Ohio State Spring Game 2022: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIApril 15, 2022

Ohio State Spring Game 2022: Top Storylines and Prospects to Watch

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    Last season, Ohio State fell short of reaching the College Football Playoff, marking the first time since the 2018 campaign that it had failed to do so. Still, 2021 was another strong year for the Buckeyes, which won 11 games and capped the season with a victory over Utah in the Rose Bowl.

    Ohio State should again be among the top teams in the country in 2022, as it has a roster still loaded with talent. Those players will be in action at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, when the Buckeyes stage their annual spring game at 1:30 p.m. ET.

    This will be the first time since Ryan Day became head coach in 2019 that his players will be tackling in the spring game. So the event will more closely resemble what Buckeyes fans can expect to see in games this fall.

    Here are some of the top storylines and players to watch heading into Ohio State's 2022 spring game.

Stroud Beginning Quest to Win Heisman Trophy in 2022

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    There's no quarterback battle taking place for the Buckeyes this spring, as C.J. Stroud is back and ready to lead their offense for his redshirt sophomore season.

    The 20-year-old was among the best players in the nation last year, and there's a good chance he'll build off that and perform even better in 2022.

    Stroud set a high bar for himself last year, though, as he passed for 4,435 yards, 44 touchdowns and six interceptions in 12 games in his first season as a starter. He finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting behind Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (the winner), Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett.

    Young is back with the Crimson Tide and will likely be the favorite to repeat as the Heisman winner, but Stroud will do his best to capture the award in what will likely be his final season at Ohio State. It will be intriguing to watch the two QBs battle it out in 2022.

    For Buckeyes fans, it will be fun to watch Stroud in action on Saturday. There's no stress of a QB competition, and the Californian will be gearing up for what could be another big year for him.

Young WRs Preparing for Increased Opportunities

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    Stroud is going to be working with some different wide receivers in 2022, though, as his top two targets from last year—Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave—are both heading to the NFL and will likely be first-round picks in the draft later this month.

    And that will create more opportunities for other Buckeyes receivers to get on the field more this season.

    Junior Julian Fleming could be a key member of the passing attack, and sophomore Emeka Egbuka may be a potential breakout star. But the top players among this unit to keep an eye on will likely be junior Jaxon Smith-Njigba and sophomore Marvin Harrison Jr.

    When Wilson and Olave sat out the Rose Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft, Smith-Njigba and Harrison stepped up, with each scoring three receiving touchdowns in the win over Utah. Smith-Njigba had a particularly huge performance, totaling 347 yards on 15 catches.

    If that's a sign of what's to come, Stroud and the offense may pick up right where it left off. So, it will be interesting to see how the wide receivers line up during the spring game and who else may emerge as a potential contributor for 2022.

Which Cornerbacks Will Emerge as Key Defensive Playmakers?

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    One of Ohio State's biggest weaknesses during the 2021 season was its pass defense, as it ranked 12th in the Big Ten and 96th in the nation with 246.2 passing yards allowed per game.

    Since then, head coach Ryan Day has made several changes to his defensive coaching staff, hiring Jim Knowles as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, Perry Eliano as safeties coach and Tim Walton as cornerbacks coach.

    Still, the Buckeyes will need to get better performances on the field if they're going to do a better job of stopping the pass in 2022. And it should be one of the more intriguing position battles to watch heading into the season.

    Sophomore Denzel Burke will likely play a big role in Ohio State's secondary this year, while senior Cameron Brown, sophomore Jordan Hancock and redshirt freshman Jakailin Johnson could be other cornerbacks to watch. They'll all look to boost a unit that needs to fare better this season than it did last year.

    Of course, other players could step up and help the secondary improve in 2022, too. So, that will be one of the top defensive units on the Buckeyes' roster to keep an eye on this Saturday and beyond.

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