Head coach Jim Tressel has made it no secret that several of Ohio State's incoming recruits will have a chance at immediate playing time. Tressel is on record saying "about half" of the 25-man class will play this fall and the other half will be redshirted.
One of the players who is almost assured of seeing the field as a true freshman is Hamilton cornerback E.J. Underwood, the top-rated defensive back in Ohio.
"I think so," Underwood said when asked if he thought he'd play right away. "The coaches have talked to me about it. They said corner might be the weak link on the defense."
As a senior, Underwood was named first-team All-Ohio in Division I. He had 63 tackles and two interceptions despite the fact that few teams threw the ball his way (11 career picks). Underwood also played wide receiver as a senior, catching 38 passes for 600 yards and eight scores.
Underwood began his prep career at Lakota East before transferring to Hamilton prior to his junior year. He said he knew fairly early in high school that college football was in his future.
"I knew after my first varsity game my sophomore year. From then on, I just knew I was going to play in college," Underwood said.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Underwood grew watching Ohio State games, but did not think he'd end up playing for the Bucks.
"I was a big fan of a lot of their players like (Andy) Katzenmoyer, Eddie George and Cris Carter. But when (John) Cooper was there, I was not that big on going to OSU."
Then came the coaching change, giving Underwood a change of heart.
"For me, everything was different when coach Tressel was hired. I went up there for the senior camp last summer and I fell in love with it. I hit it off with my future teammates and I knew it was the right place for me."
Underwood committed on June 27, right after the camp ended. The Buckeyes beat out Tennessee and Virginia for his services.
"Another reason was that Ohio State is close to home and my family can see me play."
Underwood has followed the recruiting beat and is proud to be part of OSU's highly-touted class.
"I'm excited to be part of this group. It's an opportunity to play with some of the top players in the country. Number two in the nation - you can't ask for much better than that. And my senior year, we play Texas so we'll get to see who really turned out to be the best."
The Hamilton product already knows most of his fellow recruits.
"I know just about all the guys. I've only met (cornerback) Michael Roberts once, but I know just about everyone else pretty well."
Underwood was hosted on his official visit by junior wide receiver Mike Jenkins.
"He was cool - he showed me the ropes. We joked about going up against each other in practice every day."
Underwood was also a starter on Hamilton's basketball team, which recently ended its season in the district finals. Now that hoops is over, the cornerback says he can fully concentrate on football.
"From now on, it's all about football. I am dedicating myself to work on strength and speed and my DB drills."
Underwood runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds, but said he hopes to get that down to 4.3 by the fall.
"I just started Ohio State's workout program (on March 12). I'll be doing it about 2 1/2 to 3 hours per day. I like working out."
When he's not working out, Underwood enjoys playing video games, watching The Simpsons and singing with his friends.
He wouldn't divulge which tunes he and his friends belt out, just to say that, "We like to sing loud and act goofy. I love music."
As for college, Underwood is excited about getting out on his own for the first time.
"I'm starting a whole new life. Well, not new life, but the next stage of my life. I'm getting really anxious to get up there. We report sometime around Aug. 1 and I can't wait."
Special thanks to E.J. for the interview!