Initial 2024 Ohio State Depth Chart Projection

By Dan Hope on January 31, 2024 at 3:45 pm
Cody Simon and Sonny Styles
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network

Now that NFL draft decisions have been made and the first wave of offseason transfer movement is complete, it’s time for Ohio State to begin setting its initial depth chart for the 2024 season.

That depth chart will likely fluctuate between the start of spring practices in early March and the start of the season against Akron on Aug. 31.

With that being said, our initial depth chart projection for 2024 is intended to be a projection of what the three-deep will look like when the Buckeyes take the field this fall – not necessarily what it will look like this spring, when Ohio State may show some initial deference to veterans and make newcomers earn their way up the depth chart.


1. Will Howard
2. Julian Sayin
3. Air Noland

While Ohio State could have as many as five quarterbacks competing for the starting job this spring, it would be a surprise if Howard doesn’t emerge as the starter by the end of spring. The Buckeyes didn’t bring in a 27-game starter from Kansas State to have him ride the bench; Howard is the only quarterback on the roster who’s played a full game at the collegiate level, and the Buckeyes are likely to lean on his experience as a fifth-year senior.

Predicting what the rest of the quarterback depth chart will look like right now – or even how Ohio State will divvy up the rest of the quarterback reps this spring – feels like a fool’s errand. Conventional wisdom would suggest that Devin Brown or Lincoln Kienholz would be the next man up since they’re the only two returning quarterbacks on the roster. But Sayin and Noland are too talented to be buried on the depth chart as five-star freshmen, especially in a world where the transfer portal is always an option for players who don’t like their standing on the depth chart.

Ohio State wouldn’t have added Sayin via the transfer portal if it didn’t view Sayin as a prime candidate to start in 2025, but the Buckeyes will want to give Noland a fair shake as well and make sure he sticks around to compete for the job next year. Given that, I won’t be surprised if they quickly emerge as Howard’s top backups in one order or the other.

Running Back

1. TreVeyon Henderson
2. Quinshon Judkins
3. Dallan Hayden

Henderson should remain Ohio State’s starting running back after earning first-team All-Big Ten honors last season, but Judkins will be more of a co-starter than a backup. The addition of the two-time All-SEC running back from Ole Miss will allow the Buckeyes to split carries between two elite running backs throughout the season, which could be crucial to preserving their health for a potential run in the extended College Football Playoff.

Hayden, the only other non-freshman scholarship running back on the roster, has shown more than enough flashes in limited action over the past two years to make a case that he should also have a role in the running back rotation this year. But Henderson and Judkins are likely to handle most of the workload as long as they stay healthy.

Wide Receiver (Slot)

1. Emeka Egbuka
2. Brandon Inniss
3. Bryson Rodgers

Wide Receiver (Z)

1. Carnell Tate
2. Mylan Graham
3. Kyion Grayes

Wide Receiver (X)

1. Jeremiah Smith
2. Jayden Ballard
3. Kojo Antwi

Egbuka could potentially start either inside or outside depending on who else joins him in the starting lineup at wide receiver. Tate seems like a near-lock to join him in the lineup after playing the fourth-most snaps among Ohio State receivers last season and drawing rave reviews throughout the year.

Smith and Inniss are both strong candidates to be the third starter. But while it would be unprecedented for a true freshman to start immediately in Brian Hartline’s unit, Smith is a rare talent who could prove too good not to start right away. Either way, Inniss should see regular work in the slot receiver rotation as a sophomore with Egbuka likely to play snaps both outside and inside.

Graham isn’t as likely to play a major role immediately since he won’t arrive at Ohio State until summer, but his five-star talent still makes him a strong candidate to be in the two-deep as a freshman. Ballard is also a candidate for a spot in the rotation as one of the team’s two longest-tenured receivers along with Egbuka, but he hasn’t yet been able to earn regular playing time in three years as a Buckeye.

Carnell Tate
Carnell Tate is expected to start at wide receiver as a sophomore after playing regularly as a freshman. (Photo: Barbara J. Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch /USA TODAY Network)

Tight End

1. Will Kacmarek
2. Gee Scott Jr.
3. Jelani Thurman

Kacmarek, Scott and Thurman are likely to make up the top three rows of the tight end depth chart in one order or another, but the pecking order is uncertain entering spring. 

Scott started multiple games and played by far the most snaps last season of any returning tight end on Ohio State’s roster, but he’s still not a great blocker while he hasn’t yet emerged as a major receiving threat. Thurman has huge upside, but played only 24 offensive snaps as a true freshman at a position where Ohio State often leans on veterans. 

