Ohio State positional breakdown and transfer portal primer: Do the Buckeyes need to add?

With spring football over, Ohio State is now on to the next part of the college football offseason: the spring transfer portal. The two-week window for all undergraduates opened on Tuesday, and there will be plenty of movement around the country.

Ohio State made major moves in the winter window, adding safety Caleb Downs, quarterback Will Howard, running back Quinshon Judkins and center Seth McLaughlin. The spring window might not include the same amount of fireworks in Columbus, but some departures and some additions can be expected before the window closes on April 30.

As of Wednesday morning, Ohio State has 84 scholarship players, one under the 85-man limit, and a few more spots may open in the coming days, which would leave the Buckeyes with more flexibility to add.

Below, we evaluated each Ohio State position group and answered the question: Does the position need more transfer help?

First, here’s a look at the players who have already entered the transfer portal.

  • Dallan Hayden, running back: Hayden expected to be the lead running back this year, but then TreVeyon Henderson returned and the Buckeyes reeled in Judkins, which pushed Hayden back to the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. He’s a talented back and just wanted more playing time. It’s a tough loss for the Buckeyes from a depth perspective, but not a hole they can’t replace.
  • Cedrick Hawkins, safety: Hawkins, a four-star in the Class of 2023, did not play in a game last year as a freshman. He played in the spring game but was rotating in behind other underclassmen.

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Overview: Graduate transfer Will Howard and redshirt sophomore Devin Brown will compete for the starting job this year, while Ohio State fills the rest of the room out with young talent: redshirt freshman Lincoln Kienholz and true freshmen Air Noland and Julian Sayin. It seems unlikely that Ohio State reaches the fall with five quarterbacks, but I don’t think the coaching staff is going to push anybody out. If someone transfers, it’ll be because it’s their preference.

Do they need a transfer? No. Howard and Brown have looked good this spring in their battle. This isn’t a situation where Ohio State doesn’t have a viable option; it’s just still finding the best one.

Running backs

Overview: Henderson and Judkins are two of the best running backs in the country and will be sharing carries. Behind them, there’s some uncertainty after Hayden entered the portal. Freshmen James Peoples and Sam Williams-Dixon played will in the spring game, but they’re new to college football. TC Caffey has earned rave reviews this spring, so he could be in the mix as the fifth back.

Do they need a transfer? Yes. Ryan Day said he’s fine with five running backs in the room, but it seems like the Buckeyes could benefit from an experienced No. 3 option. If Ohio State wants to go into the season with these five, it would be far from a crisis. We’ve seen freshman running backs make an impact when thrown into the fire, and Peoples is good enough to do the same. Still, given the injury risk at this position, I’m not sure I’d want to go all-in on two freshmen and a walk-on. We’ll see what happens, but Ohio State can make it work either way.



Top takeaways from Day 1 of CFB’s spring transfer portal window

Wide receivers

Overview: This is an absolutely loaded position. Six receivers could see decent playing time this year between Emeka Egbuka, Jeremiah Smith, Carnell Tate, Brandon Inniss, Jayden Ballard and Bryson Rodgers. Beyond them, though, there’s some question as to who will remain on the roster. Kojo Antwi and Kyion Grayes seem to be behind the top six guys, and I’m not sure they have a clear path to the field, especially with five-star Mylan Graham joining the team in the summer.

Do they need a transfer? Ohio State is at nine scholarship receivers, and I think it wants to stay there, so it could go into the portal if somebody leaves. Position coach Brian Hartline wouldn’t just settle for anybody to fill a scholarship spot, though. He could survive this season with eight and then add more in the 2025 class.

Tight ends

Overview: It’s a crowded room. Gee Scott Jr. will likely be the starter in the fall, but a few others will see the field. Redshirt freshman Jelani Thurman will see plenty of time this season, along with Ohio transfer Will Kacmarek and the do-it-all man Patrick Gurd.

Do they need a transfer? No, not even a little bit. Tight ends coach Keenan Bailey will spend the offseason trying to figure out the best way to develop his players and set a depth chart hierarchy.

