Practice Observations: Jeremiah Smith Continues to Shine, Center and Right Guard Battles Continue in Final Practice Before Spring Game

By Dan Hope, Andy Anders and Chase Brown on April 12, 2024 at 11:33 am
Jeremiah Smith at Student Appreciation Day

Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Jeremiah Smith continues to make spectacular plays in spring practice.

The freshman wide receiver stole the show once again during Ohio State’s penultimate practice of the spring as the Buckeyes practiced inside Ohio Stadium one day before the spring game. Media members had the chance to watch the practice along with coaches attending OSU’s annual coaches clinic, and it was Smith who stood out more than anyone just as he did on Student Appreciation Day.

Smith made the play of the day early in practice when he made a one-handed catch on a ball thrown over the out-of-bounds line against coverage from Denzel Burke in the right side of the end zone. Smith continued to make plays throughout the practice, including another nice touchdown catch over Calvin Simpson-Hunt on an underthrown ball by Will Howard and routes going toward the sideline.

The freshman continued to work primarily with the second-team offense on Friday as Emeka Egbuka, Carnell Tate and Jayden Ballard took most of the first-team reps at receiver. But Friday’s practice was yet another piece of evidence that Smith has the talent to be an immediate star for the Buckeyes.

Right guard and center battles still ongoing

A new face appeared with the first-team offensive line to kick off Friday’s practice.

Tegra Tshabola played the first portion of practice at right guard with the Buckeyes’ starters, taking the place of Luke Montgomery, who had started at the spot during each other practice open to the media. 

Tshabola was thought to be working primarily at tackle this spring but Ryan Day had indicated they were mixing him in at guard to give different looks up front, and that much clearly bore out on Friday. Montgomery rotated in with the ones but played as far down as the third-team offensive line as practice wore on.

Stocks might be rising for last year’s starting center, Carson Hinzman, after he was benched for the Cotton Bowl at the conclusion of last year. Hinzman took first-team reps at both center and right guard, rotating through with Montgomery and Tshabola. Alabama transfer Seth McLaughlin split time with Hinzman at center with the first-team.

The rest of the first-team offensive line remained as expected, with Josh Simmons at left tackle, Donovan Jackson at left guard and Josh Fryar at right tackle.

Zen Michalski was at left tackle, Austin Siereveld was at left guard and George Fitzpatrick was at right tackle with the second-team offensive line.

No clear standout at quarterback

Ohio State continued to split reps among all five of its scholarship quarterbacks during Friday’s practice. As has been the case all spring, Devin Brown took the first reps in the order followed by Howard, Lincoln Kienholz, Julian Sayin and Air Noland. Noland saw a similar number of reps as the other four quarterbacks after seeing minimal action on Student Appreciation Day, the only other full practice that was open to the media this spring.

Brown was the most consistent thrower in Friday’s practice as he was on Student Appreciation Day, though he wasn’t head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacks. Sayin started the practice strong and demonstrated his elite arm talent on several throws, notably on one intermediate pass where he threaded the ball to Kyion Grayes in between three defenders, the best throw of the day by any quarterback. However, his performance tapered off in the later periods of practice as his accuracy and decision-making were shaky during team drills.

Kienholz threw the best deep ball of the day on a long connection with Jayden Ballard but was less sharp on short and intermediate throws. Howard remained inconsistent with his downfield accuracy as he was on Student Appreciation Day. Noland threw the day’s lone interception in 7-on-7, throwing a ball straight to Jordan Hancock that would have been a pick-six in a game.

Brandon Inniss sidelined by injury

Following the departures of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Xavier Johnson, Brandon Inniss entered the offseason with expectations of becoming a top-three wide receiver behind Emeka Egbuka and Carnell Tate this fall. 

For most of the spring, Inniss proved to be a reliable pass catcher for Ohio State’s quarterbacks, showing impressive speed and fluid route-running in portions of practices open to the media. On Friday, however, Inniss was seen wearing a walking boot and riding a scooter during the Buckeyes’ practice, indicating that the 6-foot, 203-pound slot receiver suffered a lower-leg injury in practice and will miss the spring game on Saturday.

Inniss indicated that the injury is not serious in a social media post Friday afternoon.

With Inniss on the sidelines, several Buckeyes could fill the third wide receiver spot next to Egbuka and Tate. The obvious inclusion would be Smith, whose stellar performances in spring practices have been well-documented. Bryson Rodgers has also impressed Ohio State’s coaching staff this spring, as has Ballard. The Buckeyes will also look for contributions from Grayes and Kojo Antwi, both of whom are entering their third collegiate seasons in 2024.

Other notes and observations

  • C.J. Hicks continued to take the majority of first-team reps at Will linebacker, with Sonny Styles also working at that position. Cody Simon, Arvell Rees and Gabe Powers all took reps at middle linebacker.
  • Egbuka led the line at punt returner with Ballard, Smith, Tate, Rodgers and TreVeyon Henderson also in the rotation.
  • Grayes had an impressive practice out wide, running some sharp sail and corner routes to haul in several nice catches.
  • Ohio State got some wide receiver screen work in during one period, with several plays designed to get Smith the ball in space.
  • Jayden Bonsu continued to take first-team safety reps alongside Caleb Downs in team drills, though Lathan Ransom worked with the first-team defense in 7-on-7 drills as he continues to work his way back from his season-ending injury last year.
  • Walk-on wide receiver Joop Mitchell blocked a punt during the special teams portion of practice.
  • Running back Dallan Hayden, who reportedly informed coaches Monday that he will enter the transfer portal next week, was not present for Friday’s practice.
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