Kacmarek is the most experienced tight end and most polished blocker on the roster, and he made enough plays in the passing game at Ohio to suggest he can make an impact as a pass-catcher, too. The Buckeyes brought him in as a transfer with expectations that he will play a significant role in 2024, making him the early frontrunner to start at tight end.

Left Tackle

1. Josh Simmons
2. Zen Michalski
3. George Fitzpatrick

Left Guard

1. Donovan Jackson
2. Austin Siereveld
3. Devontae Armstrong


1. Seth McLaughlin
2. Carson Hinzman
3. Joshua Padilla

Right Guard

1. Josh Fryar
2. Enokk Vimahi
3. Toby Wilson

Right Tackle

1. Luke Montgomery
2. Tegra Tshabola
3. Ian Moore

Jackson is the only lock to remain a starter on Ohio State’s offensive line following the unit’s 2023 struggles, though Simmons is the clear favorite to remain the starting left tackle given that Ohio State has not yet added a transfer offensive tackle. McLaughlin is expected to be the starting center after holding that role at Alabama for the past two seasons.

The right side of the offensive line is the biggest question mark on Ohio State’s entire depth chart. Fryar started all 13 games at right tackle in 2023, but his struggles in pass protection should open that position back up for competition. 

Montgomery and Tshabola are the likeliest candidates among returning offensive linemen to emerge as new starters; if one of them can lock down the right tackle job (or if Ohio State adds a transfer offensive tackle in the post-spring window), that could precipitate a move inside for Fryar, who has experience playing guard and a skill set seemingly better suited for playing that role.

Tshabola and Montgomery could also be candidates to start at right guard, as could Hinzman and Vimahi, though Hinzman will have to prove himself all over again this offseason after getting benched for the Cotton Bowl while Vimahi’s performance against Missouri didn’t inspire much confidence in his starting potential.

Defensive End

1. Jack Sawyer
2. Caden Curry
3. Eddrick Houston

Defensive End

1. JT Tuimoloau
2. Kenyatta Jackson Jr.
3. Mitchell Melton

Sawyer and Tuimoloau return as clear-cut starters at defensive ends while Curry and Jackson remain at Ohio State as their top backups, making it easy to project the DE two-deep entering spring.

Houston could also push for early playing time in the rotation as a five-star talent, but the high-quality returning veterans at the position will likely keep Houston out of the two-deep as a freshman. Melton’s chances of earning more playing time could hinge on whether Jim Knowles decides to reintroduce the Jack position into the defense in 2024, though Melton showed some flashes in limited playing time as a traditional defensive end in 2023.

Defensive Tackle (3-Tech)

1. Tyleik Williams
2. Hero Kanu
3. Tywone Malone

Defensive Tackle (Nose)

1. Ty Hamilton
2. Kayden McDonald
3. Jason Moore

Williams is the clear-cut starter at 3-technique after playing the vast majority of snaps there in 2023, while Hamilton should slide in as the starting nose tackle after splitting snaps with Mike Hall at that position last season.

They’ll likely play the majority of snaps, but Kanu and McDonald both looked like strong candidates to earn more snaps in the 2024 rotation as they performed well when opportunities came their way in 2023. Malone could also be a candidate to play a bigger role in his second year as a Buckeye, though he played a smaller role than expected in his first year at Ohio State after transferring in from Ole Miss.

Moore, the only other returning scholarship defensive tackle who played any snaps last season, is the likeliest candidate to round out the two-deep.

Ty Hamilton
Ty Hamilton is poised to be a full-time starting defensive tackle in 2024 after splitting starts with Mike Hall last season. (Photo: Barbara J. Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network)

Will Linebacker

1. Sonny Styles
2. C.J. Hicks
3. Garrett Stover

Mike Linebacker

1. Cody Simon
2. Gabe Powers
3. Arvell Reese

Simon is the only sure-fire starter at linebacker. While he played at both linebacker positions last season, he’s expected to take over as the starting Mike linebacker after filling in for Tommy Eichenberg in three of Ohio State’s final four games last season.

While Styles has been a safety for his first two years as a Buckeye, we’re projecting that the 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior will move down to Will linebacker to replace Steele Chambers. That would give the Buckeyes a boost of coverage ability at the position while allowing Styles to remain in the starting lineup with the addition of Caleb Downs and Lathan Ransom’s return for his senior season.

