Everybody has something to prove. For instance, when I go to the Dollar Store, I have to prove that I’m not broke by buying more stuff than I need. I figure if I have a loaded shopping basket, then they’ll know I’m a baller and I mean business. And if I end up spending more than I should have, I just take it back later that day before my wife finds out.
Like me, several Ohio State Buckeyes have something to prove. I don’t believe they feel the need to overcompensate, however.
A successful season only happens when players who have something to prove end up proving it. They leave no doubt. Who are some of those players for the Buckeyes this season? Thank you for asking. I’ve got five names for you.
Let’s get started.
1. Parris Campbell
Parris Campbell had a great spring for the Buckeyes and now moves into the Curtis Samuel role for Ohio State. With just 13 receptions to his credit, however, there are doubters out there. Heck, Samuel had 11 receptions as a true freshman playing running back, so how does Campbell only catch 13 passes last year while starting nine games? This is an easy question to ask, but the answers can get complicated. There’s frustration on both the player’s and coaches’ side on this one. So yeah, Campbell definitely has something to prove. The good thing is that he knows it, accepts it, and wants to show everybody what he can do. And he started doing that this spring in a big way. Until it happens “in real life”, however, there will be plenty of people who will need to see in order to believe.
2. Tracy Sprinkle
Perhaps the most difficult thing to watch last season — other than Ohio State’s offense against Clemson — was Tracy Sprinkle going down to injury in the season opener. All of the work he had put in, all of the patience he had shown, all of the progress he had made, all of it had finally earned him a starting spot on the defensive line. He was putting it all together and he was going to step right in for Adolphus Washington. The Buckeyes weren’t going to miss a beat. Then came the season-ending knee injury. In Sprinkle’s place came redshirt Dre’Mont Jones, who played well enough to earn Freshman All-American honors. Now healthy once again, Sprinkle wants his spot back. It’s not that easy, however. The Buckeyes played a lot of young defensive tackles last season, and they got better and better as the season went on. This is a much deeper unit than it was when Sprinkle earned a starting spot last year. Can he prove he still belongs? My belief is absolutely yes, but people are still going to want to see it.
3. J.T. Barrett
On one hand, it is silly to say that J.T. Barrett still has something to prove. He will own every Ohio State quarterback record worth owning, and a handful of Big Ten records as well. On the other hand, he has yet to produce at the same level he did as a redshirt freshman in 2014. If he has another average — for him — year in 2017 and doesn’t cap the season with at least a Big Ten title, what will his records mean? It’s not like the history of Buckeye quarterbacks are flush with statistical greatness. There’s a reason every starting quarterback under Urban Meyer at Ohio State has set Buckeye records, including Kenny Guiton. So a four-year starter under Urban Meyer at Ohio State is going to set records simply by default. It’s time for Barrett to show that he’s not just a default quarterback, however.
4. Isaiah Prince
If you ask 100 random strangers (who also happened to be Buckeye fans) what their biggest concern heading into the 2017 season is, approximately 45.8 of them will tell you Isaiah Prince. No matter how well Prince played for most of the 2016 season, his outings against Michigan and Penn State are not going to be forgotten any time soon. In fact, the only way for people to forget those games would be to never have another similar performance. Actually, it’s probably best to just not even give up any sacks this year. Prince is out to prove that the bad performances were aberrations and long gone. It’s going to take a lot of convincing for some people to buy in, however. He received a lot of grief last season via social media, so he knows that there are doubters out there. He won’t be trying to prove himself to those people, though. He’ll be proving himself to his teammates and coaches.
5. Sean Nuernberger
There is always room for kicker talk. Sean Nuernberger started for the Buckeyes as a true freshman, and he wasn’t bad. He was certainly expected to get better, yet the last two seasons have seen him watching others handle the kicking duties. He eventually played as a sophomore, but injuries kept him out last season. Urban Meyer talks about him in a lukewarm manner, which is never good for a player. For the third-straight year, Nuernberger will find himself in a kicking competition, this time against scholarship freshman Blake Haubeil. If he is going to keep the job, he’ll have to prove himself in camp, and then every week after that.