Ohio State’s QB battle to extend into fall


Ohio State wrapped up spring practice on Saturday with the annual spring game, but the quarterback competition that has dominated much of the offseason discussion remains unfinished.

In front of 80,000 fans, Ohio State’s quarterback quintet of Devin Brown, Will Howard, Lincoln Keinholz, and true freshmen Julian Sayin and Air Noland got one last opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff before heading into the summer. Neither of the quarterbacks dazzled on a windy day inside Ohio Stadium, although each had their moments.

Howard, making his first appearance in front of fans after transferring from Kansas State in January, took the first snaps of the game for the Ohio State offense and went on to complete nine of his 13 attempts for 77 yards. One of his completions, a well-thrown ball up to the sideline to Emeka Egbuka, was arguably the throw of the game and sent a charge through the stadium after Egbuka reeled in the pass with one hand.

Brown, the only quarterback on the roster to have started a game for Ohio State, had the fewest attempts of any quarterback with nine passes. He completed five of them, including the only touchdown pass of the game, an 11-yard strike to Brennen Schramm in the second quarter.

He added three rushes for 24 yards to showcase his mobility, an element that figures to be critical to Ohio State’s offense this season regardless of who ultimately wins the job.

It was an up-and-down day for Keinholz, who was playing his first spring game after arriving in Columbus last summer just ahead of fall camp. Keinholz went 10 of 17 for 71 yards, but he was intercepted twice by the Ohio State secondary.

Few players have received more hype this spring than Sayin, who transferred to Ohio State in January after enrolling at Alabama. The five-star recruit has announced himself as a true player in the quarterback competition despite only being on campus for three months, and Saturday marked the first opportunity for Sayin to showcase his talent in front of an audience.

Like Keinholz, Sayin’s day was uneven from start to finish. He was intercepted once but completed 10 of his 17 attempts for 85 yards. He was also sacked three times, the most of any quarterback.

Noland, Sayin’s class of 2024 counterpart, was the last of the quarterbacks to see the field and played heavily in the second half. He completed five of his seven attempts for 47 yards and added 42 rushing yards on five carries. He was intercepted once.

While much of each quarterback’s performance is still to be evaluated as they review the film, Day knew after the game he was nowhere near ready to declare a starter —or even a frontrunner —coming out of spring practice.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m going to make any declarations right now, but we’re going to look at the film and see what it looks like and decide where to go from there. I don’t have much to say about it right now,” Day said.

Asked about Howard, who is perceived by many to be the odds-on favorite to land the job given Ohio State’s pursuit in the transfer portal, Day was complimentary of Howard’s willingness to hang in the pocket and deliver throws.

“I think the pocket presence was something that was there early on when he got into spring practice, we were able to see that,” Day said. “That’s something that is difficult to teach; your eyes are downfield but you’re feeling the rush. It does help when you’re north of 6-foot-4, but he stands in there. You can see that. I just think over the spring, the timing is increasing, it’s getting better over and over again. I think the more reps all these guys get, the better.”

Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chip Kelly, who was also stepping into Ohio Stadium for the first time in his career on Saturday, echoed Day’s sentiment about being in no rush to declare a winner but said he likes where the room has progressed.

“We got better from practice one to practice 15,” Kelly said. “It’s still an evaluation through the whole process, but the players know we’re not making a decision walking off the field today saying, ‘Hey, this is the direction we’re going in.’ We’ll be very authentic and look through everything to make sure we get a really good feel for what it all looks like. And then who will best move this offense is what our decision is going to be based on.”

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

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