Hicks is also a candidate to start at Will linebacker, but Knowles said before the Cotton Bowl that he is still working to find “the right place” for Hicks, suggesting that Hicks might not be in line for a full-time starting linebacker position. That said, Hicks and Powers are both in line to be on the two-deep as the only returning linebackers other than Simon (and Styles if he moves) who played defensive snaps last season.

Reese is likely to be the next man up at LB after playing regularly on special teams as a true freshman while Stover, fellow true freshman Payton Pierce and redshirt freshman Nigel Glover will compete to round out the two-deep. Kourt Williams could also factor in on the Will linebacker depth chart if he is cleared to play, but his status for 2024 is uncertain after he tore his ACL last fall.

Outside Cornerback

1. Denzel Burke
2. Calvin Simpson-Hunt
3. Aaron Scott Jr.

Outside Cornerback

1. Davison Igbinosun
2. Jermaine Mathews Jr.
3. Bryce West

Slot Cornerback

1. Jordan Hancock
2. Lorenzo Styles Jr.
3. Miles Lockhart

Burke, Igbinosun and Hancock are all returning starters from last season, forming what should be the nation’s best starting trio of cornerbacks in 2024.

Even with all of them back, Mathews is a strong candidate to earn some playing time in the rotation after excelling in spot duty as a true freshman. Simpson-Hunt should also be on the two-deep after impressing coaches in his first year, though Scott and West have the talent to push him as freshmen.

Burke said before the Cotton Bowl that Styles had been practicing at nickel, where he’s likely to be Hancock’s top backup after taking a redshirt in his first year as a Buckeye.

Free Safety

1. Caleb Downs
2. Malik Hartford
3. Cedrick Hawkins

Strong Safety

1. Lathan Ransom
2. Ja’Had Carter
3. Jayden Bonsu

While Downs played primarily as a strong safety at Alabama, he told reporters this week that Ohio State’s coaches have told him he will play the adjuster/free safety spot. That enables Ransom to continue playing his natural position of strong safety.

Assuming Styles moves to linebacker, Hartford and Carter would be the next men up in one order or the other behind the starters at safety. Hawkins and Bonsu, the only other returning scholarship safeties on the roster, did not see any playing time as true freshmen.


1. Jayden Fielding
2. Austin Snyder
3. Casey Magyar

Fielding is back for his second year as Ohio State’s starting kicker after making 80% of his field goal attempts as a true freshman.


1. Joe McGuire
2. Austin Snyder

McGuire is currently the only punter on Ohio State’s roster, so he is presumably in line to be the new starting punter after Jesse Mirco’s transfer to Vanderbilt. Ohio State will need to add another walk-on punter for depth. Snyder is listed as a kicker on the roster but has experience punting at the University of Findlay before transferring to Ohio State.

Long Snapper

1. John Ferlmann
2. Morrow Evans
3. Max Lomonico

Ferlmann is currently Ohio State’s only scholarship specialist and is entering his second year as the Buckeyes’ starting long snapper. Evans, who is walking on with the Buckeyes but was ranked by 247Sports as the No. 1 long snapper in the 2024 class, should be his top backup as his likely eventual successor. 

Kick Returner

1. Lorenzo Styles Jr.
2. Carnell Tate
3. Mylan Graham

Given that Xavier Johnson was Ohio State’s lead kickoff returner all of last season and the players who served as secondary returners (Chip Trayanum and Steele Chambers) are also now departed, there’s no clear frontrunner to be the kick returner in 2024.

Styles has experience returning kicks from his time as a wide receiver at Notre Dame, so he would be a logical choice as the Buckeyes look to find a role for him this year. Tate and Graham are high-upside options who have experience returning kickoffs in high school, though Ohio State could be hesitant to use Tate on kick returns now that he’s in line to play a big role on offense.

Sam Williams-Dixon is also a candidate to eventually return kickoffs for the Buckeyes as a shifty hybrid back with a similar skill set to Johnson, but he’s likely in line to redshirt as a freshman with the talent in front of him on the running back depth chart.

Punt Returner

1. Caleb Downs
2. Brandon Inniss
3. Jayden Ballard

Ballard and Emeka Egbuka split punt return duties last season, but Ohio State has reason to make a change this year. Egbuka only returned punts for one of Ohio State’s final eight games (the Michigan game) last season after suffering a midseason ankle injury while Ballard never looked fully comfortable fielding punts.

Downs says he has talked to Ohio State about potentially returning punts after doing so occasionally last year at Alabama, where he had an 85-yard punt return touchdown last season. If the Buckeyes decide they don’t want their new star safety returning punts, Inniss saw occasional reps at punt returner as a freshman and also has the skill set to be a dynamic weapon in that regard.

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