Carson Hinzman Not Dwelling on Cotton Bowl Benching, Views Last Season As “Developmental Year” As He Competes for Starting Center Job Again

By Dan Hope on April 1, 2024 at 4:48 pm
Carson Hinzman

Carson Hinzman’s first playing season at Ohio State ended on an inauspicious note.

After starting all 12 of the Buckeyes’ regular-season games at center, Hinzman didn’t play a single snap in the Cotton Bowl. Matt Jones, who had been the Buckeyes’ starting right guard all season, slid over to center for the season finale against Missouri while Enokk Vimahi took Hinzman’s place at right guard.

Even though Ohio State’s offensive line struggled mightily throughout its season-ending 14-3 loss, the Buckeyes never put Hinzman in the game. Ryan Day said after the game that Hinzman had been “having a tough time the last couple of weeks in practice,” prompting the decision to replace him in the lineup for the bowl game.

Three months later, Hinzman says he has no hard feelings about the benching.

“The decision that the coaches made, I fully supported. I fully support what's best for the team at the time. And that's what it was,” Hinzman said Monday in his first interview session since the Cotton Bowl. “I don't really read anything too much into it. But that's the decision they made and all I could do is get ready and compete for this next year.”

Now, Hinzman is competing for the starting center job all over again after Ohio State brought in former Alabama center Seth McLaughlin via the transfer portal. 

Given the way last season ended for Hinzman and McLaughlin’s experience of starting 25 games at Alabama over the past three seasons, Hinzman is widely viewed as the underdog in that competition. But Hinzman has embraced the competition because he believes it’s making him a better player.

“He's been a great addition to the team, a great addition to the O-line room. That competition’s been going really well. And I think I've gotten so much better because of that,” Hinzman said. “And I think he can say that he got a lot better as well. Competition breeds really great players, and I think that's what we're slowly becoming.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Hinzman had some growing pains last season. After all, he had never played a single snap at the collegiate level before he started last year’s season opener at Indiana.

Looking back at his film from last season now, Hinzman believes he’s already gotten much better. But while he might not have been quite ready for the starting center job last season, he believes he’ll benefit this year from all the experience he gained in 2023.

“I remember I was so nervous before the Indiana game I'm like literally shaking, I'm like tearing up and stuff because I'm like, ‘Oh my god, it’s real,’” Hinzman said. “Going into it, you think like, ‘I've put all this work in, I should be there.’ And then you go back and you watch the tape this year, I'm like, ‘Whoa, what am I doing?’ So I think it's such a good developmental year for me that I'm so grateful for that experience. And then going into this year, trying to learn off that and learn off what we've learned this spring into the summer, I think it's gonna be a really great year.”

Hinzman says there were times last season when he didn’t know exactly what he was supposed to do on a given play, which led to him playing tentatively. Now that he has a year of experience under his belt, Hinzman feels as though he is able to play faster and more decisively.

“It's just not 100% knowing exactly what you're doing. And that's not a coaching problem – obviously it's a me problem, but it just comes with reps and it comes with experience when you haven't had that before,” Hinzman said. “When you know you're 100% ready to make this block, you play so much faster. And this year when I've been able to do that, I’ve played obviously a lot faster, you can see that on tape.”

Hinzman has also focused on honing his technique this spring. Specifically, Hinzman says he has had to get more comfortable staying in his base while playing with better leverage and using his hands more.

Getting bigger and stronger has also been a point of emphasis for Hinzman this offseason. There were times last year when Hinzman’s playing weight was as low as 280 pounds, but the 6-foot-5 center says he’s now weighing in at 298 pounds with the goal of getting up to 303 pounds before the season.

“I think it's such a good developmental year for me that I'm so grateful for that experience.”– Carson Hinzman on learning from his mistakes last season

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and offensive line coach Justin Frye have both praised the work Hinzman put in during winter workouts and continuing into this spring to develop physically and improve his skill set.

“He had a great offseason. It all started in the weight room with Mick. His weight’s up. He’s thick. He has always been an explosive guy, but playing with a little bit of power behind that, he’s learning to do that,” Frye said Monday. “And then natural maturation. For all those guys in just his (recruiting) class alone – you’re talking him, you’re talking George (Fitzpatrick), you’re talking Tegra (Tshabola), like those guys are going into year three, that’s when you really start to figure it out. Your body, the speed of the game, the technique, the fundamentals. And he’s done a good job of adapting and really growing himself on a pace that you need to for a young guy that’s coming out of the fire last year.”

Whether that improvement will be enough for Hinzman to beat out the more experienced McLaughlin is uncertain. Hinzman already beat out a transfer who was brought in to be the starting center when he won the job over Victor Cutler going into last season, but McLaughlin has more experience playing the position and doing so against top competition than Cutler did.

If Hinzman and McLaughlin prove to be among Ohio State’s top five offensive linemen, one of them could end up moving to right guard – though Luke Montgomery looks like the current frontrunner to start at that spot and Hinzman said he has not taken any reps at guard this spring.

Even if Hinzman doesn’t end up in the starting lineup this year, though, there’s reason to believe Hinzman’s best football is in front of him as he learns from his mistakes from his first year as a starter.

“Obviously playing was super awesome. It was just for me, it was more of a developmental year. And looking into that as I'm gonna grow a lot from this, and looking back on that, there's some mistakes I'm like, ‘There is no way I’d make that right now. There’s no reason why I would do that.’ But I just needed that to develop into what I am today,” Hinzman said. “So I'm super grateful for it.”

View 18 Comments