Ohio State's offense is one of the best units in the nation annually.
On Tuesday, the coaches who have helped make that happen spoke with the media at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center, including Brian Hartline (offensive coordinator and wide receivers), Corey Dennis (quarterbacks), Tony Alford (running backs), Justin Frye (run game coordinator and offensive line) and Keenan Bailey (tight ends).
The five coaches detailed what life will look like without C.J. Stroud, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Paris Johnson Jr., Luke Wypler and Dawand Jones but the return of Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams, among others.
Each coach also discussed particulars of their position, with Hartline discussing his comfortability as a play-caller, Dennis talking about the state of the quarterback competition between Kyle McCord and Devin Brown and Frye talking about the ongoing battles on the offensive line, among other topics.
Here’s a sampling of what all five of those coaches had to say:
- Hartline thought the Buckeye offense “did a really good job competing” in the spring and said “you want to have an idea” of a depth chart by the end of spring schedule. “At the end of the day, coming out of spring, you want to start having an identity.’
- On his ATV crash in April, Hartline said “In hindsight, I probably would’ve rather went to bed than rode in a side-by-side” and that “I feel good” after suffering injuries from the crash.
- On new Ohio State offensive analyst Joe Philbin, Hartline says the addition of his former head coach on the Miami Dolphins “has been great. … I think everyone in the building can learn from him.” Hartline says it’s “pretty cool from my perspective to see and be around Coach Philbin again in a different light” and that he’s a “great addition to our staff.”
- On wide receivers leaving for the transfer portal this spring, Hartline said “I didn’t really have any expectations, just hope to continue to shape and build this room as best we can. I completely understand all the pressures that everyone has, and frankly, what they feel is right is up to them.”
- Hartline said “I feel pretty comfortable” with being Ohio State’s offensive coordinator, but “not to the point where I’m gonna relax.” Hartline said “I’m very honored to be in the role I’m in, and I’m not taking it lightly.”
- Hartline says nothing has been “given” to Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka and Julian Fleming and that “they’ve earned it.” Hartline says Harrison’s “skill development is off the charts because of the amount of work he’s putting in.”
- Dennis said it was productive for Kyle McCord to “get as many reps in as he got. He’s continuing to progress and feel comfortable in the offense.” He called McCord accurate with a big strong arm.
- Dennis said Ohio State is still in the process of determining its starting quarterback and nothing has been decided as of yet. “I know everyone wants to talk about the quarterback competition, but we’re still in the process of worrying about yourself and getting better.”
- Dennis said Devin Brown is “healthy and getting back to it.” He lauded Brown’s athleticism and arm talent and said both Brown and McCord wouldn’t be at Ohio State competing for the starting job if they didn’t have elite characteristics.
- Alford said Ohio State's running back room is as deep as it has been during his tenure with the Buckeyes. While Alford acknowledges that it will be nearly impossible to create equal opportunities for each player on Saturdays, he believes it's good for the Buckeyes to have multiple ball carriers in the backfield. "We needed every bit of depth that we could have last year. Hopefully, that doesn't repeat itself, but it's always good to have depth."
- Alford also sees Ohio State's running back depth as a positive for each player's development. "Competition makes everybody rise. I think it's a good situation to be in."
- Regarding Henderson, Alford said the third-year running back has been "excellent" this offseason in his efforts to recover from foot surgery in the winter. Although Henderson couldn't practice with full contact this spring, Alford believes he would be ready to carry a significant workload when Ohio State plays Indiana on Sept. 2.
- Alford said Ohio State's running back is talented and, more importantly, experienced due to the injuries the room experienced last season between Henderson, Williams and Pryor. "It's a good situation to be in." Alford also said Xavier Johnson's time at running back in 2022 could also be useful to the offense in 2023, "but we will see how it goes," he said.
- Frye said he has known transfer offensive tackle Josh Simmons since he was at UCLA recruiting Simmons as a high school player. He felt the Buckeyes needed to add a couple of transfers on the offensive line, which they did with Simmons and Victor Cutler because they lost both Paris Johnson Jr. and Luke Wypler to the NFL after three years.
- He said Simmons is a “mature guy” who “goes to work and wants to get better.” Frye said Simmons has the physical tools he looks for in an offensive tackle and the internal drive to make the most of them.
- Frye said Tegra Tshabola and Zen Michalski aren’t shying away from the extra competition Simmons brings at right tackle. He thought Tegra Tshabola “had a really good spring” and believes Tshabola is “going to have a really good career ahead of him” because he has a lot of natural ability.
- Frye’s plan is still for Donovan Jackson to play left guard and Matt Jones to play right guard, but he says Jackson could play all five spots on the offensive line and Jones could play center if needed. “At the end of the day, we gotta play the five best.”
- Frye said there has been no discussion about when Avery Henry will return to the football field. Right now, all focus remains on what’s best for him medically, though Frye wants him to be around the team as much as he wants to be.
- Frye said he feels good about Ohio State’s interior offensive line depth. “We got a lot of guys who could step in and play in there.”
- He said he would feel “very” confident in Josh Fryar if he was Ohio State’s starting left tackle. “He’s training his butt off right now.”
- Frye says Joe Philbin gives Ohio State’s offensive coaching staff “another set of eyes” and “it’s going to be really good for us.”
- Bailey said Ohio State has “one of the best tight ends in the country coming back” in Cade Stover and is excited to find out who else in the tight end room “can contribute at a championship level.”
- Bailey said Bennett Christian is “not a young guy anymore, and that’s what I’ve reminded him.” He said he’s challenged Christian to be more of a leader and has noticed his mindset has changed in regards to understanding the offense across the board.
- Bailey said he’s been impressed with the growth of freshman Jelani Thurman. In the spring, Bailey said Thurman was focused on learning the ropes and now entering summer workouts he’s asking more questions regarding “the how and the why.” He added Thurman has “enough talent, but now it’s putting the skill and discipline together.”