Ohio State Spring Game 2021: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 16, 2021

Ohio State Spring Game 2021: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

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    Paul Vernon/Associated Press

    The Ohio State Buckeyes will usher in the post-Justin Fields era during Saturday's spring game. 

    Ryan Day and his staff have a handful of options to choose from to replace Fields, but there is no clear-cut front-runner entering Saturday. 

    The Buckeyes have to replace other top contributors who are headed to the NFL draft, including running back Trey Sermon, linebacker Pete Werner and defensive back Shaun Wade. 

    Do not feel too bad for the Buckeyes, though, as they have another highly rated recruiting class coming into Columbus, Ohio, that will help fill the talent gap. 

    Ohio State had the No. 2 recruiting class behind the Alabama Crimson Tide in the class of 2021, per 247Sports. Saturday marks the first time we will see running back TreVeyon Henderson, wide receiver Emeka Egbuka and others in scarlet and gray. 

Top Storylines

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Who Emerges As Quarterback Front-Runner? 

    C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller III and Kyle McCord entered spring practice in a competition to take over the top spot on the quarterback depth chart. 

    Stroud and Miller are redshirt freshmen, while McCord comes into Columbus as the No. 3 quarterback in the class of 2021. 

    Stroud and Miller have a very slight edge when it comes to in-game experience. They both took snaps at the end of games in 2020. 

    With no clear-cut favorite in place yet, Saturday could serve as a springboard for one of the signal-callers to stand out in the eyes of Day and his staff. 

    Of course, there is only so much a spring game can tell you about young players since they do not get the full in-game experience with a limited pass rush coming their way. 

    The trio of quarterbacks will likely be judged on their grasp of the system and chemistry with the wideouts, and if one of them impresses more, they could have an edge heading into the fall.

          

    Which Players Step Up On Defense? 

    The Buckeyes have plenty of holes to fill throughout their defense.

    Ohio State lost its top three tackling linebackers in Pete Werner, Tuf Borland and Baron Browning, as well as Shaun Wade and Tommy Togiai, who were in the top seven in tackles in 2020. 

    The Buckeyes have five underclassmen and four seniors listed at linebacker on their roster. Senior Dallas Gant is out with an injury, so most of the focus there will be on the younger players. 

    Cornerbacks Sevyn Banks and Cameron Brown are both out with injuries, so there is a chance for Ryan Watts, Denzel Burke and others to shine. 

    Senior Tyreke Smith and junior Zach Harrison are expected to play in larger roles on the interior. A solid outing from both would ease some concerns about who can step in there. 

    Then there is top recruit Jack Sawyer, who comes in with high expectations. He could be the next in the recent line of star defensive ends to go from Columbus to the NFL. 

Jack Sawyer, DE

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Sawyer has made a strong impression on his new teammates in the short time he has been in Columbus. 

    Harrison told reporters that he believes the Buckeyes' top recruit in the class of 2021 will be a special player, per 247Sports' Patrick Murphy.

    "I've been really impressed with Jack," Harrison said. "Jack's getting better every day. He's a sponge. He likes to be coached up. He asks questions, and he's got real God-given abilities. He's got good bend, explosiveness. So I think Jack's going to be a special player around here."

    Sawyer is expected to follow in the line of Nick and Joey Bosa and Chase Young, all of whom used their success at Ohio State to become top-five picks in the NFL draft. 

    The star freshman has three years to live up to the lofty standard set by recent Ohio State pass-rushers, but it is hard not to be excited about the havoc he might bring off the edge. 

    Saturday will be the first opportunity to see Sawyer in a Buckeyes jersey, but we will not see the full extent of his talent until the fall since the quarterbacks will be protected on Saturday. 

TreVeyon Henderson, RB

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    TreVeyon Henderson could be the next star running back at Ohio State.

    The freshman tailback will have to fight for snaps since Master Teague III sits atop the depth chart, but there could be a role for him in 2021 if he impresses enough in practices and in the spring game. 

    Henderson still has plenty of work to do to get up to the college speed, and it might be tough for a game or two since the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out his senior year of football in Virginia last fall. 

    Day has been impressed in the short time he has viewed Henderson in practice, as he noted to Cleveland.com's Nathan Baird

    "He's had a good attitude. He's got a good work ethic," Day said. "He's done everything right so far. Now, he's still got to play more and learn, and every day he needs a million reps—but the talent is there. The work ethic is there."

    Henderson's ceiling this season would be to land the No. 2 role behind Teague, but he likely will not have the same impact as Sawyer and other defensive newcomers because there is an established player in front of him. 

        

    Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.