Meyer says a 'good chunk' of freshmen will earn immediate playing time
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There's no disputing the talent.
A few opportunities to crack the two-deep aren't all that hard to find, either.
But before the latest batch of Ohio State freshmen could start competing for a job or start worrying about the chance to play in the season opener the way coach Urban Meyer expects several of them to do, they had to start with some simpler stuff.
Such as learning how to get taped.
"We wanted to acclimate the freshmen," Meyer said. "Teach them how to do everything, teach them how to stretch so we don't disrupt and really don't get guys hurt."
All the minor details were stressed in a less-crowded, though not necessarily less-intense, setting. But the Buckeyes had only that one dress rehearsal before Meyer threw the entire roster together on a sizzling Monday afternoon for the first full practice, putting the pressure on the youngsters to keep up with the pace as the battle for playing time was officially launched.
Meyer still has a working depth chart he released in May, a blueprint designed to allow Ohio State to focus more on game preparation than managing the roster ahead of the season debut against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 1. But that two-deep is subject to change, and the fresh faces might be the ones who force Meyer to find an eraser.
"I didn't want people taking the mentality in spring practice that if I don't get it done, I'll get it done in August," Meyer said. "Now that certainly might happen, it usually doesn't, but when you say flexible, yeah, the best players are going to play. If someone beats someone out, go get it.
"There will be some freshmen. From what I've seen so far, there will be a good chunk of freshmen that will play in that first game."
The Buckeyes figure to know how properly to stretch by then, though it's unlikely that the majority of the new guys will have the playbook memorized or be completely ready for the mental aspect of the game.
But physically, a handful of young players have apparently already shown the tools needed to contribute right away -- particularly on defense with guys such as linebacker Jamal Marcus and defensive lineman Noah Spence drawing early praise. And that puts the onus back on the coaches to figure out what they can and can't do early in the season.
"With some of the young faces, we don't ask them to get involved with a whole lot of deep thinking," Meyer said. "We have sayings around here like, 'Point A to Point B as fast as you can go.' There's a kid named Jamal Marcus, he doesn't know which way up is right now, but he knows from Point A to Point B and he'll run over anything in his way to get to Point B. There's a good chance we'll find a way to get him on the field.
"I'm looking right now for more of the physical, relentless effort. You can't learn the whole defense right now. It will have to be bits and pieces, and we're not going to waste time with guys that aren't going to play. So we have to identify the Point A to Point B people right now."
First they just had to show them all how to get around the practice facility.
The next step is finding out where the freshmen belong when everybody is on the field together.