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Ohio State football: 2 Buckeyes burning questions as 2022 preseason camp kicks off

Ohio State football, CJ Stroud, Ryan Day, Heisman Trophy, Big Ten Media Day

As with any other top football program in the nation, the Ohio State Buckeyes head into the 2022 season with several notable storylines to watch.

One could make the case that Ohio State had itself a quality 2021 campaign, as it recorded 11 wins and also came away with a dramatic win over Utah in the Rose Bowl Game. But as head coach Ryan Day noted during his Big Ten Media Days press conference, such a season can be characterized as a good one at many other programs, but “it isn’t at Ohio State.”

Ohio State will see multiple new faces on both sides of the ball, and various players are going to be called on to elevate their play in order to help replace the talents who either graduated or are now in the NFL. And overall, Ohio State approaches the season with numerous burning questions, including on whether these two players will stand out for the Big Ten powerhouse.

Ohio State football: 2 Buckeyes burning questions

Can Marvin Harrison Jr. replace Garrett Wilson?

Ohio State lost Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave to the NFL Draft, as they each wound up being top-15 selections. For many schools when they lose two prized talents at a certain position, it can take quite a while for them to find players capable of replacing them. But in the Buckeyes’ case, they already have the replacements for Wilson and Olave on the roster.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba is slated to once again be quarterback C.J. Stroud’s go-to receiver, as he is coming off of a campaign where he recorded 95 receptions and 1,606 receiving yards. On the other hand, Marvin Harrison Jr. is projected to take over for Wilson as the Buckeyes’ X receiver. Harrison did not have many opportunities to showcase his skill set on offense last season, but he did rise to the occasion when it mattered the most, hauling in three receiving touchdowns in the Rose Bowl Game victory.

From his speed to his agility in the open field, Harrison can be a reliable No. 2 wideout option for Stroud. And as was on display in the Rose Bowl Game, he has what it takes to be a go-to target for the versatile passer in the red zone.

In the big picture, Day sees plenty of potential in what Harrison can bring to the offense in the upcoming campaign.

“His work ethic, his approach, his attitude, who he is as a person, his parents raised a really great young man,” Day said during a press conference in March. “And he’s going to do his own thing, but he’s blessed with a tremendous amount of talent. But really, skill and discipline are off the charts, too — and that’s hard to find, because some guys are just blessed with great talent but they have a harder time finding that skill and that discipline. He has it both.

“He’s created a great skill and he’s created great discipline. So he’s had a really good offseason and I’m proud of him.”

If Harrison can mirror Wilson’s keen production from his three-season run at Ohio State, it can go a long way for the Buckeyes’ bid at a return to the College Football Playoff.

Can Tanner McCalister help to revamp Ohio State’s sluggish pass defense?

Not much went the way of the Ohio State pass defense last season, as it ended up ranking at 12th in the Big Ten in passing yards allowed per game with a 246.9 average.

In his first year as Ohio State defensive coordinator, Jim Knowles is set to be tasked with working to rejuvenate the team’s pass defense, and he sure will lean on defensive back Tanner McCalister to lead the unit. McCalister, who transferred to Ohio State earlier this year, featured under Knowles for four seasons at Oklahoma State, where he put the finishing touches on his run there with 123 total tackles and 12 passes defended.

McCalister’s experience in playing under Knowles is key in the eyes of Day.

“I think first off, what Tanner’s done is, he understands the defense,” Day said during a press conference in March. “He’s almost like a coach out there. Kind of like one of those old player coaches on the field. And he’s been able to help guys with that. His experience really shows up on the field because he can recognize what teams are trying to attack him and he feels comfortable in this style of defense. Obviously, he has years of experience in it.”

A pivotal campaign from McCalister can prove to be just what is needed for an Ohio State pass defense in need of playmakers.

Fall training camp for Ohio State has already kicked off, as much attention is set on its season opener against Notre Dame next month.