Buckeye Football Notebook: ‘If you can’t do that, it’s hard to lead’

Ohio State Buckeyes Buckeye Football Notebook

When Ohio State receivers Austin Mack and Terry McLaurin were in high school, they were rated as two of the top prospects in the state of Indiana in their respective recruiting classes.

Mack was the No. 2 prospect in-state in 2016 and McLaurin was the No. 3 prospect in 2014. Given their location, then-Hoosier head coach and now-OSU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson recruited both of them.

Now that Wilson is coaching them at Ohio State, is there anything awkward about it all?

“It’s funny. I don’t get involved,” receivers coach Zach Smith said. “I just let Coach Wilson and Terry, and Coach Wilson and Austin go back and forth. It’s humorous.”

That past relationship is nice for Wilson in terms of familiarity, but don’t expect it to help much in terms of production for the Hoosier State receivers.

“No, I don’t think it really matters,” Smith said. “Once he got here, that was part of his deal, he needed to build a relationship with the whole offense. So he did a good job this offseason really getting one-on-one time with certain guys. He knows them all pretty similarly now, but when he first got in he knew who they were, obviously.”

When Ohio State coaches talk about quarterback J.T. Barrett, they will spend as much time talking about his intangibles and his leadership skills as they will his actual physical traits. The ability to lead a team is a must for quarterbacks, and that ability doesn’t take form without plenty of confidence. Real confidence. In that regard, it was a positive spring for each of the Ohio State quarterbacks.

“When you’re confident, it’s easier to be a leader,” said OSU quarterbacks coach Ryan Day. “When you can do things and have success, you can set a level as a standard. If you can’t do that, it’s hard to lead. I think they did that. Then, they took the next step to try and pull everybody up to that standard. I think confidence has a bit to do with that.”

Later this month, two more Ohio State cornerbacks will hear their names called in the first round of the NFL Draft. Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley will be the third and fourth cornerbacks under Kerry Coombs to be drafted in the first round.

What’s it like for Coombs to see two more players realize their dreams?

“Picture that was your son,” he said. “Whatever it was that your son was trying to do for his life, and he trained to do that one thing — whatever it was, it doesn’t have to be an NFL football player — and he was training to do that one thing and he accomplished that goal and you got to stand there with him when it happened. If you can imagine what that would feel like for you, that’s what it feels like for me.

“I love those two kids, and to watch what they’ve developed into and the men that they’ve become and to be able to stand with them at probably their finest moment other than a moment on a football field, it’s going to be really special.”

Kerry Coombs has built some fantastic depth at cornerback for the Buckeyes, which will be tested once again this season. At the front line of the Ohio State defense, Larry Johnson has done the same.

The Buckeye defensive line may be deeper than it has ever been, and one area that has helped OSU in this regard is the versatility of the players that they have recruited.

“I think that everybody is trying to build depth, and that is the key,” Johnson said. “If you have got a guy who can do something, really special who can do more than just one position… take Dre’Mont (Jones) and Jashon Cornell, they both came in as defensive ends and they are now three-techniques.

“That adds to what we are doing, it allows you to go get another guy to bring in without changing the chemistry of the room. They can do multiple things. I think that is what makes the depth really good. You have got guys who can play nose guard, they can play three-technique, they can play end, that is how you build depth.”