COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer has already pegged this Ohio State football season as the year of development.
The Buckeyes are young, and need inexperienced players to make strides now so they can be contributors in August and beyond.
This week is an important step in that process. Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti has been working with the team since it returned from its Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.
This big week in Marotti’s off-season program culminates with a high-intensity “Valentine’s Day Massacre” workout on Friday. That workout, held ever year around Valentine’s Day, is the most rigorous day of the winter training.
Coming out of that workout, Marotti will have a better idea of which players are making the most progress. But here’s what Marotti said Wednesday about the players who have already stood out:
• Asked to rattle off names, Marotti went deep, trying to name all of the seniors — which was expected.
“I love our seniors, there’s not many of them but I love them,” Marotti said. “Bri’onte Dunn is having a great off-season, a lot of guys who have played are all in that gold level.”
That gold level is the highest level a player can reach. Most of the team isn’t there yet. When Ohio State started mat drills last week, there were 47 players on the roster who have never done that before.
• Marotti likes the young lineman on both sides of the ball. Three starters need to be replaced on the offensive line, and three on the defensive line.
“I like the guys like Demetrius Knox, Jamarco Jones and Evan Lisle, those backup offensive linemen in the past. They’re different. Mike Hill, Sam Hubbard and Jalyn Holmes,” Marotti said. “It’s cool to see those guys matriculate into the leadership, taking care of their own business.”
• But if there’s a position group Marotti is most excited about, it might be the running backs. That group includes Dunn, Mike Weber and early-enrolled freshman Antonio Williams. Marotti did not mention Curtis Samuel among the group, for whatever that’s worth.
Marotti said Dunn has embraced being the older guy in that group, while Williams has impressed in the short time he’s been on campus.
“He’s relentless, he’s a high effort guy,” Marotti said. “They got a little thing going right now, because I think Bri’onte has had the right mindset, and then with Mike Weber. Here comes Antonio. They’re pushing one another. It’s been really good.”
Asked what kind of progress Weber is making, Marotti moved his hand upward on a sharp angle.
“He’s going like this,” Marotti said. “He’s getting better.”
• Another player who’s been around awhile, but not used much, is receiver Dontre Wilson. Marotti said this has been a good off-season so far for Wilson.
“I think Dontre looked around and all of his boys were gone. It was like, ‘OK, let’s go.’ He’s really grown up,” Marotti said.
• We won’t have full updates on heights and weights of players until Ohio State releases its new roster at the start of spring practice in March.