At the OHIO Podcast, we have made it a tradition to attend the annual Ohio State Spring Game. We have our Fan Appreciation Tailgate. We attend the game with a group of our followers. We hang out before and after the game talking Buckeye football. However, something was different today.

The day started like any other Spring Game. We arrived early, but when we arrived, even though the sun had yet to completely come up, the parking lots were beginning to fill. While this is not uncommon for a gameday in the autumn, it was a bit unusual for a Spring Game. We set up our tailgate, and I watched as hundreds, then thousands, of eager fans packed the lots. Football games broke out amongst the younger fans. Even though we are coming off our third straight loss to That Team Up North, and our second consecutive season with back-to-back loses to close it out, there was an optimism, an excitement among the legions of fans packing the lots. As we entered the stadium, the atmosphere was electric. Before the game, Fox sports announcer Joel Klatt would hype the crowd by interviewing Ryan Day, TreyVeon Henderson, and Emeka Egbuka. Then in a move not seen at Ohio State in several years, Chip Kelly’s first official play call was a full house backfield! While we are still amid a quarterback battle to see who will lead this team, there is a confidence we have not experienced this early in the season in a few years.

Of course, with the actual game there was numerous questions. Who will be the quarterback? What will our offense look like? Will our offensive line be up to the challenge? Is our defense as good as advertised? While not all the questions were answered today, we had some concerns eased and some questions answered. Let’s start with the offensive line.

Last season, the offensive line was arguably the biggest weakness on the team. While our interior line was solid, there was a lot of questions at the tackles. When we witnessed the spring game in 2023, on nearly every play the quarterback was under pressure in less than two seconds. This season, the offensive line gave the quarterbacks more time to operate, and while the defensive line did get a few sacks, this offensive line looked significantly improved over last year.

As for the quarterback battle, I feel it is destined to continue. While both Will Howard (9/13 for 77 yards) and Devin Brown (5/7 for 66 yards and 1 TD) looked solid, I don’t feel either really established themselves as the #1 guy. Julian Sayin, who is rumored to be in the mix to start, also made some plays, but his stat line (9/15 for 77 yards and 1 INT) showed he is a freshman and does still need time to learn and develop. While he may be ready to step up at some point this season, he isn’t quite there yet. However, both he and the other true freshman Air Noland (6/7 for 51 yards and 1 INT) showed the Buckeyes have a bright future at quarterback for 2025 and beyond. Perhaps the quarterback who struggled most today was Lincoln Kienholz. The red shirt freshman saw more time, and more opportunities to throw the ball than any other quarterback. However, his stat line of 10/17 for 71 yards and 2 interceptions sadly underwhelmed. So, while we do not have a decided winner, I believe the hierarchy has been established with Howard and Brown leading the charge as we initially expected.

Then we address the question of what our offense will look like. Now obviously we are not going to see a lot during this game, however, a few things became evident. Along with the line play and quarterback discussion, it is safe to say the wide receivers are as good as we thought they would be. Emeka Egbuka wowed the crowd with a fabulous one-handed catch, ala JJ Smith, and Smith played well despite seeing some rather poor passes thrown in his direction. The running backs played extremely well and are without a doubt are one of the top rooms in the country even with Dallan Hayden entering the portal. But the real stars of this game were the defense. For the first two quarters (when it was starters and two deep guys battling it out), the defense ruled. And honestly, the defense really owned the day despite losing 34-33 in the modified scoring matchup. The first three drives, all ended with sacks before punting. Jack Sawyer seemed to pick up where he left off at the end of last season. Yes, the offense scored four touchdowns, but the defense also recorded four interceptions including a pair of the pick six variety. The defensive backfield looked lights out. Igbinosun was in mid-season form, and playing like this was a conference matchup with all the same physicality and intensity. Burke was not even challenged. The safety play was solid, and despite not hearing the names some names mentioned as much as we would like from the linebacker room, it is a somewhat inexperienced group and given their skills and athleticism, I’m sure Coach Laurinaitis will have them playing at a high level come the start of the season.

Overall, I believe this game, which for all intents and purposes is simply a glorified practice, lived up to the hype. It was worthy of being the first ever nationally televised spring game in college football history. As I said, it had a different feel. There was an intensity and an optimism Buckeye fan have not had in a few years. There was a confidence among the players, the coaches and the fans that this is the year for the Buckeyes. From the mid-season feel in the parking lots to the start of the game. From Kelly calling a play featuring three backs in a T formation in the backfield to start the game (paying homage to Ohio State legend Woody Hayes) to the game ending on a pick by the grandson of Buckeye legend Archie Griffin, something felt special about this day. And this special day has given extra momentum to what many Buckeyes faithful feel will be a magical season.