Youth has been discussed as the driving force of the Ohio State football team by coaches all season, but the impact of the young players has been mixed at best this season. Team members such as redshirt freshman Mike Weber, who is playing his first season with the Buckeyes, have contributed since the first game of the season.
Weber has picked up 842 yards on the ground on 140 attempts, paired with seven touchdowns. These numbers are good enough to put him in the fourth spot in the Big Ten in rushing yards. While his numbers are impressive, the fact that Weber has been playing since Week 1 would cause most fans to expect this kind of production.
Against Nebraska, other first-year players stole the show from Weber.
Freshman running back Demario McCall – 16 carries for 73 yards
McCall is the near-opposite of Weber. Standing at just 5-foot-9 and 182 pounds, the North Ridgeville, Ohio native depends on his speed and agility to rack up the yardage.
Although McCall’s biggest run of the day was just 10 yards, the freshman took a bulk of the carries late in the game after Weber sustained a shoulder injury, later revealed to be an AC joint sprain by OSU coach Urban Meyer.
The dynamic ability of McCall to hide behind blockers along with his relatively small stature and burst around the edge with elite speed is one big reason why OSU recruited the Ohio native, and could see him returning punts in the near future after senior H-back Dontre Wilson continued a trend of muffing the ball on returns.
Meyer said McCall has some things to work on before he can be a big factor in the offense or on special teams.
“Stronger, better ball security. Just physical strength, experience,” he said. “He’s a little loose with the ball. But his future is nice. He’s a wonderful young man.”
The comments were high praise from a guy who doesn’t throw around compliments often.
Freshman tight end A.J. Alexander – 3 receptions for 24 yards
As a statline, this output by Alexander doesn’t seem to be too impressive. But the reserve tight end played well after coming in early in the second quarter. Redshirt junior tight end Marcus Baugh has been a key target of Barrett for the past few weeks, but has been known to drop a few wide-open opportunities.
Baugh also seemed to be limping after coming out of the pile after a play in the second half.
Alexander performed admirably in the blocking game and showed off his hands with a tight-window catch on a third down. He certainly has the size to play well, and his ability might become clearer if he is used more Saturday.
Freshman safety Jordan Fuller – 5 tackles
Five tackles for a first-year player is a nice mark for someone who is mostly a special-teams player. Fuller was all over the field on kick coverage, and came into the game late at safety to replace redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker.
Fuller is an enormous player, standing at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds. He as the frame of a linebacker, and can really lay the load when he gets ahold of an opposing player. Meyer praised him on Monday.
“Kicking game — Special Teams Player of the Week was Jordan Fuller, who is really coming on as a young freshman and playing well for us,” he said.
Fuller is unlikely to pass Hooker for the starting spot, but Saturday’s game served as a testament to the ability of the young safety.