Javontae Jean-Baptiste isn’t the first person at Ohio State to put on the “Freshman 15.” But unlike most first-year OSU students, he was actually trying to do it.
Jean-Baptiste came to Columbus after a starring high school career as a 215 lb. linebacker at New Jersey powerhouse Bergen Catholic.
He ranked as a four-star prospect, and the 16th-best outside linebacker in the nation. But the Buckeyes wanted him to play defensive end.
A 215 lb. defensive end won’t work in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes’ punter weighs 215 lbs. So Jean-Baptiste’s first college football season was spent off the field, and on a two-step plan to grow.
“Just working out and eating,” he said.
Jean-Baptiste’s goal was to take in 6,800 calories every day. The average American adult eats less than half of that.
Even on Thanksgiving, when people feel liberated to help themselves to an extra slice or three of pie, it’s only 4,500.
So how do you get to 6,800 calories every single day?
“I wake up and drink a weight-gainer shake in the morning,” Jean-Baptiste said. “For breakfast I’ll have two waffles and some oatmeal. Around 11:00, I’ll eat two sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A. After that, when we get into the facility around 1:40, I’ll eat pasta or whatever they have at the meal room. Right before practice, I’ll drink a shake. After practice I eat, and then drink a shake before I go to sleep. So just constantly around the clock, I’m trying to put on calories.”
That diet has worked. Jean-Baptiste’s weight was up from 215 to 230 in early December, and was listed at 235 in mid-January.
He ultimately wants to end up around 250 lbs., but he’s already looking more like a Big Ten-sized defender.
Now, as he heads into his redshirt freshman year, he’ll get a chance to start putting not only his size, but new skills to use on the field. He said defensive line coach Larry Johnson has been working with him on a couple things with his technique.
“Getting off the ball fast, using my hands more,” Jean-Baptiste said.
Johnson has coached dozens of standout defensive linemen over the past couple decades, and has an eye for talent. He sees a lot of potential in Jean-Baptiste.
“He’s going to have a chance to be a really good player. I like his upside,” Johnson said. “He’s really long and rangy. He’s got good pass rush ability. It’s just a matter of getting strong.”
The Buckeyes just started their offseason workouts with strength coach Mickey Marotti last Thursday. That concentrated time in the weight room should help the redshirt freshman continue to grow.
Johnson said that he was already seeing flashes of what Jean-Baptiste could be in the practices before the Rose Bowl.
“It’s just development. I think the 15 days he’s had of practice (in December was) his best 15 days because now he’s had some extra practice in him to really work on his game,” Johnson said.
Jean-Baptiste said it wasn’t always easy to sit on the sidelines for the whole 2018 season and just watch his team play.
“It was frustrating a little, but I understood that it’s not my time yet. It’s all going to be in play soon.”
That will start with spring ball, when Jean-Baptiste will get another 15 practices to start turning some of that potential into production. Johnson sees the pieces for it to happen.
“He has all of the athleticism,” he said. “His future is really bright.”
Jean-Baptiste is just one part of a new wave of young OSU defensive linemen. He came in as part of an absolutely stacked 2018 recruiting class along with Taron Vincent, Tommy Togiai, Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday, and Alex Williams.
Some of those guys played a lot as freshmen, some played a little, and a couple just had to watch. But starting this spring, they’ll all have a chance to make an impact on the 2019 Buckeyes.
“We’re all working together, we all love each other, and we’re all pushing each other to be great,” Jean-Baptiste said. “We’re all working at the same thing, and with Coach J, we’re going to get there.”