Urban Meyer has constantly stressed that he doesn’t intend to redshirt players at Ohio State, but sometimes there simply isn’t room for playing time.
For the incoming OSU recruiting class, though, the chance to get on the field could be present early and often, but that’s not because of pure play by the players in front of them.
After OSU officially signed 27 new players, capped by 23 official commitments on national signing day on Wednesday, Meyer said there are at least four veteran Buckeyes whose playing careers are likely over because of injury.
“I think Ron Tanner and Armani (Reeves) are two off the top of my head that won’t be able to play anymore,” Meyer said Wednesday. “(Trey) Johnson can’t, (Devan) Bogard can’t.”
Tanner, Reeves and Bogard were all heading into their senior seasons, and all three battled injuries during the fall. Meyer said Reeves was out because of health problems stemming from concussions, while Bogard underwent his third ACL surgery this fall.
Johnson, a sophomore linebacker, learned he wouldn’t be able to play anymore in early January.
All four players come from the defensive side of the ball, including two linebackers, which is a position Meyer said the Buckeyes recruited well this year. According to ESPN, OSU signed the No. 11 inside linebacker in the nation in Nick Conner, who is already enrolled, and two top-10 outside linebackers in Jerome Baker (No. 7) and Justin Hilliard (No. 1).
“You look at these three guys, Nick, Justin and Joe, they’re the exact kind of body types, mentality, people that you want,” Meyer said of the fresh crop of linebackers.
While the Buckeyes have known for about a month that Johnson wouldn’t be playing, and likely had an idea that Bogard would struggle to return to the field, the news of Tanner and Reeves’ career-ending injuries had yet to be publicly discussed before Wednesday.
Co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash said the news that Reeves and Tanner would be out came up after the season was over.
“It was a shock, a surprise, you hate to see it for those guys because they’re great guys, great team players, did a lot for us during their career here,” Ash said Wednesday. “But it was just something that I guess by the medical staff, determined to be the best for them here.”
Even though the news was late, OSU already had its eyes on new defensive backs, and signed five on Wednesday.
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said all five soon-to-be OSU freshmen will “absolutely” compete for playing time right away.
“We need fast, speed, long guys. We got great guys,” Coombs said Wednesday. “It’s a great position of need for us in the defense that we’re playing right now, you gotta have great corners when you play press, man-to-man.”
Coombs, who is also OSU’s special teams coordinator, said the freshmen defensive backs’ “first path” onto the field will come in the kicking game. After that, Coombs said it’s important for them to learn OSU’s style of play.
“The next thing they are going to learn to do is play press man-to-man and go out there and function effectively in that spot,” he said. “I do believe the nickel position should always be a corner because there is a lot of man-to-man coverage involved. So some of them are going to play nickel.”
With only four of the 27 new recruits — including defensive back Jamel Dean — already enrolled, the returning Buckeyes plus their four new teammates are set to open spring practice in April.
After the rest of the class reports in the summer, OSU is set to open its 2015 season against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7 in Blacksburg, Va.