The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State and guys looking for more playing time? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
How has the attitude been in the locker room for guys that saw limited playing time? With the absence of last years stars, what do they look to improve upon!
— Watty (@WatttySon) January 30, 2020
Every signee wants to show up at Ohio State ready to make an instant impact.
And that’s exactly why it’s getting harder and harder for freshmen to actually do it for the Buckeyes.
It’s a clear sign of the strength of the program and the annual, class-after-class recruiting success that it’s really not all that necessary to project which newcomers could jump right into the lineup for the three-time defending Big Ten champions. Yes, there are exceptions like wide receiver Garrett Wilson and defensive end Zach Harrison, physical freaks who went straight from five-star recruits into rotational roles without much delay last season.
But those kinds of situations are rare, and they are going to stay that way as long as Ohio State keeps stacking impressive groups of signees on top of each other — while also doing a remarkable job of keeping them on the roster. If playing time was all that mattered to the guys the program has brought in over the last couple years, it would have seen a lot more attrition and the transfer portal would have been overflowing with Buckeyes.
Clearly there is an understanding in the locker room that it’s worth the wait to keep developing with strength coach Mickey Marotti, keep learning from one of the most impressive coaching staffs in the country and keep taking advantage of all the off-the-field academic and Real Life Wednesday opportunities Ohio State provides rather than moving on when playing time doesn’t come in the first year or two.
Obviously it also helps that the Buckeyes can point to late-blooming veterans like Terry McLaurin two years ago or fifth-year seniors like Jashon Cornell and DaVon Hamilton last season who can demonstrate the value of combining hard work and patience. And, yes, winning a bunch of championship rings is a nice perk as well.
Could K’Vaughan Pope or Teradja Mitchell already been starters at basically any other Big Ten school? Almost certainly. Would the path to playing time have been simpler for former five-star tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere if he hadn’t gone to a place with more competition? Definitely. Is it a problem that defensive backs like Cameron Brown or Josh Proctor haven’t been able to win starting jobs yet? No, not when there has been NFL-caliber talent ahead of them throughout their careers so far.
Those are just a handful of examples, and the fact that there are more speaks volumes about the locker room buy-in from the Buckeyes when it comes to being part of the program. As long as all of those highly-rated recruits never lose the competitive edge and belief that they could have an impact, then Ohio State is going to continue to have a depth chart loaded with talented players pushing each other to get ever better.
There have obviously been a few guys leave over the last couple seasons, especially at quarterback. But it’s not realistic to expect that everybody on an 85-man roster is going to stay completely happy throughout the process. By and large, though, Ohio State has been able to keep its classes together over the last few seasons — and that means there are always veterans waiting in the wings who have invested sweat equity, learned the position and are prepared to step in without freshmen needing to skip ahead.
Getting a feel for what drives every individual with the Buckeyes is tough to do. But looking at the roster as a whole and how relatively long some of these touted recruits are willing to wait for their shot to crack the starting lineup, it’s hard to see how the attitude at Ohio State could be much better.
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