85-Man Reset: How Ohio State’s 2024 Roster Stacks Up After NFL Draft Decisions, First Wave of Offseason Transfer Movement

By Dan Hope on January 24, 2024 at 10:25 am
Caden Curry and Jack Sawyer

The past seven weeks have been full of roster movement for the Ohio State football program.

Between the start of the offseason’s first transfer portal window on Dec. 4 and the commitment of Alabama transfer quarterback Julian Sayin on Sunday, Ohio State has seen 29 scholarship players from the 2023 roster leave the program while 27 new scholarship players have joined the roster for 2024.

Ohio State’s departures over the past seven weeks include 18 scholarship players who entered the transfer portal, four who exhausted their eligibility and seven players who opted their forgo their remaining eligibility. The Buckeyes’ additions include 20 high school recruits who signed with the Buckeyes in December, one who committed to the Buckeyes this past weekend (Dominic Kirks) and six players who transferred to Ohio State from other schools.

There will still be more changes to come to Ohio State’s roster between now and the start of the season. It’s likely the Buckeyes will have some additional players enter the portal during the second transfer window, which opens April 16 (three days after Ohio State’s spring game). The Buckeyes could also still add more players from the portal; specifically, Ohio State should continue to monitor the portal for potential upgrades on the offensive line.

As of right now, though, the Buckeyes sit at the 85-man scholarship limit for the 2024 season, with cornerback Lorenzo Styles Jr. and linebacker Nigel Glover expected to be on scholarship this year after walking on last season. And with Ohio State now in the third week of its spring semester and offseason workouts underway, Ohio State isn’t likely to have much roster movement for the next few months.

With that in mind, we take a look at how Ohio State’s roster of scholarship players currently stacks up at every position with who’s back from last year, who’s new for this year and who’s gone from last season.

Quarterbacks (5)

Returners: Devin Brown, Lincoln Kienholz
Newcomers: Will Howard (Transfer), Air Noland (Freshman), Julian Sayin (Freshman Transfer)
Departures: Kyle McCord

It would come as a surprise if there isn’t at least some attrition from this unit after spring, but Ohio State might have the deepest quarterback room in the country right now.

Howard is likely to replace McCord as Ohio State’s starting quarterback after starting 27 games at Kansas State, giving the Buckeyes an experienced veteran for 2024. Sayin and Noland give Ohio State two five-star quarterbacks from the 2024 class who could be the leading candidates to compete for the Buckeyes’ starting job in 2025 (assuming Noland sticks around after the late addition of Sayin).

Brown and Kienholz were expected to vie for this year’s starting job before the addition of Howard, but the additions of not one but two transfer quarterbacks make it clear that Ryan Day wasn’t fully satisfied with the returning talent Ohio State has at the position.

Running Backs (5)

Returning Starter: TreVeyon Henderson
Other Returners: Dallan Hayden
Newcomers: Quinshon Judkins (Transfer), James Peoples (Freshman), Sam Williams-Dixon (Freshman)
Departures: Chip Trayanum, Miyan Williams, Evan Pryor

Even with the departures of three scholarship running backs from last season, Ohio State’s running back unit looks like the best in the country entering 2024.

Henderson’s decision to stay for his senior season paired with the addition of Judkins, a two-time All-SEC running back at Ole Miss, gives Ohio State two of the best running backs in all of college football. They will likely see the vast majority of carries in 2024 as long as they stay healthy, but Hayden has shown impressive flashes in limited action across his first two seasons as a Buckeye. Peoples has the talent to be a future feature back for the Buckeyes while Williams-Dixon offers an intriguing hybrid skill set to potentially play both running back and receiver.

Wide Receivers (9)

Returning Starter: Emeka Egbuka
Other Returners: Carnell Tate, Brandon Inniss, Jayden Ballard, Kojo Antwi, Kyion Grayes, Bryson Rodgers
Newcomers: Jeremiah Smith (Freshman), Mylan Graham (Freshman)
Departures: Marvin Harrison Jr., Julian Fleming, Xavier Johnson, Noah Rogers

While Harrison leaves massive shoes to fill and Fleming and Johnson also played substantial roles for the Buckeyes last season, Ohio State’s wide receiver room is still loaded with talent.

Egbuka’s return gives Ohio State a proven star to lead its receiving corps while Tate is a major candidate for a sophomore-season breakout after drawing rave reviews throughout his freshman year. Inniss, Smith and Graham were all five-star recruits; Inniss is another candidate to be a breakout sophomore while Smith, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2024 class, is expected to play a major role right away.