Offensive line

Overview: Now to the biggest question mark on the team. Ohio State leaves the spring knowing with at least four known starters in Josh Simmons, Josh Fryar, Seth McLaughlin and Donovan Jackson. I’m still not sure Ohio State has a fifth starting-caliber lineman on the roster right now, but it would be Carson Hinzman or Tegra Tshabola if so. Enokk Vimahi tops the list of transfer candidates up front — he played just 99 offensive snaps last season — but there are others on the bench to think about, too.

Do they need a transfer? At least one. Ohio State has to find a solution on the right side, but it has the benefit of Fryar’s flexibility between guard and tackle. Ohio State doesn’t have to go into the portal trying to find the best right tackle; it can find the best offensive lineman, regardless of position, then move Fryar to the remaining spot. Ohio State may look to add some more depth if multiple players like Vimahi, Zen Michalski or others transfer.

Defensive line

Overview: The Buckeyes have five defensive ends that can play this year in JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer, Mitchell Melton, Kenyatta Jackson Jr. and Caden Curry. The interior is loaded, too, with Ty Hamilton, Tyleik Williams, Kayden McDonald, Hero Kanu, Tywone Malone and Jason Moore.

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson is going to be forced to rotate them all this season, which should fend off any quick moves to the transfer portal.

Do they need a transfer? No. Ohio State is pretty set up front on defense, with some talented young players behind the main group.


Overview: Ohio State is looking at a new linebacker duo after Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers left. Cody Simon, a mainstay in the 2023 lineup, will be the leader this year. There’s still some uncertainty as to how defensive coordinator Jim Knowles will rotate Sonny Styles and C.J. Hicks, but Hicks was the starter alongside Simon in the spring game. Gabe Powers and Arvell Reese are two other names to watch. I think Powers was terrific in the spring game, and Reese has so much upside.

Do they need a transfer? No. Ohio State only runs a two-linebacker system, so there doesn’t seem to be room.


Overview: This is the deepest position group on the roster. Denzel Burke, Jordan Hancock and Davison Igbinosun are all NFL corners next year, and there are at least two other corners behind them the Buckeyes can use. Jermaine Mathews Jr. has been cross-training at nickel and on the outside, and Calvin Simpson-Hunt had a good spring and seems to be moving up the depth chart. Lorenzo Styles is another name to watch, though he missed the end of spring with an injury. How Ohio State finds a way to get all these guys on the field remains to be seen, but they have plenty of options if anybody gets hurt. That’s without mentioning the freshman trio of Aaron Scott, Miles Lockhart and Bryce West. And Diante Griffin had a pick six in the spring game.

Do they need a transfer? No. The Buckeyes have two five-stars in Na’eem Offord and Devin Sanchez already committed, along with four-star Blake Woodby, and they are still pushing for five-star Dorian Brew. Ohio State could end up with three of the top four corners in the Class of 2025.


Overview: For such a safety-heavy defense, this position doesn’t seem to have a lot of depth behind Lathan Ransom and Caleb Downs. That’s part of the reason safety coach Perry Eliano was let go. Jayden Bonsu did showcase some development in the spring game. I thought he was good and didn’t give up any big plays as a starter. Malik Hartford saw playing time last year as a true freshman. Then there’s true freshman Jaylen McClain and Syracuse transfer Ja’Had Carter. There’s talent within the group, but it’s largely unproven and has injury history to overcome.

Do they need a transfer? I actually wouldn’t mind Ohio State filling Hawkins’ spot here. If the Buckeyes could find an experienced safety willing to be a depth piece, it could add some security for their chances at a deep College Football Playoff run. Ransom has injury issues and the way things have gone in the past, there’s always a need for more bodies in the back end. Ohio State may want to play its younger guys in that case, but if they aren’t ready, finding another safety would be on the list of tasks for the coming weeks.

(Photo: Barbara J. Perenic / Columbus Dispatch / USA Today)

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