Freshmen Look To Lose Their Stripes

Ohio State football freshmen might look like Oakland Raiders on the practice field with a single black stripe down the center of their gray helmets, but the appearance is actually a way to represent new Buckeyes who have yet to earn the right to be full-fledged members of the team. Read on to find out more about the program.

New Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is all about competition. It's become one of his key phrases whenever he meets with the media.

His players have caught on, too. Take the attitude senior safety Orhian Johnson had when he was chosen to mentor freshman Devan Bogard. Bogard, like the rest of his classmates, was given a black stripe to don on his helmet at the beginning of preseason camp. To get the stripe removed, the player would have to work with his "older brother" and earn the right to be recognized as a full-fledged member of the Ohio State football team.

So when Johnson learned he would be working with Bogard, he wanted to make sure his protégé would be the first to lose his stripe.

"It was the expectation. I told him that when I found out he was going to be my little brother," Johnson said. "Going out there and being a freshman is kind of hard. … Coming up here and doing the little things right, I told him that was real important. Just make sure you finish the play, hustle and run hard. Go out there and play ball.

"It's something he's been doing his whole life, so it wasn't that difficult."

Bogard, a four-star prospect from Cleveland Glenville, took Johnson's words to heart. A freshman earns the right to lose his stripe by showing the coaches – and his mentor – that he can represent the team in a proper manner on and off the field.

"I just worked hard," Bogard said. "Whatever the coaches wanted me to do, I just went hard – 100 percent every time. It's hard, but I'm working hard."

Bogard added that Johnson deserves some of the credit for the removal of his stripe.

"He gets a lot of the credit because we talk all the time," Bogard said. "We go over the playbook because I'm not familiar with the playbook because I'm a freshman. But I'm getting used to it and I'm getting into the flow. We communicate a lot."

Added Johnson: "I took pride it in. I told everybody on the team that I was going to make sure my little brother was the first one to (get the stripe) off. He lived up to my expectations."

All of this camaraderie is just want Meyer is looking for. Meyer first hatched the plan to have freshmen earn the right to be a part of the team while at Bowling Green in 2001. He started it to negate the possibility of hazing by his players and has been doing it throughout his head coaching career.

"You kind of start things, and some things take over and some things don't," Meyer said. "This one exploded. Our coaches love it. Our staff loves it. Most importantly, the players love it. It's a rite of passage to become an Ohio State Buckeye. You have to earn it."

Bogard was the first to lose his stripe, and he was joined by defensive end Noah Spence. The five-star prospect from Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt had his removed following the Buckeyes' Aug. 11 scrimmage.

Senior center Corey Linsley was paired with freshman lineman Joey O'Connor. Linsley said the big brother program has been a big success in terms of assimilating the freshmen with the rest of the squad.

"Over the summer the freshmen were awesome," he said. "They weren't late for anything. They were on time and I think that was a great starting point for us being cool with them."

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