Bucknuts Mag Excerpts: Biding His Time

Linebacker Marcus Freeman is one of several Buckeye players who would start on most other teams, but at OSU, he must wait his turn for a starting spot. Freeman has made great progress, but with three returning senior starters at linebacker, he will likely wait one more year before getting that spot. In the latest version of Bucknuts Magazine Excerpts, we have a story from the Sept. 2005 edition from Gary Housteau on Freeman's first season and his thoughts about enrolling early and much more.

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In the latest version of Bucknuts Magazine excerpts, we have an article written by Gary Housteau that ran in the Sept. 2005 issue on linebacker Marcus Freeman. In this article, Freeman talks about his first year at OSU, enrolling early, and much more.

Headline: Biding His Time

By Gary Housteau

Already a veteran of two spring camps at Ohio State, Marcus Freeman understandably has high expectations for himself and the team overall heading into his sophomore season.

The highly-touted prep linebacker from Huber Heights Wayne High School, who had a solid freshman campaign as a backup linebacker and special teams performer, should figure much more prominently into the plans on a defense spearheaded by the stellar linebacker corps for the Buckeyes this year.

"I'm very excited for this season," Freeman said. "As a team, obviously, I feel that we have a lot of talent, and hopefully we can gel together and be as strong as I think our potential shows that we can be. And for me personally I'm excited, too, just to be able to go out there, whenever it's my time to shine, and do what I can do to be able to help this team out."

Whether it's actually Freeman's time to shine this year or not is something that will be determined as the season wears on from what he does on the practice field and during the game when the opportunities present themselves.

"I'll have to be patient this year, very patient," Freeman said. "I'm still behind Bobby (Carpenter) and A.J. (Hawk), and those are great players that are in front of me. I know that I'm not going to be on the field 100 percent of the time, but when I am called upon, I just want to make sure that I'm ready to step up and be ready to make plays when I do get the chance."

Although he would never openly admit it, Freeman would love to force the hands of the defensive coaches into earning more playing time this season. His play during the spring almost warranted that going forward.

"They've just told me to expect to play a lot more than I did last year, which I'm looking forward to and expecting to play a lot more than I did last year," he said. "But as far as taking somebody's spot or something like that, I'm just going to do whatever is best for the team.

"If I need to get in there or somebody needs to move over or move down and that's going to be best for our team, then I'm all for it. But I know that the people in front of me have started for two and three years and they're great players, so whatever it is that I can do to help the team then I'm ready to do it."

At 6-2 and 230 pounds, Freeman, who is officially second on the depth chart behind Carpenter as the Sam linebacker, believes he can successfully perform at any of the three linebacker positions if called upon. Last season, Freeman recorded four tackles playing exclusively at the Sam linebacker position.

"I feel as if I can play all three. I want to be known as a versatile linebacker, I don't want it to be just set in stone that I can only play Sam," he said. "But to say what I'm best at, I think that I'm going to have to say Sam just because I've spent so many practices and so many hours at Sam, that's been my main position. So I would have to say that I would be best at Sam if I was thrown on the field right now just because of my experience that I have at Sam."

Despite his reverence for the guys playing ahead of him, Freeman will go to camp attempting to win a starting job at any of the three linebacker positions and let the chips fall where they may.

"I think that has to be a person's goal," he said. "If you're going into camp thinking ‘Hey, I know I'm going to be a backup,' then I don't feel that you can get better. But if you always strive to set your goals high, your ultimate goal should be starting, you'll have more gains as a player and an athlete. I think a person should set their goals high and then strive to reach them.

"So I'm going to say that yeah, a goal of mine is to start for Ohio State this year, but if I don't do that, I'll know that there's a good reason why I'm not, and that's because the person in front of me is better for the defense than I am. "

Freeman was a four-year starter and a two-time All-Ohio selection at Wayne High School. He was regarded by many as one of the top linebackers in the country in his senior year. After playing in the U.S. Army All-American game in January 2004, Freeman immediately enrolled at Ohio State and was able to participate in spring drills before he ever played a down at Ohio State. He considers that entire first year in college to be quite the humbling experience for him.

"It's been a major reality check and a learning experience," Freeman said. "It was a reality check just because I thought going into Ohio State that, ‘Yeah, these guys are good but I'm one of the best in the nation and I can come in and take anybody's spot.' But as soon as you get here, you quickly realize that these guys are good and these guys have put in just as much time and work as you have and they're all great players. So that was a reality check to realize that you have to wait until you're called upon or when your time to shine is.

"And it's also a tremendous learning experience because in high school you can get away with so much stuff just with your athletic ability, whereas in college there is so much mentally that you need to learn, and you need to know just to be able to produce on the field. So I had to learn a lot. If I knew just half of the stuff in high school that I know now, I would have been an even better linebacker in high school."

And all indications are that Freeman learned very well in his first season at Ohio State. He was recognized by Jim Tressel at the conclusion of spring ball this year as being one of the younger guys who indeed had an impressive spring overall.

