Thomas Bradley / Campus editor
Being an incoming freshman at Ohio State can be a nerve-racking experience. Trying to acclimate yourself at 18-years-old on a college campus filled with more than 50,000 students in the middle of a town with more than three-fourths of a million people can be daunting . For football players across the country, it’s been a trend for the last several years to subject themselves to this atmosphere preemptively and graduate early, and at OSU, it’s no different.
For the upcoming 2012 football season, there are nine football players who have started their college careers early at OSU by forgoing the rest of their senior year in high school, and coach Urban Meyer said he is fine with that.
“I think it’s a heck of an advantage, but we don’t ever force that,” Meyer said after Wednesday’s spring practice, which was open to the public.
The nine early enrollees are Jacoby Boren, Taylor Decker, Bri’onte Dunn, Cardale Jones, Josh Perry, Se’Von Pittman, Tyvis Powell, Luke Roberts and Michael Thomas.
Of the nine, Meyer said he believes there are at least three on offense who can contribute early.
“You’ve got Michael, Bri’onte and Taylor Decker, those three I believe can play for us next year. Taylor is probably the furthest ahead, which is unusual for an offensive lineman,” Meyer said.
Decker, a 6-foot-7, 310-pound offensive lineman from Butler High School in Vandalia, Ohio, saw prominent action on the second-team at offensive right guard during Wednesday’s practice.
Thomas is a 6-foot-2, 193-pound wide receiver who came in from Fork Union Military Academy by way of Taft High School in Woodland Hills in Los Angeles, Calif. He too, saw some second-team action at the receiver position in practice.
Dunn, a 6-foot-1, 214-pound running back out of Canton GlenOak High School in Canton, Ohio, got some carries during running drills and was also seen fielding kickoffs.
Defense, though, looks to be the tougher side of the ball for some of the other early enrollees to potentially see any action, and rightfully so as only one person graduated from last year’s starting defense – linebacker Andrew Sweat.
“On defense, I don’t know yet. There’s more depth on defense right now,” said Meyer.
The coach also relished in the fact that he and his staff at the University of Florida were forerunners in early enrollees for football.
“We started that thing,” Meyer said. “I had never heard of it, and then people said they were going to come early, and … I told someone, ‘Imagine this.’ In one class was Pouncey and Pouncey (twin brothers Maurkice and Mike) go first round, first round. Joe Haden, first round. Aaron Hernandez, one of the best players in the NFL, and some kid named Cam Newton.”
During Maurkice Pouncey’s freshman year in 2007 at Florida, he started 11 out of 13 games. And in his second year with the Gators he started all 14 games, helping propel them to the 2008 National Championship. He is entering his third season at center for the Pittsburgh Steelers. His brother Mike Pouncey also started on the offensive line as a freshman at Florida but was switched to defense when injuries plagued the defensive line in 2007.
Haden started all 12 games as a true freshman in 2007 and finished the year making the All-SEC Freshman team. Hernandez saw limited action throughout his 2007 freshman season, but did manage to start in three games. By the time he was done at Florida, he had earned first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC honors, and won the John Mackey Award, which is given out to college football’s best tight end.
And as a freshman in 2007, Newton won the backup quarterback job behind Tim Tebow, playing in five games. After purchasing a stolen laptop at Florida and leaving the university, Newton eventually found his way to Auburn and in 2010 he helped the Tigers to a National Championship while winning the Heisman Trophy.