Football

Ohio State Football Notebook: ‘To come in here and play as a freshman is hard’

Ohio State Football Notebook Buckeyes Buckeye Football

Redshirt Your Way to Success

Ohio State lost a pair of talented underclassmen cornerbacks to the NFL after last season, which means that the process to replace them had to be sped up. The Buckeyes were able to bring in Kendall Sheffield from junior college to help out returning players Denzel Ward and Damon Arnette, but the rest of the unit has been outfitted by true freshmen.

Jeff Okudah, Marcus Williamson, and Amir Riep have all played as true freshmen this season, and the only reason Shaun Wade has yet to see action is due to a lower-body injury that is on the verge of clearing up.

Okudah will now step into a rotation role, which is pretty unheard of. As Kerry Coombs explains to his players on a frequent basis, however, there is no shame in redshirting.

“I’ve got pictures of a lot of really good players on the wall and I remind those guys, Bradley Roby didn’t play a snap as a freshman, Gareon didn’t play a snap as a freshman, Eli Apple didn’t play a snap as a freshman, and Marshon didn’t,” he said. “None of them did. So to come in here and play as a freshman is hard and challenging, but we expect you to be able to do that. And I want them to. I really do.”

A More Experienced Chase

Like Jeff Okudah, defensive end Chase Young is a freshman who has received some quality playing time this season.

Breaking into a rotation with Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, Nick Bosa, and Tyquan Lewis would be too difficult to expect it, but when Young has been on the field, he has been noticeable. In fact, he has a tackle for loss in each of the last three games for the Buckeyes, and is now fifth on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss.

The more he plays, the better he looks.

“He came in highly touted so we knew he was going to be a great player,” Lewis said after the Maryland game. “Just had to put the pieces together and Coach Johnson and everybody worked with him to help him become a great player. Throughout the year, once you get that game experience, you start to develop more and more character throughout the game. And the start of the game, trust with the coaches, so that’s probably what’s carrying over to the rotation.”

On the Incline

Every week since the Oklahoma loss, we have seen something new from the Ohio State passing game. Not coincidentally, we have seen something new from the Buckeye receivers each week as well.

Urban Meyer has complimented their attitude and work ethic all season long, but the production is now starting to follow.

Asked if the receiving corps has made a jump in the last couple of weeks, Meyer didn’t think the improvements were quite so dramatic, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t happy with the progress.

“Not a jump but a steady incline — a bunch of first-time players for us,” he explained. “Even Terry (McLaurin) and Parris (Campbell) were here for several years, but they weren’t instrumental in our offense. And they’re the leaders of that group, the zone six group. They block well. They perform well. Very pleased with their attitude and they’re making plays. Very pleased with them.”