Day, Buckeyes open spring practice


COLUMBUS — Ohio State returned to the practice field on Tuesday for the start of spring practice, kicking off one of the most highly-anticipated springs in recent memory.

New faces littered the indoor practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as 15 early enrollees from the 2024 recruiting class and six transfers partook in their first practice as Buckeyes. The new faces weren’t limited to the players on the field, either, with new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly and secondary coach Matt Guerrieri also making their debuts on the field after arriving in Columbus this winter.

Following practice, head coach Ryan Day met with the media to recap the opening of spring practice and discussed what he hopes to accomplish in the early stages of the spring window.

“There were no pads, but it was good to see a bunch of guys running around,” Day said. “There was good energy out there in a continuation of the offseason, which I thought was excellent. You could see guys moving around with a purpose. But different guys are in different phases of their careers, and so individually, each guy has different things they’re working on. Some guys are just figuring out what to do, like where they’re going in terms of the young guys and the newcomers. And then there are guys who are veterans and have played a lot of football, and they’re working on other things. As a team, we’re really working hard on the no-talent issues and building that discipline and skill.”

One of the most notable takeaways from Tuesday’s practice was Sonny Styles’ work at linebacker throughout the portion of practice open to the media, confirming offseason speculation about the potential for a position switch. Asked about Styles’ switch to linebacker, Day said the goal is to put players into a position to maximize their success as long as they’re willing to embrace it.

“Sonny has wanted to do whatever he can to help the team, and we know that his skillset is versatile,” Day said. “We’re going to continue to work on that, so you’ll see him at linebacker. You’ll also see him do some other things as time goes on, but we think he brings a lot to the table (at linebacker). He can do so many things there, and I think that’s the exciting part. Year in and year out, you have people in different spots and you have to figure out how you want to utilize them the best. Today was just day one, real basic, but we’ll watch the film and continue to build that package.”

As was the case last year, the quarterback competition figures to dominate the talks surrounding Ohio State’s spring practices as Day and Kelly aim to identify the next leader of the offense following Kyle McCord’s surprising decision to transfer last December. Day, who has been vocal this offseason about wanting to step back from his direct involvement with the offense and, specifically, the quarterbacks, said Kelly will coach the quarterbacks this season while also leading the offensive meetings.

While Devin Brown and Kansas State transfer Will Howard are likely to battle throughout the spring for the starting job, the quarterback room has never been deeper at Ohio State under Day with Lincoln Keinholz and five-star true freshmen Air Noland and Julian Sayin also in the mix.

“It’s a good group of quarterbacks,” Day said. “They’ve got really good leadership, they’ve had a really good offseason. I think all the feedback we’re getting from (strength and conditioning coach) Mick Marotti has been very positive. We counted up between 7-on-7 and team reps, I think we had 150 reps today, and that’s a bunch. And that’s great because that’s what these guys need. The more we can spread the reps around, the better.”

In years past, Day has shied away from announcing a hierarchy at the quarterback position during the spring, instead allowing the competition to run well into fall camp. However, Day acknowledged there may need to be more urgency with such decisions at that position this season given the ease of access players have to the transfer portal, as well as the prevalence of transfers in college football today.

“It is different now because of the portal window opening, and we do have a bunch of guys in that (quarterback room), so we’re hoping to see some delineation as the spring goes on,” Day said.

Along the offensive line, only two positions appear to be firmly solidified as left tackle Josh Simmons and left guard Donovan Jackson return after starting every game last season. The center, right guard, and right tackle positions are less certain as Alabama transfer Seth McLaughlin figures to push returning starter Carson Hinzman at center, and sophomore Luke Montgomery makes his push to crack the starting lineup this season at either guard or tackle.

Montgomery was seen working at guard during practice on Tuesday after spending his freshman season at tackle, with Josh Fryar remaining at right tackle for now. Asked about Montgomery’s potential move inside, Day noted a primary reason is because the right guard position is available at the moment. He also said Montgomery’s athleticism, quickness, and bend may be an ideal fit for some of Kelly’s schemes.

“He is somebody who, to me, is very skilled in a lot of areas after making the transition to offensive line over the past couple of years,” Day said of Montgomery. “He’s somebody who we think has a very high ceiling. He has a list of things, just like everybody, that he has to work on this offseason. He did some good things at tackle last year, and we think he can still play some tackle … He has the skillset in order to (play guard), but now he just needs the reps to prove he can do it. I think we’ll come up for air after the spring is over and figure out what kind of progress has been made, evaluate it, and go from there.”

At center, Hinzman is working to shake off a peculiar finish to his 2023 season that saw him replaced for Ohio State’s season-ending Cotton Bowl loss to Missouri after starting the previous 12 games. With McLaughlin having started 25 games at Alabama, including last season’s Rose Bowl loss to Michigan in the College Football Playoff semifinals, Hinzman has his work cut out for him if he’s to remain in the lineup, although Day noted he likes what he’s seen and heard regarding Hinzman this offseason.

“He had a really good last couple of months,” Day said of Hinzman. “He was excellent with Mick. I think having that year of experience has really helped him. His numbers in the weight room are very good. The combination of having a year under his belt and having a good offseason allows him the opportunity to go compete this spring.”

Day added, “We’ll see what it all looks like here. Again, the pads aren’t on, so with the offensive line, we won’t know anything for a while. But we’ve seen strides with him. And improvement combined with the fact that he played a bunch last year and we won a bunch of games with him in there, that matters. I’m fired up to see what he looks like as we head into the middle of spring.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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