COLUMBUS — The name wasn’t just being whispered by Ohio State anymore.
Once the Buckeyes took out a pen and officially designated a package for Wyatt Davis, they might as well have been screaming that he was going to be the next breakout performer on the offensive line.
It still took an injury before the right guard would get a start and play a key role in winning a Big Ten championship and earning a bid to the Rose Bowl. But once “13 Wyatt” was in the playbook, it was clear the corner had been turned for one of the most talented young blockers on the Ohio State roster.
“When they called that package [last month], that was pretty interesting,” Davis said in the locker room on Saturday night. “That was my first time every lining up at tight end. You know, I wish I could have got a little out route, a little pass, you know? I’m just kidding, but that was definitely a fun experience.
“Just that alone being in that type of environment, being in that tight end position definitely helped me. That told me I was doing something right in practice.”
Davis may not have needed that confidence booster as much this season as he did while dealing with the typical freshman frustration a year ago when the former five-star prospect couldn’t find a way to contribute. His progress coming off a redshirt campaign was already being validated on the practice field and vocalized by a coaching staff consistently pointing to him as the next guy in line for action. And it was confirmed again when the Buckeyes started carving out a way to get him on the field, even if it wasn’t at guard.
The injury to Demetrius Knox late in the win over rival Michigan, though, left no doubt about how much faith Ohio State had in Davis, instantly installing him in the lineup for the Big Ten championship game despite having never started a game yet in his career.
“Wyatt is a guy that you heard us talking about him for quite a while,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “If this was a year ago, we would have a problem. But we [were] excited, because he’s earned playing time.
“We were trying to find a way without disrupting the cohesiveness of the offensive line, that’s why we put him at tight end, tried to get him in the game. He was ready to go.”
The Buckeyes weren’t perfect in his debut, but the offense kept right on rolling even with a new face up front protecting quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
There were a couple breakdowns along the way for the line as a whole, and the rushing attack wasn’t quite as effective as Ohio State would have liked. But the Buckeyes still racked up 45 points and wound up winning comfortably over Northwestern, which was the top priority for Davis after vowing to go secure a ring for Knox after taking his place with championship hardware on the line.
Davis will again get that chance in the Rose Bowl against Washington. And it figures to be pretty hard to ever get him out of the spot again now that he’s had a chance to show what he can do.
“Probably about a month ago during our bye week, I just saw a change in him,” offensive line coach Greg Studrawa said. “See, there comes a time with offensive linemen. They know they have to learn, and there’s a learning curve. But also there comes a time when the light goes on in your head and you go, ‘I’m sick and tired of sitting. I don’t want to sit anymore. I don’t want to watch him play anymore.’
“That switch went off.”
The Buckeyes couldn’t ignore the jolt of electricity Davis was providing, and it searched for any kind of outlet it could find.
Tight end was a short-term option, and it worked. But now he’s in his natural spot at guard, and one week there might be all it takes to entrench him there for the foreseeable future.
“I didn’t want to come here and not play, and I feel like that’s the same for every college kid,” Davis said. “But when it’s your time, you just have to take advantage of the opportunity. You’ve got to take it.
“I felt like with how practice this week and kind of how this program is run overall, you’re always prepared for moments like that. … When your number is called, you’ve got to perform. I feel like I did that. There are obviously still things that I’ve got to get better at, but I promised [Knox] a ring, and we went out there and got it.”
Davis obviously has a little jewelry coming his way, too.
And as the Buckeyes start preparing for the future, it’s clear he’s going to be one of the keys to adding to their collection — and 13 Wyatt will no longer be needed to get him on the field.