COLUMBUS — With 16 first-time starters and more than 40 players on its roster who have never played in a college game, Ohio State might be the most inexperienced big-time college football team in the country.
That hasn’t deterred many of the people making preseason forecasts from putting the Buckeyes in their top 10 or even their top five.
Ohio State has talent. Ohio State has a lot of potential, the experts say.
But OSU coach Urban Meyer isn’t a big fan of potential. “It’s kind of a neat word for six months. But after six months if you say a guy has potential it’s another way of saying he’s not very good or he doesn’t care,” he said earlier this year.
So, will big expectations and big games bring out the best in Ohio State’s young players or will the pressure from those things cause them problems this season?
If Ohio State’s six returning starters have anything to say about it, the inexperienced guys will be ready to go.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett said he and the other veterans will emphasize “that it’s your job to make sure you come to play.”
“I’m trying to help the younger guys, get them to understand how we play here at Ohio State and make sure they understand we’re not going to have rebuilding years. The expectations are not going to change because you don’t have experience,” he said.
“The talent is still there, it’s more the experience that’s lacking. The confidence might be there when we’re out there running drills at 4 o’clock on a Monday afternoon. But being able to get the confidence for those guys to know they can go out there and know they can make a play on a Saturday afternoon, I think that’s something that needs to be developed,” Barrett said.
Pat Elflein, a starter at guard last season who has moved over to center, said, “Guys who have been in the battle and in the storm are pretty confident. Now we just need to get that to the young guys and get their confidence up. They haven’t really been out there and they don’t really know what to expect and we do.”
Meyer pointed to running back Mike Weber as someone who has moved from the potential category to someone who is ready to play.
Asked how much Weber needed to mature and how much he has matured, Meyer said, “A lot and a lot.”
Linebacker Raekwon McMillan, in his second year as a starter, said, “Failure isn’t an option. When they (young players) come in they already know the expectations and the urgency.
“With a young team you have to get down to the basics. You have to make sure they have their basics down. You have to have a solid foundation,” he said.