Although he's only a second-year sophomore, it's seems like Donte Whitner has been in the program at Ohio State for longer than that. And that's because he has.
Following the lead of Maurice Clarrett a year earlier, Whitner matriculated to Ohio State in January of 2003 and was able to participate in spring drills before ever playing a down as a freshman last season. And a successful season it was for Whitner. He played in all 13 games and picked off two enemy aerials as a nickel back and recorded 22 tackles on the campaign.
Going into this season, Whitner, nearly an elder statesmen now in the defensive backfield, is slated to take over the strong safety position with the departure of All-American Will Allen.
"I'm very excited and ready to work hard, and I'm ready to come out and have a good season," Whitner said.
And he's ready to be a leader as well.
"First, I have to work on being a leader in the secondary, and then it spreads out to the team," Whitner said. "If I can be a leader throughout the secondary, then I can be a leader of the team."
Whitner actually feels like a veteran member of the secondary, and he's yet to log a starting assignment.
"I feel like a veteran, and I get treated like a veteran now," he said. "And that's kind of funny because when I first came in I didn't get treated like a veteran, and you wait until that day that you get treated like a veteran. And now I get treated like a veteran."
It means a great deal to Whitner to be treated like a veteran among his peers, and it's something that he isn't taking lightly.
"It gives you a lot of confidence when guys treat you like you've been here and you've already been through what they're going through," he said. "Whether it's the younger guys, the older guys, the coaches, the training staff; I think I've earned a lot of respect."
Already he's mentoring some of the younger members of the secondary in camp.
"I have a couple of younger defensive backs coming to my room tonight," Whitner said. "I know the position that I was in when I came to camp last year with the defense and everything going so fast and the coaches can't get one-on-one time with you. So I know the position that they're in, and I know that if I can do anything to help them then that's what I'm going to do.
"So I'm going to bring them in tonight, go over the defenses we learned today, make sure they know it, and then everyday after, I'll do the same thing until they get caught up on what they're doing."
Whitner was a top-rated defensive back prospect in the country coming out of Glenville High School in Cleveland, so his early success at Ohio State is not overwhelming to him in any way.
"I'm not overwhelmed because I knew if I worked hard I would get to this point," he said. "I'm trying to get farther up the ladder than I am right now. So I'm not overwhelmed; I'm just ready for Cincinnati. I'm just ready."
Next to Nate Salley, the pair make for a formidable duo at the safety positions. Whitner credits Salley a great deal in his development back there.
"Nate's been a big help to me. A big help," Whitner said. "Me and Nate watch film together about three times a week during the off-season, and he has been a big help to me. Last year about this time, when I was feeling like I didn't know things and things were going too fast, he was the guy that helped me. He and Will Allen. And now I feel that I owe that to the young guys and help them."
Teddy Ginn, a former Tarblooder teammate, is one of the guys that Whitner intends to look out for this year.
"I got his back," Whitner said. "If things go good I'm going to have his back, and if things go bad I'm going to have his back. I'm not going to let him get too high and not let him get too low."
Whitner, like everyone else, expects a lot from Ginn in his career at Ohio State, sooner rather than later.
"He can make a huge impact," he said. "He can make an impact like Steve Breaston did from Michigan last year. Punt return, kick return, slot receiver, he plays defense, he plays corner, maybe a two-way player, so he can make a big impact. He can make a huge impact on this team.
"Last year, I think we had one punt return for a touchdown, but with him back there we can a have a whole lot more than one, I can tell you that."