Thoma Angling For Punter Position

Jon Thoma's first closeup, minor as it may have been, went well enough for him to come away smiling. The fifth-year senior, a walk-on from Alliance, Ohio, has waited his turn to be the No. 1 punter in Scarlet at Ohio Stadium, and that first chance came last Friday during the team's annual spring kick scrimmage.

While the intimate gathering that watched Thoma and the Scarlet beat the Gray 30-27 on a gray afternoon in the Horseshoe is nothing compared to the 100,000 plus who will be there to cheer on the Buckeyes this fall, the St. Thomas Aquinas product will take what he can get as he vies for the right to replace four-year starter A.J. Trapasso.

"Since I've been here seems like forever," Thoma said. "But the pressure just doesn't seem that great. I want to be out here doing my best, but I'm not going to put pressure on myself, which I guess is a good thing I've learned to do from being behind A.J., being here learning and everything. Those four years, although it would have been great to be on the field, I did learn a lot."

He showed some moxie in the kick scrimmage when forced to hit a pair of punts with his heels nipping the back of the end zone. One traveled 49 yards and another covered 51, and both were high-hangers not easily returnable.

Not that Thoma was too impressed with himself.

"Basically it's catch-kick, and I got some good ones off," he said.

Overall, he punted seven times for an average of 41.4 yards, a performance that brought a smile to the face of Ohio State graduate assistant Chad Rogosheske, who coordinates the Buckeye special teams.

"He punted very well today in a different set of circumstances, and I was really pleased to see that," the coach said.

"In all of these kick scrimmages, he has performed very well. It was a little different situation this year with him coming in as the leading guy, and he performed well again, so that was very encouraging to see because it's a little different pressure. When you're the underdog and the No. 2 guy, to come out and perform well is one thing, and then when it's expected of you, it's probably a different thing, and that was encouraging to see him really rise to that challenge. I thought he did a really nice job."

Now instead of chasing Trapasso, Thoma is trying to hold off redshirt freshman Ben Buchanan, a recruited athlete who could also turn out to be the Buckeyes place kicker of the future.

"Ben is definitely pushing him and giving him some good competition there on the punting side of things," Rogosheske said.

"Ben does a great job every day," Thoma said. "We're both working hard, getting good reps in. We go back and forth. One day we'll have a good day, one day we'll have a bad day."

Overall, the race is more of a personal battle, however.

"It's always going to be a competition," Thoma said. "Coach is going to put the best player on the field, so I'm just going to work to put myself in position to be that guy.

"It is fun. It's a different feel, definitely, since A.J. had that spot on lockdown. Even when he was here, you always try to get better, but now it's like it's for something, so it gets those competitive juices flowing again, so it feels good. I just want to do my best every day."


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