyes want to build more depth at punt return.

Second-year wideout Kaleb Brown served as the second-team punt returner for Parker Fleming’s unit. Third-year wide receiver Jayden Ballard was third in line for the Buckeyes. Walk-on wideout Reis Stocksdale also returned a couple of punts during the period.

McCord first up at quarterback

Ohio State’s quarterback competition is only just beginning, but when the Buckeyes broke out into individual drills on Tuesday, it was Kyle McCord who took the first reps in the line, followed by Devin Brown and Oregon State transfer Tristan Gebbia.

Considering McCord’s additional year of experience and his status as C.J. Stroud’s top backup last year, that comes as no surprise. The Buckeyes are nevertheless expected to split first-team reps between Stroud and Brown throughout the spring as they compete to succeed Stroud as the new starter.

Since the media was not able to watch any team drills on Tuesday, there wasn’t a lot to evaluate on how the quarterbacks are performing just yet (though Devin Brown’s new jersey number, 33, was certainly noticeable). But here’s a couple of quick clips if you want to watch them throw for yourself.

Melton available after all

Despite being included by Ryan Day on the list of players who would be unavailable this spring, Mitchell Melton was on the field and mixing in with the first two groups of defensive linemen during individual drills on Tuesday.

Melton, who started his Ohio State career as a linebacker, now appears to be a full-fledged member of Larry Johnson’s position group, though Jim Knowles said last month that Melton is among the candidates to play the Jack linebacker role this year.

Ryan Day said after practice that Melton has been cleared to participate in individual drills but that he will likely be limited to individual drills for the entirety of spring as he continues to work his way back from the torn ACL he suffered in Ohio State’s 2022 spring game.

Running backs TreVeyon Henderson and TC Caffey were also in uniform and participated in pre-practice stretching despite being listed as unavailable, but did not take any reps with the running backs once full-speed work began. With Henderson, Caffey and Evan Pryor all out, the running back order in individual drills consisted of Miyan Williams, Chip Trayanum, Dallan Hayden and true freshman walk-on Will Hartson.

Transfer report

All of Ohio State’s new transfer additions were on the field for their first practice as Buckeyes on Tuesday, including defensive backs Davison Igbinosun and Ja’Had Carter, who began the spring repping with the second lines at their respective positions in individual drills. 

Denzel Burke and Jordan Hancock took the first reps at cornerback, followed by Igbinosun and Jyaire Brown. Lathan Ransom and Josh Proctor took the first reps at safety, followed by Carter and Cameron Martinez, with Kye Stokes and Sonny Styles (now wearing No. 6) taking third-team reps.

There was no clear pecking order on the offensive line during the portion of practice we were able to watch on Tuesday, but Victor Cutler Jr. was seen lining up at center alongside starting left guard Donovan Jackson on several reps, suggesting he could be an early frontrunner for the starting center job.

As aforementioned, Gebbia was third in the individual drill order at quarterback behind McCord and Brown.

Additional observations

  • Josh Fryar lined up as a left tackle while Zen Michalski and Tegra Tshabola both lined up at right tackle during individual drills.
  • Ohio State added a “winner” component to its pre-practice warmup sprints, with operations assistant Austin Edwards announcing which player finished first in each group of runners. Brown was announced as a winner twice while other Buckeyes who won reps included Styles, Ballard, Stokes and Malik Hartford.
  • Visitors at Tuesday’s practice included former Ohio State long snapper Bradley Robinson and a scout from the NFL’s Detroit Lions.
  • Ballard and Proctor were the first-team punt gunners. Other players who took reps at gunner on Tuesday included Burke, Noah Rogers, Kojo Antwi and Stokes.
  • Kicker Jake Seibert was the second-team punter at Tuesday’s practice. Jesse Mirco is currently the only player listed as a punter on the roster.
  • Junior offensive lineman Jakob James, who was listed as unavailable ahead of the spring, appeared to be participating in drills with Justin Frye’s unit. However, the full extent of his participation was unclear.
  • During a portion of individual drills where the defensive line group was split up into two groups, Johnson coached the defensive ends while graduate assistant LaAllan Clark coached the defensive tackles. Former Nebraska defensive line coach Mike Dawson, who was recently hired by Ohio State as a program assistant, watched the drills from behind the groups.
  • Already 6-foot-6 and 253 pounds, tight end Jelani Thurman didn’t look much like a true freshman.
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