Sept. 12 figured to be the date Ohio State fans learned which freshmen would play this season and which wouldn’t, but Hawaii had other plans.
The Rainbow Warriors kept the Buckeyes within arms’ length for more than three quarters, which prevented Ohio State from spending the second half reaching into the depths of its reserves. By the time the clock hit zero, only three true freshmen from the nation’s No. 8 recruiting class had seen the field.
Isaiah Prince, a four-star offensive tackle out of Greenbelt (Md.) Eleanor Roosevelt was the first to see the field, lining up in the trenches for Ohio State’s botched first-half field goal attempt. He also saw snaps from scrimmage as the team’s right tackle late in the fourth quarter.
Following the score that made it 31-0 in the fourth quarter, cornerbacks Eric Glover-Williams and Denzel Ward made their debut by slotting in on the kickoff coverage and did so again for the kickoff following the final score. Ward joined Prince as the only two freshmen to play non-special teams snaps by lining up at cornerback opposite sophomore Damon Webb on Hawaii’s final possession.
For Ohio State, it was a far cry from the Florida A&M game in 2013 and Kent State game in 2014 that featured mass burnings of redshirts. With an overmatched slate on the docket for the next few weeks, though, there is a chance that several more newcomers are sent into the fray. When asked about that on Monday, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer dropped a few names that are close to earning playing time.
“You wish you could get them in faster,” he said. “Nick Conner is so close and (Jerome) Baker. Justin Hilliard had a good week. Offensive line, Isaiah got in. I'd say the next one, Mike Weber should be coming back this week. He'll be a guy that will probably play.
“K.J. (Hill), he certainly has earned a right to mix in there a little bit, but we're not sure we're going to do that yet. He had a little injury too, but he's fine now. You wish you'd play more, but right now we've got a little bit of depth.”
The unspoken name in that group was Torrance Gibson, the explosive quarterback-turned-wide receiver who won't redshirt but has been slowed by an injury suffered in fall camp.
The three linebackers have definitely caught the eye of both the coaches and players, and it was suggested throughout camp that they were growing closer to seeing the field. The first step will almost certainly come through special teams, which is the arena Meyer uses to help young players earn playing time.
“Young guys definitely have to get on special teams before they play on defense,” linebacker Joshua Perry said. “That’s usually just the way it goes. I think all three of them will be on special teams because of the skill sets that they have, and they need to be. We want them to be on special times. There will be times those guys get on the field, I’m sure."
When that moment comes is still to be determined, but it won't be as soon as many had hoped.