Sometimes it takes hearing it from someone who’s been in the field of battle to really get your attention.
That was the case Saturday for the Ohio State football team, as special guest Marcus Luttrell — whose heroics as a Navy SEAL inspired the movie “Lone Survivor” — watched the morning practice and then spoke to the team on leadership, camaraderie and working together.
“They’re a good bunch of guys, and they’re going to do well this season,” Luttrell told a field of reporters after speaking at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. “It’s an everyday thing. You just don’t come in giving 60-70 percent one day and 100 percent the next day. And the whole play like you practice, practice like you play thing. They put everything they got into this part of it, and obviously when they get out into the game, it’ll come out when the rubber hits the road. It’s the same thing we do in the SEAL teams. We train like we fight, so it’s every day, it’s as hard and as fast as we can possible go.”
Luttrell had the eyes and ears of OSU coach Urban Meyer as well, who stood watching and listening with his son, Nate, and scribbling down notes. The former Navy SEAL watched the whole practice, which ended with the defense winning what was the first offense-defense scrimmage of spring ball.
The victory came even though the unit — as it has all spring — played base defense throughout, not applying any pressure or performing any stunts along the line, junior linebacker Joshua Perry said.
“We’ve got some things in there that can help us out in coverage. We got a Sam linebacker playing to the field on a speed guy,” Perry said, mentioning some of the changes that newly added co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash along with Meyer has implemented. “So that’s the one thing about defenses is that we’re just going to adjust to the guys out there and go play hard and fast.”
Sophomore linebacker Darron Lee — who has continued working with the first team and received plenty of praise from Meyer — is a guy who could potentially play the hybrid “star” position defensively, being able to play the pass as well as stop the run, Perry said. But that remains to be seen until the nickel defense is put in. Either way, Perry is confident the Buckeyes will be more prepared to face an uptempo and fast offense like the Clemson one that torched them in the Orange Bowl Jan. 3.
“They hurt us a lot on things on the edges and right now that’s one of the things that we stress is a defense with great leverage,” Perry said. “And that’s why, a lot of times, we like to have Darron Lee out there. Because he’s a guy who’s got enough tools where he can leverage the ball.”
Another unit undergoing a major overhaul is the offensive line, who must replace four starters from a year ago.
One guy vying for a starting spot is senior Darryl Baldwin, who said the competition has been good since practice started.
“It’s been two weeks, and a lot of rotating,” Baldwin said. “We’re still not sure yet, but there’s a good competition going on. Everyone’s doing a great job.”
Baldwin said every player looking to fill the massive shoes left by the likes of Andrew Norwell, Jack Mewhort, Marcus Hall and Corey Linsley is extremely high in character and fully abides by Meyer’s 4-6 second culture of playing hard.
“We’ve really taken that to heart. We’re all high character guys, real good guys,” Baldwin said. “And we just need to be very consistent. That’s what we need to be as an offensive line. Develop a consistency and really play well together.”
The Buckeyes are set to continue spring practice Tuesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.