Jim Tressel has called the punt the most important play in football, so that would mean Jake McQuaide is one of the most important players on Ohio State's roster.
Although many fans probably could not pick the redshirt sophomore out of a lineup, McQuaide's job is going to be crucial this season. McQuaide is the long snapper for the Buckeyes. The 2008 season will be the second in which McQuaide has seen playing time. During the '07 campaign, McQuaide split snapping duties with Dimitrios Makridis and Jackson Haas. Now that Makridis and Haas are gone due to graduation, McQuaide will handle the bulk of the punt and field goal snaps.
"Jake's probably one of the hardest workers on the team," said senior punter A.J. Trapasso. "He's been working here for three years now and he's gotten really good it. He's definitely improved from the first year he was here, and every year he's gotten better.
"This is his time and I'm sure he's ready to step up."
With another offseason of weightlifting and snapping drills, McQuaide said he's ready to take over.
He handled the snapping duties for the Scarlet team during Wednesday afternoon's kick scrimmage at Ohio Stadium. None of his snaps on field goals or punts resulted in blocks.
"I felt pretty good about (my effort), but you never really know because I don't really see where it goes," the 6-2, 219-pound snapper said. "I just ask A.J. I'll watch film and then I'll know a little better."
So what makes a good long snapper? McQuaide said it is a matter of repetition.
"I think it's a lot like a golf swing in that you have to be able to do the same thing over and over," he said. "We have certain drills like snapping to a pole and we try to be perfect every time, doing things like making sure the ball gets to the punter with the laces up, so he doesn't have to flip it over. It's just a repetition thing. Along the same lines, we have to block too, so we work on our footwork a lot too. There's a lot of repetition."
Focus is another key component in becoming a long snapper, according to Patrick Howe.
"If you're a long snapper in college, you obviously know what to do," said Howe, who along with freshman Gar Chappelear make up the rest of the long snapping unit. "It's all a matter of being focused and executing it probably every time. I really like to think of it like shooting free throws or a golf swing. You know how to do it."
Both McQuaide and Howe played for large schools in Cincinnati - McQuaide at Elder and Howe at St. Xavier. They each also started snapping at a young age.
"When I started playing football in the sixth grade, we didn't have anybody who could do it," McQuaide said. "We tried a few guys out and it turned out that I could do it. That's how I got into it."
Howe also started early.
"I was over at a friend's house playing football in his back yard, and his older brother was snapping and I thought it looked cool," Howe said. "I gave it a shot and it came natural. I've been snapping since the fifth grade. I guess some people have it and some people don't. It's a unique talent."
It is also a talent that the rest of the Buckeyes respect, no more so than Trapasso.
"Snapping is something that takes work," Trapasso said. "It's not an easy thing to do. A lot of people think you just bend down and throw the ball between your legs. It's difficult. Some of our guys on this team have been working at it a long time and they're still working on it.
"Pat Howe and Jake McQuaide are doing an excellent job. They'll do a good job this year."
And while the snappers may go unnoticed off the field, they are just happy to be a part of the team.
"You have to love what you can do," McQuaide said. "I'm happy to be here and help the team out however I can. It's great. How could I complain about this?"