PHOENIX - Ohio State offensive lineman Malcolm Pridgeon was one of the Buckeyes top signees in the 2016 recruiting class. A junior college transfer, Pridgeon was a 5-star prospect and was considered a contender to start along the OSU offensive line this season.
However, Pridgeon suffered a knee injury during fall camp and was forced to miss the entire 2016 season. Fast forward to bowl practice however, Pridgeon is back on the practice field, albeit not 100 percent healthy.
He said while it has been difficult to watch from the sidelines this season, the road back to the field has not been as hard because of his coaches and teammates.
"It definitely hurt in the beginning when it happened, but I had the right people around me to pull me out of that little depression," Pridgeon said at Ohio State's Fiesta Bowl media day in Arizona. "I definitely look at it as a blessing because I came in late spring, didn't know all of the offense, didn't have a great relationship with the team. Now I know the offense, have a great chemistry with the team and coaching staff and I definitely feel like I got stronger."
After the injury occurred, Pridgeon said he immediately turned his attention to academics and watching film to enhance his knowledge of the playbook in addition to working one-on-one with offensive line coach Greg Studrawa.
To show his progression and impact even while hurt, Urban Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff removed Pridgeon's black stripe during bowl practice. Meyer said while Pridgeon is not yet ready to return to the field, he has been working hard to do so.
"He's going to be a very good player here," Meyer said Dec. 15. "He's not prepared to play, he's practicing with us just as an individual, no scout work yet. He's a guy that we all love the death. He's gone above and beyond what we've asked of him so that's why we did that (removed his black stripe). He has two years left though so he'll play for us (in the future)."
Pridgeon said he feels as though he is around 80 percent healthy as of Dec. 29 and was seen practicing in full pads at Ohio State's first bowl practice in Arizona on Dec. 27.
While he still isn't physically ready to be full-go in practice, Pridgeon said being back on the practice field has done a lot for his confidence and growth.
"I am not getting a lot of contact physically (in practice), but) I am getting a little of individual (position work) here and there," he said. "It's great. I cannot wait for spring ball to start up and get back on the field with my team and my brothers."
Even though he is not expected to play in the Fiesta Bowl, Pridgeon said if the worst should happen up front, he feels that physically he could play against Clemson.
"I definitely feel like I could be called on," he said.