With only two newcomers and four departures, the Buckeyes are a bit thinner on overall numbers at this position than they’d like to be, but there’s no lack of top-end talent. Rodgers’ decision to stay at Ohio State after initially entering the transfer portal was a boost to the room’s depth while Ballard, Antwi and Grayes have all now been developing at OSU for multiple seasons.

Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss
Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss are both expected to play bigger roles at wide receiver in 2024.

Tight Ends (6)

Returners: Gee Scott Jr., Jelani Thurman, Bennett Christian
Newcomers: Will Kacmarek (Transfer), Max LeBlanc (Freshman), Damarion Witten (Freshman)
Departures: Cade Stover, Joe Royer, Sam Hart

Stover leaves big shoes to fill as a two-time captain who had one of the best receiving seasons ever for an Ohio State tight end this past season, but the addition of Kacmarek – who was impactful as both a blocker and receiver at Ohio – should help fill that void along with the return of Scott give the Buckeyes a pair of experienced tight ends to potentially lead the depth chart.

Thurman is another second-year Buckeye to watch who should contend for a bigger role in 2024 after redshirting as a freshman, while Christian is now eligible to return to game action after serving a one-year suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. Freshman tight ends usually don’t play much at Ohio State, but the addition of a rare two-tight end recruiting class keeps the Buckeyes’ scholarship numbers healthy despite three departures at the position.

Offensive Linemen (17)

Returning Starters: Josh Simmons, Donovan Jackson, Carson Hinzman, Josh Fryar
Other Returners: Luke Montgomery, Tegra Tshabola, Enokk Vimahi, Zen Michalski, George Fitzpatrick, Joshua Padilla, Austin Siereveld, Miles Walker
Newcomers: Seth McLaughlin (Transfer), Deontae Armstrong (Freshman), Devontae Armstrong (Freshman), Ian Moore (Freshman), Gabe VanSickle (Freshman)
Departures: Matt Jones, Victor Cutler, Jakob James, Trey Leroux

Even with four of last season’s primary starters returning, the offensive line remains Ohio State’s biggest question mark for the 2024 season after its struggles during the regular season ballooned into a wholly ineffective performance in the Cotton Bowl.

While Jackson and Simmons should remain starters, McLaughlin likely replaces Hinzman as Ohio State’s starting center. Fryar could theoretically move inside to right guard to replace Jones, where Tshabola and Hinzman could also be candidates to start, while Montgomery should push for a starting job at offensive tackle. Still, Ohio State would benefit from adding another plug-and-play starter on the line if it can land another upgrade from the transfer portal.

Ohio State’s overall scholarship numbers along the offensive line are right where the Buckeyes want them. All of the players listed above should factor somewhere into the two-deep, as could any of the other returners, while Moore and the Armstrong twins could also push for backup jobs as early enrollees. But it’s not yet certain entering the spring whether the Buckeyes’ current roster includes the full starting five they need to achieve their championship goals this year.

Defensive Ends (8)

Returning Starters: Jack Sawyer, JT Tuimoloau
Other Returners: Caden Curry, Kenyatta Jackson Jr., Mitchell Melton, Joshua Mickens
Newcomers: Eddrick Houston (Freshman), Dominic Kirks (Freshman)
Departures: Omari Abor

Ohio State returns its top five defensive ends from last season and adds a five-star freshman in Houston, putting the Buckeyes in great shape at this position.

Sawyer and Tuimoloau could be college football’s top defensive end pairing after both opted to return for their senior seasons. Curry and Jackson would have been in line to take over as starters if JT and Jack had left and could still see their roles increase as rotational defensive ends in their third years. 

Melton has flashed in limited action and gives Jim Knowles the option of reintegrating the Jack position into the defense if he believes it can be an effective changeup. Houston is certainly capable of making an immediate impact if given the opportunity, and the late addition of Kirks to the 2024 recruiting class brings Ohio State back up to its target number of eight scholarship DEs.

Defensive Tackles (8)

Returning Starters: Tyleik Williams, Ty Hamilton
Other Returners: Hero Kanu, Kayden McDonald, Tywone Malone, Jason Moore, Will Smith Jr.
Newcomers: Eric Mensah (Freshman)
Departures: Mike Hall, Jaden McKenzie

Even with Hall’s early departure to the NFL draft, Ohio State returns two defensive tackles who started at least six games last year in Williams and Hamilton. Williams was already one of the best defensive tackles in college football in 2023 while Hamilton gives the Buckeyes another reliable starter alongside him.