"My first year at Ohio State was very valuable," Freeman said. "I got to learn behind, to me, one of the best linebackers in the nation in Bobby Carpenter. I got to watch him personally in practice and I became a better player because of it."

Enrolling early and participating in spring ball made him a better player also. But Freeman thinks there are some advantages and disadvantages in doing that.

"The main advantage is obviously that I got to go in there and learn a lot more, and I think I'm still a step ahead of all of the other players in my freshman class that didn't come in early," he said. "I had that extra spring to learn, and now I'm able to not think as much and go on the field and produce.

"But there's also some disadvantages that you might not think about because you sit at home and you watch the Big 33 game and you're like, ‘Man, I could have played in that.' And you watch the Ohio North-South game and I'm like, ‘Man, I should have played in that.' So to come in early, you're going to have to be a very mature person because it's not as easy as it seems. You surely do miss a lot of stuff."

Personally, Freeman wouldn't necessarily recommend it for every high school senior from his own experience. In fact, he's pretty much against it unless the coaches indicate to you that you really have a legitimate chance to get on the field in the fall.

"If I could do it all over again, I'm not 100 percent sure that I would come in early just for the fact that I just finally realized that I did miss a lot," he said. "I missed my senior year in high school. I missed the Ohio North-South game. I missed time that I could have spent with players in my class. But I don't regret it all. I'm happy that I came in early and got to learn more and be a part of this team. So I think it depends on the player, his parents, his maturity level and what the coaches feel that he should do."

Because of his one extra spring, however, Freeman believes he is a much more complete and confident player than he was at this time a year ago.

"I think you're more confident if you know what you're doing mentally when you get on the field. I felt that some this spring," Freeman said. "Confidence naturally comes with knowing things but there's still a lot more stuff that I still need to learn. I feel that I've put in my time, and now I have to be confident so that if I'm called upon, I'm going to be able to go in there and make plays and produce for Ohio State. But I still that I have a lot more to learn and a lot more to get better at as a player and an athlete."

One definite upgrade to his game from a year ago is the number that Freeman will go into battle with this season. He cashed in his old 17 for a new and sleek number 1 this spring.

"Yeah, that's my number now," he said. "I wanted to have a single digit. In high school I wore number 2 and I've always been a fan of having a single digit. Personally, I just like a single-digit number. I'm not trying be all ‘I'm cocky and I'm number 1.' I just wanted to have a single-digit number and 1 and 3 were open. If 2 was open I would have gotten 2 because that was my high school number. Thomas Mathews wore 1 last year and he was a linebacker and I said, ‘Hey, maybe I can get it, too.'

"So I went and asked Coach Tress if he would mind if I would wear number 1 and he said, ‘We'll see how you'll do in the spring.' He said if I had a good spring we would talk about it and he hasn't told me that I can't wear it yet. So I think as of now he's going to let me wear it."

Freeman thought he played pretty well in the spring.

"I felt that I grew a lot as a linebacker," he said. "I got a lot of reps just because (Anthony) Schlegel was out and the spring was a time the young guys like Curtis (Terry) and Chad (Hoobler) got a time to shine. But I also felt that I personally still have a lot of work to do and there's a lot of stuff I need to learn."

But for now, Freeman's dreams and goals are just about the same as they were when he first came to Ohio State.

"A goal of mine still is to start for Ohio State and then get to the next level and play in the NFL," he said. "I don't want to say Ohio State is just a stepping stone to the NFL because I'm going to soak in every minute that I can at Ohio State. This is a dream come true. Growing up as a kid, I dreamed about playing for Ohio State and running out in the Horseshoe. And now that I see that my dream is starting to finally become a reality, I have to take it to that next goal.

"I'm not going to say it's a dream anymore but it's a goal of mine to play in the NFL and it's a goal of mine to start for Ohio State."

He'll likely earn his degree at Ohio State before he completes four years in college, but that won't dictate whether or not he foregoes any eligibility at OSU. Freeman currently is sporting a GPA in the vicinity of 3.0 and he'll be a junior academically after the coming fall quarter.

"Right now, academically, I'm happy," Freeman said. "My first goal is to graduate. My father always pushed me and said, ‘Don't let college use you, you use college.' So I'm here not only to play for Ohio State but to get my education and get a diploma, too. As of right now I'm still looking at being at Ohio State for four years, and if it comes to where I can graduate in three years, I'll look at it then. But right now I plan on being at Ohio State for four years."

There's currently no plan in place for him to graduate early and look to enter the NFL early.

"Actually, I never took the time to look and see when I'm going to graduate. It's something that I think I should do soon," Freeman said. "But right now I'm not going to push it to get done in three years and then start grad classes or whatever. Whenever it falls that I'm done with school, then I'll be done."

Whether he's talking about school or football, Freeman couldn't be any happier with his time at Ohio State thus far.

"It's everything I thought it would be and more." he said. "It's something I've really enjoyed and I'm going to continue soaking it up and just try to concentrate on football and my academics now and concentrate on having fun in my college life, too."

It sounds as if Freeman is on the verge of having himself a really good time.

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