Freeman Getting Settled In

Unlike most of the other players in his recruiting class, linebacker Marcus Freeman already has over a month of college under his belt. We caught up with him recently to talk about how things have been going and what his goals are for this year.

Players don't enroll early to redshirt.

In rare cases, it happens. Cornerback Michael Roberts enrolled early two years ago and hasn't sniffed the field yet.

However, most players that report to school early play as true freshmen.

Linebacker Marcus Freeman is already a full-time student at Ohio State and will of course participate in spring practice in April.

Make no mistake about it: Freeman has the intentions of playing right away. He knows the Buckeyes are stacked at linebacker. In fact, it's probably the strength of the team. But he is not placing limits on himself.

"First and foremost, my expectations are to go in there and start," Freeman told "I feel that's how you have to be. You've got to feel that, ‘I'm going to go in there and take people's positions.' Because if you feel any less, then you're not going to achieve anymore than what you think.

"So, my first expectations are to go in there and take somebody's spot and start. But if I can't do that, I just want to be the best I can be. If I just need to be on special teams and to be a backup linebacker, I'll be the best backup linebacker you're going to have."

Freeman has been looking forward to college for quite a while. It was always in the back of his mind that he wanted to graduate high school early.

"It's very exciting to finally be here," he said. "It's a dream come true. It's something you've been dreaming about and thinking about for a long time and finally the day I got here in early January, things started to hit me a little bit that I'm finally an Ohio State Buckeye.

"And now working out with the team and everything, it's not that crazy anymore. It just feels like you're making a family bond with each player."

The Bucks are going through winter conditioning right now and the young linebacker has not been surprised with the intensity of the sessions.

"They are what I expected," Freeman said. "I knew coming in they weren't going to be easy, but we haven't even hit the worst of them yet. Right now, it's a lot of hard work. Just making sure you're always doing something. You're always trying to prove yourself.

"So, the morning workouts are very intense. There isn't any sitting around, or messing around. You've got to get in there and work hard and I knew coming in that's what it was going to be like."

At Wayne High School, Freeman emerged as one of the nation's top LB prospects. As a junior, he collected 152 tackles and 29 tackles-for-loss. As a senior, he had 127 tackles and four sacks.

He did most of his damage at middle linebacker, but a move to the outside seems imminent at OSU.

"Yeah, in high school I played more of a middle linebacker, but they felt up here that with my speed it would probably be an asset to play Will linebacker, because that's a lot of running around and stuff," Freeman said. "But they also told me I need to be ready to play middle too, so I'm going to study both spots this spring."

Freeman also figures to contribute on special teams.

"They haven't really talked about it yet, but I feel I can do kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return… all of it," he said. "So, wherever they need me is where I am going to play."

If Freeman does play on the outside, he will bring a lot of size to the position. He is very thick for a WLB, much like A.J. Hawk.

"Right now, I'm about 6-2, 240," Freeman said. "When I first came in here – that first Monday – I weighed in at 260. But then I lost 20.

"My senior year, I probably played at 235. Then, after the season, I started eating a lot and I went down to Texas (for the Army High School All-American game) and I was probably 260 and I realized that I was doing a lot of huffin' and puffin' down there and I realized, ‘I'm not going to be able to play at this weight.' So, I came in and lost about 20 pounds."

Freeman thinks he has found his ideal playing weight.

"Right now, I just want to play between 240 and 245," he said.

While at the All-American game, Freeman struck up a friendship with fellow OSU recruit Ted Ginn, Jr.

"Yeah, I talked to Ted before he committed," he said. "I had a feeling he was going to commit to Ohio State. So, we got a little chemistry together from the All-American game. Just watching him play, he's a great player. I heard a lot about him, but I never got to see him play out there on the field. It's not all hype. He's a great player."

Was Freeman a little surprised about how well Ginn played in San Antonio?

"Not just in the game," he said. "Obviously in the game he stood out – he got MVP – but in practice, you would see Ted's always the first person to come up and say, ‘Let's go one-on-ones.' You know what I mean? First one in line; never backs away from any competition.

"Ted's not the biggest guy, but he'll get on the line and jam any big receiver we have. So, Ted's a great player. He's has that urge to always want to be No. 1 and be the best and never quit."

Freeman was asked what stands out most about the 2004 recruiting class as a whole.

"First and foremost, we're all good people," he said. "Like this sign says: we're going to be as good of a football team as the class of people we are. And I think we have good class.

"And another thing is we have great speed and great size. The recruits we've got, I think we're going to be a major asset to Ohio State."

Freeman is an intelligent young man. You get the feeling from talking to him that you are speaking with someone much older (call it the Craig Krenzel effect). However, he still has a while to decide what he wants to major in at OSU, and he insists it won't be molecular genetics.

"I'm undecided right now," he said. "I'm just trying to explore, but I'll decide sooner or later."

Freeman is excited to finally be on the same team with boyhood friend John Hollins, who also hails from Wayne. Hollins, who will be in the mix this year at wide receiver, was a senior when Freeman was in eighth-grade.

"As a little kid, I always looked at John as a big brother," Freeman said. "We went to church together. We used to play little kid football in the backyard and I looked at him as a big brother.

"And then I would watch him at Wayne High School and would think, ‘Man, there goes John Hollins. That's my big brother.' But I never really got a chance to play with him until I got here.

"Right now it's starting to hit me: I'm actually on the same team with John. He's taken me in as a little brother so far. He's showed me the ins and outs of Ohio State so far. He's just showing me around, making the adjustment real easy for me."

Soon-to-be NFL safety Will Allen is also a Waybe alum.

"Will came to Wayne his senior year (transferred from nearby Trotwood-Madison)," Freeman said. "I met Will that year, when I was in eighth grade, and we've been cool ever since. He's just a great down to earth guy; he tells you the ins and outs of everything."

Freeman is a confident guy. But he admits he was a little star struck when he first arrived at OSU.

"Yeah, everybody," he said. "You hear so much about A.J. Hawk – even though we played against each other in high school – it's different now. I saw Michael Jenkins in there running around. I saw Maurice Clarett drop by. Still sometimes I'll be like, ‘Geeze, there goes this person and this person.' So, it's a lot different, but now I realize we're all going to be teammates."

Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder recruited Freeman and he knows he landed a good one.

"I'm extremely excited to get him out on the field," Snyder said. "I've had a chance to watch this young man for two years and I'm extremely excited to get him. I love his personality. We meshed through this whole recruiting process these last few years. He came to camp, had an excellent camp here. We feel he's one of the finest linebackers in the country and we're glad he's here. And I'm thrilled he's getting an early jump."

We'll have more on Freeman in an upcoming Bucknuts the Magazine feature.

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