“Interceptions, punt returns, all that,” Lattimore said. “Just making plays, period.”
Ohio State recruited the four-star prospect from Cleveland Glenville to be a playmaker, and he turned heads early in camp. The nation’s No. 51-rated recruit in the class of 2014 and U.S. Army All-American was among the freshmen expected to contribute given his talent and athleticism at the cornerback position, but instead he suffered a hamstring injury that required surgery and was deemed out for the season before it truly began.
“It sucked,” he said of having to watch from the sideline instead of getting on the field. “It was an injury from high school from when I was running track. I thought I pulled my hamstring at first, but it never fully healed, so I was just playing on it and one day in practice it popped.
“I tried to come back like a week later and I hurt it even more, and I got an MRI and that told me I tore it. I got surgery the next day after that.”
So instead of being on the field, where he was expected to play special teams and be in the mix at the cornerback spot – just like fellow Tarblooder Erick Smith was at safety – Lattimore instead was confined to the sideline.
He told BuckeyeSports.com at the national championship game that he was still rehabbing, having just started three weeks prior. At the time, he was still unable to run or jog a full four months after suffering the injury.
Still, he expects to rehab through March and then be ready to get back on the field for spring practice – and jump into the battle with Gareon Conley and classmate Damon Webb in the battle to replace departed senior Doran Grant opposite Eli Apple.
“I should be fully healthy sometime in the spring, probably,” he said. “I’m not trying to rush back. I have time. I’m not going to risk injuring it again. I’m going to take my time with it.”
The time out has allowed him to have a better handle on the Buckeyes’ press quarters scheme, an aggressive approach that allowed the team to jump from 110th in the nation in pass defense in 2013 to 28th a year ago. In addition, the Buckeyes finished 13th in the nation in passing efficiency defense.
“I just watched film and studied our defense in and out,” Lattimore. “I couldn’t do anything else so I just got smarter on and off the field. This year coming up, I should be ready. It gave me the advantage to sit and watch and just study the game, get better and get smarter on the field.”
The 6-0, 195-pounder added that working with Grant helped him handle not being able to play during his freshman campaign.
“He was my big brother in camp, and Doran Grant really helped me a lot,” Lattimore said. “He guided me through it. He’s really like my big brother. He taught me a lot and I learned a lot from him. Just take all that and take it all in and go.”
Lattimore, who has also showed his skills with the ball in his hand when he had 19 touchdowns his senior year and was offensive MVP of the inaugural Ohio-Michigan Border Classic, couldn’t see the field this year but still was happy to be a part of the national championship run.
“It’s like a family here, really,” he said. “Everybody likes everybody, nobody dislikes anybody. You can hang out and have fun. That’s why we are winning, we came together as brothers and as a team and that’s how we get it done.”