Last Call: Final Questions, Players to Watch and Predictions Entering Ohio State’s 2024 Spring Game

By 11W Staff on April 13, 2024 at 6:00 am
Will Howard

It’s time for the public to get its first look at the 2024 Ohio State football team.

There's no shortage of new faces and returning players alike on this year's roster, and fans will finally get to see them in action at 12:05 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium. If you won't be one of the 50,000-plus fans in attendance in Columbus, the exhibition will be televised on FOX. 

Saturday serves as the culmination of 15 spring practices before fall camp opens in August as the Buckeyes inch closer to their season opener against Akron on Aug. 31.

As we prepare to watch this year’s version of an offense vs. defense scrimmage with a modified scoring format, we share our top questions, players to watch and predictions about what we’ll see in the Shoe this afternoon. 


Will Will Howard step up? 

Howard has not thrown the ball like an Ohio State starting quarterback – at least from my vantage point – in the practices that have been open to the media this spring. If I’m going to feel confident in Howard as the potential starter for the Buckeyes coming out of spring, he’s going to need to be sharper as a passer in Saturday’s spring game.

While Ohio State brought Howard in to be the starting quarterback, Devin Brown and Julian Sayin have made their own cases for the starting job this spring. A strong showing by Howard on Saturday could go a long way to get momentum on his side coming out of spring, but a shaky day could leave serious doubts about whether Howard will lead the depth chart this fall.

- Dan Hope

Will there be any clarity on the offensive line?

The battle along the right side of Ohio State's offensive line has raged all spring, and the Buckeyes have continued rolling players not just at right guard, but at center, too. Starters don't need to be set in stone entering fall camp, but it's no secret that chemistry is essential to the success of an offensive line. Some good tape from Luke Montgomery, Tegra Tshabola, Carson Hinzman and even Seth McLaughlin – enough that favorites to start emerge, preferably – is needed unless OSU adds more from the portal this spring.

- Andy Anders

How does Sonny Styles fit in the linebacker room?

After starting all 13 games at safety last season, Styles moved to linebacker this offseason, where he will compete with C.J. Hicks, Gabe Powers and Arvell Reese for the second linebacker spot next to Cody Simon. Jim Knowles and James Laurinaitis have been impressed with the 6-foot-4, 235-pound athlete this spring, with the linebackers coach saying Styles has made “a really smooth transition” to the position. Still, how often Styles plays on Saturday, as well as what units he plays with, will show how much room he has to improve before the fall.

- Chase Brown

What will the crowd be like?

Earlier this week, Ryan Day said there have been more than 50,000 tickets sold to the spring game. I'd be surprised, and maybe a little disappointed, if the crowd isn't significantly larger than that considering ticket prices are fairly reasonable and the Buckeyes had arguably the best offseason in college football. Chase wrote a pretty fun piece looking back at the greatest OSU spring game crowds in recent memory, and while I'd be surprised if attendance reaches 100,000 like it did in 2016, between 70-85,000 seems realistic.

- Garrick Hodge

Players to Watch

Julian Sayin

The No. 1 quarterback and No. 6 overall prospect in the 2024 class, Sayin has impressed Ohio State’s coaching staff this offseason. In fact, Ryan Day said Sayin’s efforts in winter workouts and spring practices have him “in the mix” to win the Buckeyes’ quarterback competition. No matter if Sayin gets first-team, second-team or third-team reps in the spring game, look for Sayin to confidently complete short, intermediate and deep passes to Ohio State’s talented wide receivers in his first-ever performance in the Horseshoe.

- Chase Brown

Jeremiah Smith

How could I pick anyone else? Even though he should still be a senior in high school, Smith has looked like the best player on the field during media viewing opportunities this spring. Given that the true freshman wide receiver has seemingly done something spectacular every time the Buckeyes have practiced this spring, I fully expect him to make the highlight reel in his first spring game.

- Dan Hope

Caleb Downs

In the past few weeks, we've had a couple of crazy Jeremiah Smith catches and Ryan Day saying Julian Sayin is “in the mix” to start at quarterback. When that happens, other things can get lost in the shuffle. For example, Ohio State landed the top transfer player and best freshman safety from a year ago. 

I for one, am looking forward to watching Downs showcase his playmaking ability after he's had a full spring to be integrated with Ohio State's defense.

- Garrick Hodge

C.J. Hicks

Hicks has been a star in many of the practice windows open to media viewing, but Laurinaitis has said his consistency still needs to take another step forward. Saturday will provide an opportunity for Hicks to not only make the spectacular plays his athleticism allows for but also fulfill his role in the defense from down to down.

- Andy Anders


A former Buckeye gets involved in the game

In 2023, former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin ran for a 25-yard touchdown in the spring game—a score that came almost 50 years after his 5,589-yard, 26-touchdown career, during which he became college football’s only two-time Heisman Trophy winner. With the 2024 scrimmage being the first-ever nationally televised spring game on FOX, I expect there to be another moment for a former Buckeye to get involved. I don’t know who it will be, and I don’t know when it will be, but I bet Ohio State and FOX will look to have another moment go viral on Saturday.

- Chase Brown

James Peoples will be the day’s leading rusher

TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins will be Ohio State’s top two running backs this fall, but Ryan Day said this week that neither of them will be tackled during the spring game. That means they’ll only play early in the game before it becomes a full-contact scrimmage. With Dallan Hayden’s departure from the program, that opens the door for James Peoples, Sam Williams-Dixon and TC Caffey to split most of the carries in the spring game.

I expect all of them to have their moments on Saturday, but Peoples has been impressive in media viewing opportunities and is the likely frontrunner to be the Buckeyes’ No. 3 running back this season without a transfer addition. I expect Peoples to impress with how hard he runs in the spring game and show he’s capable of playing as needed this fall.

- Dan Hope

There will be two touchdowns from tight ends

Quarterbacks tend to rely on the targets closest to them as they gain comfort in an offense, and it's safe to say none of Ohio State's gunslingers are secure in their standing within the position room. Gee Scott Jr., Jelani Thurman and Will Kacmarek are all eager to prove what they can bring this season, too, so I expect multiple scores from the spot.

- Andy Anders

We have a lot of fun but almost everyone forgets what happened by July

Quick: Who was the anointed spring game MVP for Ohio State in 2022? Or even last year? I couldn't remember it off the top of my head without looking it up first, personally. The spring game is always amusing for me because I personally view it as a day we can get really pumped there's live football in Ohio Stadium in a competitive environment, but at the same time, realize that with another transfer portal window fast on the horizon and the promise of more practices closer to the season, most fans typically forget about standout plays from the spring game months prior.

One caveat to that rule, though. If Jeremiah Smith does what we've seen him do in practice on Saturday, nobody's going to forget that any time soon.

- Garrick Hodge

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