Ohio State built the best team money can buy, but will it pay off?

Ohio State has the best team money can buy, and 80,000 fans showed up to Ohio Stadium to see it in action on Saturday. But after paying the cost, can the Buckeyes be the boss of the Big Ten? That remains to be seen.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day has assembled a coaching staff that the school’s athletic department will pay $11.425 million. That’s $1.3 million more than Georgia pays its assistant coaching staff and $2 million more than Alabama pays. And it’s $2 million more than Ohio State paid just one year ago.

Ohio State spring game reaction: The time is now for the Buckeyes

The addition of Chip Kelly as offensive coordinator, a $2 million-a-year hire, means Day will hand over playcalling privileges for the first time since he became Ohio State’s offensive coordinator eight years ago.

The retention of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles also means the Buckeyes will have two of the sport’s best coordinators coaching what is the sport’s most talented roster. Joining stars Devin Brown, TreVeyon Henderson, Emeka Egbuka, JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer are highly recruited freshmen Jeremiah Smith and Air Noland, as well as a host of prized transfer portal pickups that includes quarterbacks Will Howard and Julian Sayin, running back Quinshon Judkins, center Seth McLaughlin and safety Caleb Downs.

While some have bemoaned the state of college football in the age of the transfer portal and name, image and likeness, factors that have led to unprecedented player movement, the Buckeyes have adapted to this new era of “free agency.”

“At Ohio State, you’ve got to beat the Team Up North and win every other game,” Day told The Athletic. “If that’s the expectation every year, you like your chances a lot more when you have good players. So, might as well get the best.”

Downs, who led the nation among freshmen defenders in tackles with 107, was the most intensely sought portal entry of the last cycle. But no newcomer’s impact has been felt more than star freshman wideout Smith.

Ohio State football spring game highlights

Buckeye strength coach Mickey Marriotti called Smith the most impressive player he’s seen as a freshman since former Florida great Percy Harvin. In the broadcast on FOX, former Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer relayed that Buckeyes general manager Mark Pantoni is calling Smith the best first-year player he’s ever seen.

“He’s got a chance to be special,” Day said. “He really does … He’s talented, disciplined and skilled.”

With Marvin Harrison Jr. gone, the wide receiver room will once again look for a new go-to target, with no shortage of talented options for Day to cycle through as the Buckeyes begin their 2024 campaign with a big red circle around their Nov. 30 date with Michigan.

After three consecutive losses to the Wolverines, Day has marshaled every available resource to prepare for 2024, a year that will be for his legacy at Ohio State. He knows he can’t afford another loss to Michigan, and he knows that for a win against the Wolverines to mean more on the national landscape, his team will need to be undefeated once again heading into The Game.

The health and depth of the Buckeyes roster has never been more important. They’ll need to be healthy and hunting in November for a Big Ten championship in the most highly-anticipated regular season in Columbus since 2014.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.

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