Kanu and McDonald both showed flashes this past season that could make them candidates to play bigger roles in the defensive tackle rotation in 2024. Ohio State will also hope to get more out of Malone in his second year as a Buckeye after transferring in from Ole Miss last summer. Moore could be another second-year Buckeye to watch at the position after redshirting as a freshman.

Like at defensive end, Ohio State is right at its target number of scholarship players at defensive tackle with eight currently on the 2024 roster.

Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton
The returns of Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton give Ohio State two proven veterans to lead its defensive tackle unit.

Linebackers (8)

Returners: Cody Simon, C.J. Hicks, Gabe Powers, Kourt Williams, Arvell Reese, Nigel Glover
Newcomers: Payton Pierce (Freshman), Garrett Stover (Freshman)
Departures: Tommy Eichenberg, Steele Chambers, Reid Carrico

On paper, this is the biggest position of uncertainty on the current roster outside of the offensive line. The Buckeyes lost both of their primary starters from last season, Chambers and Eichenberg, and Simon is the only player on the roster who’s seen substantial playing time as a linebacker at the collegiate level.

Simon can effectively be considered a returning starter at Mike linebacker, though, considering he started three of Ohio State’s final four games in place of Eichenberg and played 373 total snaps in 2023 as OSU’s third linebacker. The Buckeyes could add a player who started 12 games in the secondary last season to this position group if Sonny Styles moves from safety to linebacker, but he’s listed with the safeties for now since that’s where he’s spent his first two seasons at OSU.

Hicks and Powers should also be candidates for playing time entering their third year as Buckeyes while Reese and Glover should be more ready to contribute as second-years. Williams is recovering from a torn ACL for the second time in his OSU career, leaving his prognosis for 2024 uncertain.

Cornerbacks (9)

Returning Starters: Denzel Burke, Davison Igbinosun, Jordan Hancock
Other Returners: Jermaine Mathews Jr., Calvin Simpson-Hunt, Lorenzo Styles Jr.
Newcomers: Aaron Scott Jr. (Freshman), Bryce West (Freshman), Miles Lockhart (Freshman)
Departures: Jyaire Brown, Ryan Turner

With a standout trio of returning starters and lots of young talent on the depth chart behind them, cornerback is the most loaded position on Ohio State’s 2024 roster.

Burke, Igbinosun and Hancock were already a top-notch trio last season. Mathews was very impressive in spot duty as a true freshman and would likely be starting anywhere else in the country this year. Simpson-Hunt and Styles should also be ready to contribute as needed in 2024 after a year of development. Scott and West might not be needed to play as freshmen but have high upside to be future stars for the Buckeyes.

Safeties (9)

Returning Starters: Lathan Ransom, Sonny Styles
Other Returners: Malik Hartford, Ja’Had Carter, Jayden Bonsu, Cedrick Hawkins
Newcomers: Caleb Downs (Transfer), Jaylen McClain (Freshman), Leroy Roker (Freshman)

Downs will unquestionably slot into the starting lineup after earning national freshman of the year honors at Alabama in 2023, pairing with Ransom to form what could be college football’s top starting safety tandem. The addition of Downs paired with Ransom’s return and Ohio State’s move to a three-cornerback lineup could precipitate Styles’ move from safety to linebacker.

Hartford and Carter would have both been candidates for starting jobs if Ransom had left or Ohio State didn’t add Downs, so they give up the Buckeyes a strong pair of backups. 

The depth behind them is a question mark, as neither Bonsu nor Hawkins played any snaps in 2023. But the top of the safety depth chart is elite now that Downs is a Buckeye.

Specialists (1)

Returners: John Ferlmann
Departures: Jesse Mirco, Parker Lewis

Ferlmann, Ohio State’s starting long snapper, is the only specialist who was recruited to OSU as a scholarship player. Jayden Fielding returns as Ohio State’s kicker from last season and is a likely candidate to end up on scholarship if post-spring transfers leave OSU under the 85-man scholarship limit, given that Fielding made 80 percent of his field goal attempts in 2023.

Joe McGuire, a walk-on from the same ProKick Australia program that produced Mirco and Cameron Johnston, is the only returning punter on the roster from last season. Ohio State may be content to have him handle punting duties rather than adding a transfer punter, though it will need to add another walk-on punter for depth.

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