Thrill of a Lifetime in Store for Freshmen
By Rob Odgen
Before the ball is kicked, the first touchdown is scored, and before the season gets underway, each Ohio State freshman must take the 50-or-so steps through a scarlet-tarped tunnel and on to a college football field for the very first time.
Running onto football fields is nothing new to these freshmen. Most have done it dozens and dozens of times. But running onto the field in front of the deafening sounds of 107,000 screaming fans is a different story.
It's something unlike anything else in the world, senior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said.
photo by Jim Davidson
They don't think they'll be nervous, but they will be, senior receiver Corey Brown added.
"You think you're ready for it, but you're not," junior linebacker Ryan Shazier said.
For these freshmen, particularly the ones that will see the field, this might be the biggest test.
Saturday's season opener is a noon kickoff, but coach Urban Meyer wants to see how his freshmen perform "under the lights".
"I think coaches have a tendency to devalue what happens when you jog out that tunnel, especially at a place like Ohio Stadium," Meyer said. "There will be a lot of deep breaths being taken and you just can't create that animal until you get that opportunity."
Meyer said he especially wants to see the reaction of freshmen running backs Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliott, two guys Meyer said will play on Saturday.
"They weren't here in spring practice. The kids that came early, at least they had a chance to play in front of the big crowd for the spring game," Meyer said.
Photo by Dan Harker
"The thing I like about Dontre is he doesn't seem fazed, but he has not done that yet. You see me jog someone else out there, you know we are having a little hyperventilating issue, which I've seen before."
As a freshman in 2009, C.J. Barnett's only impact came on special teams. Being on the field for important snaps is a whole different experience, he said.
“When I was a freshman, I was waving a towel,” Barnett said. "(Wilson) is going to have a pretty important role. The feeling is unexplainable. I’d just tell him to take a deep breath.”
Wilson and Elliott aren't the only true freshmen expected to get some playing time on Saturday.
Others likely to see the field are punter Cameron Johnston, receivers Jalin Marshall and James Clark, defensive backs Vonn Bell, Eli Apple, Cam Burrows and Gareon Conley, defensive linemen Joey Bosa and Mike Hill and linebackers Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson.
14 Buckeye freshmen played in the opener against Miami last season.
But whether they see the field or not, Mewhort said running out of that tunnel is an experience the freshmen will never forget.
"Running out of the tunnel in Ohio Stadium for the first time, I don't think there's any feeling like it in the world," he said. "Definitely not something that I'll forget soon. It's a life-changer. I'm excited for those guys to go out and see how many people support the Buckeyes on game day. It's gonna be a lot of fun for those guys."
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