Abby Sweet / Lantern photographer
On a windy, overcast April afternoon at Ohio State, the cleats are laced up, footballs are tossed around and a new offensive scheme is being installed. New coaches and new players provide hope for the upcoming season. This is not the beloved Buckeye varsity football team, however, but the OSU club football team getting ready to enter its fourth season this fall.
OSU club football began Spring Quarter 2008. A group of about 25 players made the team and stuck it out through the inaugural season in fall 2009. The team went 1-4 the first year, beating only Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, 28-12.
The second year was a similar story for the club. A team of about 35 players competed for the Buckeyes and they made improvements from 2009, but the 2010 squad finished the year with a 2-4 record.
Former club president and a player for three years, Nick Herrin, said that despite the tough times the team endured those first two years, it was the most fun he’s ever had playing football.
“It was just 18 to 25 guys that just absolutely loved football,” said Herrin, a fourth-year in psychology.
In the first two seasons, the team was not lacking in skill or talent, but was simply outmanned when compared to their opponents, Herrin said.
“The first year of the club, we had 18 guys that were as good as anybody,” Herrin said. “We were just outnumbered. We go to Xavier and Miami and they’ve got 45 guys.”
Despite going 3-8 in the first two years of the club’s existence, the players said the excitement increased prior to the 2011 campaign. Through tryouts, the team was able to increase its roster size to almost 50 players last season. As Herrin said, the increase in the number of players on the team helped. The Buckeyes finished the season 6-0 and ranked No. 3 in the final Intercollegiate Club Football Federation rankings.
OSU practices and plays all of its home games at the Lincoln Tower Turf Field, which is located just south of Ohio Stadium. Safety George Shapiro, a third-year in industrial engineering and club president, said looking up at the fourth-largest football stadium in the country makes him feel like “the little brother” at times. He said he doesn’t mind though.
“It’s still cool that it’s behind us like that,” Shapiro said. “It’s still very exciting to play in front of the Horseshoe.”
The Buckeyes held tryouts last week and added 25 players to a team with 25 players from last season’s undefeated squad. Practice began Monday and will be two days each week until the end of the quarter.
The team is making an offensive transition this year, similar to that of the varsity team under coach Urban Meyer. The scheme will be more of a spread offense after last year’s team was more run-oriented, Herrin said.
Quarterback Jeff Porter, a second-year in operations management and club vice president, said the biggest thing for the team this spring is to get everyone together and start teaching the new guys.
“We’re just trying to teach right now,” Porter said. “We’re just trying to get the new people caught up to what the veterans have learned already so that when it comes time for the fall, we can just jump right in.”
Defensive back T.J. Thompson, a second-year in finance, said learning the new schemes is key, but getting everybody excited about playing is the most important thing.
“This spring, we want to get everyone just excited for the autumn,” Thompson said. “Everyone just loves playing and has fun.”
Looking forward to next season, coach Ray Giesige said it’s going to be hard to duplicate what last year’s team did because of the players that are graduating. Giesige played for the club team the previous two seasons before concussions forced him to switch to a coaching role. The fourth-year in sport and leisure studies said he wanted to stay involved and help continue what he helped start.
“I decided I wanted to stick around and help out because it really is a great organization and we’re trying to do good things,” Giesige said.
While he said he thinks the team has lost some important players from last year’s team, Giesige is looking to build off the 2011 season and is optimistic about the 2012 Buckeyes.
“We lost some key contributors, but the great thing about here is there’s so many people that we can replace them at least a little bit on the talent side,” Giesige said. “We’re looking for people to step up right now and be leaders and if that happens, I think we’ll have a pretty good year.”