Can Ohio State football's Will Howard thrive under OC Chip Kelly?

Ohio State Football Spring Practice
Ohio State Football Spring Practice / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

Former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard signed with Ohio State football via the transfer portal after the 2023 season. Chip Kelly served as the head coach of the UCLA Bruins (2018-2023) for six seasons, but decided to unite with long-time friend and mentee Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. Kelly is known to be an intelligent offensive mind whether it's the collegiate or professional level.

Can Howard blossom under Kelly in 2024?

Howard played for the Wildcats for four seasons (25 starts) and led Kansas State to a Big-12 Championship victory in 2022. In 2023, Howard had his best statistical season after having garnered 2,643 passing yards (career-high), 24 passing touchdowns (career-high) and having completed 61.3 (career-high) percent of his passes. The former Kansas State quarterback stands at 6-foot-5, 242Ib and is recognized as one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in the nation. In 2023, Howard rushed for 351yards, nine touchdowns, and averaged 4.3 yards per rush. Howard earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2023.

In January, however, Howard committed to Ohio State after former Ohio State pass throwerKyle McCord took his talents to Syracuse. Howard will still have to compete for the starting job against Devin Brown, Lincoln Kienholz, five-star recruit Julian Sayin and Air Noland, but it's highly likely Howard will get the nod.

Kelly decided to leave a head coaching position at a premier program because he enjoyed being an offensive coordinator and position coach (QBs) more, thus, insert Ohio State's offense that is primed and ready to go heading into 2024. Ohio State halfback TreVeyon Henderson is returning in 2024 and Ole Miss transfer rusher Quinshon Judkins (2,725 rush yards and 31 touchdowns in two seasons at Ole Miss) will occupy the backfield for the Buckeyes. The tandem of Judkins and Henderson has the potential to be the best rushing duo in 2024, but the chemistry between Howard and Kelly will ultimately decide how far the Buckeyes will go.

McCord, who was the successor to C.J Stroud, had a solid 2023 campaign but it wasn't enough for him to be accepted as the premier passer at a prominent program like Ohio State. If McCord maybe didn't throw the game-sealing interception against Michigan and won, perhaps he would still be in Columbus. Fortunately, Howard is a major upgrade over McCord.

Howard possesses an NFL-like build, solid pocket presence, has a quick release, and can garner yardage using his sheer size and prowess on the ground. Additionally, Howard is solid when the defense rushes at him, as he threw for 1,065 yards, 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions while having completed 61.9 percent of his passes when blitzed last season. The former Big 12 champion needs to improve his accuracy, as his 61.3 overall completion percentage is decent, but it can be better.

Kelly, who served as the head coach of the Oregon Ducks (2009-2012) that made the 2010 national championship game, has a long and impressive track record as an offensive genius. At UCLA, Kelly led the Bruins offense to a top-five finish in the Pac-12 in total offense over the past four campaigns (2020-2023).

The former UCLA head coach helped current Cleveland Browns quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson excel under his guidance. Thompson-Robinson was a prolific dual-threat quarterback that had good athleticism and decent accuracy from the pocket, somewhat similar to Howard. The former UCLA pass thrower accumulated 3,154 passing yards (69.6 completion percentage) and 646 rushing yards with an average of 5.5 yards per rush in his final collegiate season in 2022. Thompson-Robinson earned back-to-back second-Team All-Pac 12 selections in 2020 and 2021.

Howard's ability to run the football should bode well for Kelly's scheme for the offense. Kelly has a knack for running the football frequently and effectively. Across his final four seasons at Oregon, Kelly guided the Ducks rushing attack to average 6.2 yards per rush, respectively. If Henderson and Judkins can be as productive as expected, it will open up the passing game for Howard to thrive in the pocket and show off his big arm.

Unlike McCord, Howard has experience in big game situations (2022 Big 12 Championship) and likely won't squander if the moment becomes too big. Even though star wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. (NFL Draft) and Julian Fleming (transfer to Penn State) are no longer on the offense, the Buckeyes wideout room is still brimmed with talent.

Wideout Emeka Egbuka will return in 2024 as the de facto No.1 receiver option. Egbuka made the second and third-team All-Big Ten teams over the past two seasons (2022-2023). Alongside Egbuka are Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss. Tate is poised to breakout with the subtraction of Harrison Jr, so expect him to get more than 18 catches this season. Inniss, a former five-star recruit, is destined to have more than only one catch like last season with the absence of Fleming and Harrison Jr. The trio of Egbuka, Tate, and Inniss are solid weapons for Howard to sling the ball to.

Ohio State hasn't won the national championship since 2015, which was the first season the College Football Playoff was implemented. Day, Kelly, and Howard will have immense pressure on their shoulders when the 2024 season commences.