Every year, Ohio State has some of the most elite athletes in college football. Despite these elite athletes, however, the Buckeyes haven’t had a punt return for a touchdown since 2014 and haven’t had a kickoff return for a touchdown since 2010.

Despite the lack of touchdowns, special teams has still proven to be an opportunity for Ohio State to get the ball to players who might not otherwise get it.

That ended up being the case with freshman wide receiver Emeka Egbuka last year. Running back TreVeyon Henderson started the season as the Buckeyes’ number one option at “KOR” (kickoff return), but his role on offense eventually expanded and there was an opportunity to get another freshman involved.

Because of the depth at receiver with Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, special teams was another way to get the ball into Egbuka’s hands.

“In some situations, it’s more about making sure you spread out your touches to the right guys,” special teams coordinator Parker Fleming said this spring. “If you have the opportunity of multiple players that are close to or equal then you want to make sure you can get guys touches. Last year, Emeka, he was the guy that owned that KOR role really early. And so he wasn’t getting touches on offense, so we said, ‘How can we get him the ball there?’ So there’ll be a number of guys we’ll try back there. But you really want to get opportunities for your game breakers to have the ball in their hands and that’s something that matters.”

Egbuka showed flashes of his game-breaking abilities, leading the Big Ten in kickoff return average at 29 yards per return and earning Second-Team All-Big Ten accolades as a returner. He led the Big Ten with three returns of at least 40 yards, and more than once he nearly ended that kickoff return touchdown drought.

Expectations are high that Egbuka will finally take one the distance this season. Does Fleming think the drought ends this year?

“I can’t speak to that. You gotta ask Emeka about that,” he said. “We got close a couple of times. Close doesn’t count. But I think he was really close to breaking a couple. And the truth is, you gotta keep plugging. And sometimes it’s one cut, one missed tackle, and one slight adjustment that we have to make and finish a little bit stronger, a little tougher. We’ll see.”


Meanwhile, the player who will likely touch the ball most for the Buckeyes this year — other than quarterback CJ Stroud — was busy this spring improving on not touching the ball.

Sophomore running back TreVeyon Henderson touched the ball 212 times last season, rushing for 1,255 yards and catching 27 passes for another 312 yards. In order to be a more complete back, however, he has also spent time improving as a pass blocker.

Given how much the Buckeyes throw the ball, it’s a skill that every Ohio State running back needs to have.

“They do a good job with that stuff,” offensive line coach Justin Frye said this month. “Trey will spend a little bit of time with us on some off days and special teams with those things. So if he’s in, then we talk more schematics for protection. I think it’s good for him to hear us up front what we’re seeing and saying and doing. So as he’s just sitting in there, he just gets a big picture. It kind of opens his eyes.

“I think a more veteran player, he’s not gonna get incrementally faster, but he may be able to play faster if he knows who the free hitter is. If he knows where the double team’s working and why it looks one way to another one, or in protection with the hand signals and what those things are gonna be. So that’s really where we spent more time with the backs. Just on the field and some group work stuff.”

And how has Henderson taken to it?

“He loves it,” Frye said. “He likes being in there now. The guys kind of bust his chops a little bit and he gives it right back to them. So it’s been fun having him in there.”


Like TreVeyon Henderson, every other member of the Ohio State football team will be working this offseason to be at their respective bests for fall camp. This is the time when the players get back with strength coach Mickey Marotti and continue progressing towards meeting entirely different goals.

New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles got a first-hand look at this kind of work back in the winter, and he knows with another offseason in the weight room, things will be even better. Combine that work with the advancements made in the spring on the implementation of the new defense, and Knowles likes where things are headed right now.

“I really have just been impressed with our whole process, from Coach Day to Coach Mick,” he said. “We just need to stay the course. Those guys know what they’re doing in terms of how to structure this time of year. Stay the course in that aspect, and from a defensive perspective, we need to just continue to meet whenever we have the chance individually and groups when we’re allowed. The schedule dictates all of that, but we’ll take advantage of every opportunity we have just to have short meetings, again to keep things fresh in their mind and maybe throw in some areas that we weren’t able to touch in the spring.”


During the winter and summer, every Ohio State football team essentially belongs to Mickey Marotti. He is the guy updating all of the other coaches on how players are doing and progressing. He spends more time with the players than anybody else, which is exactly how he likes it.

That kind of constant presence puts an imprint on a football team, which is why when Marotti was asked recently if he ever thought of becoming a position coach like some other strength coaches have done, his answer was no.

“I think I can make more of an impact on more people, on more of our players, being a strength and conditioning coach,” he said. “Being around them and talking about culture every day and growing up as a man, improving physically, mentally, emotionally. As a position coach, you only got your guys. I just felt like I could have more of an impact.”

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  1. Every year, Ohio State has some of the most elite athletes in college football. Despite these elite athletes, however, the Buckeyes haven’t had a punt return for a touchdown since 2014 and haven’t had a kickoff return for a touchdown since 2010.

    Despite the lack of touchdowns, special teams has still proven to be an opportunity for Ohio State to get the ball to players who might not otherwise get it.

    That ended up being the case with freshman wide receiver Emeka Egbuka last year. Running back TreVeyon Henderson started the season as the Buckeyes’ number one option at “KOR” (kickoff return), but his role on offense eventually expanded and there was an opportunity to get another freshman involved.

    Because of the depth at receiver with Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, special teams was another way to get the ball into Egbuka’s hands.

    “In some situations, it’s more about making sure you spread out your touches to the right guys,” special teams coordinator Parker Fleming said this spring. “If you have the opportunity of multiple players that are close to or equal then you want to make sure you can get guys touches. Last year, Emeka, he was the guy that owned that KOR role really early. And so he wasn’t getting touches on offense, so we said, ‘How can we get him the ball there?’ So there’ll be a number of guys we’ll try back there. But you really want to get opportunities for your game breakers to have the ball in their hands and that’s something that matters.”

    Egbuka showed flashes of his game-breaking abilities, leading the Big Ten in kickoff return average at 29 yards per return and earning Second-Team All-Big Ten accolades as a returner. He led the Big Ten with three returns of at least 40 yards, and more than once he nearly ended that kickoff return touchdown drought.

    Expectations are high that Egbuka will finally take one the distance this season. Does Fleming think the drought ends this year?

    “I can’t speak to that. You gotta ask Emeka about that,” he said. “We got close a couple of times. Close doesn’t count. But I think he was really close to breaking a couple. And the truth is, you gotta keep plugging. And sometimes it’s one cut, one missed tackle, and one slight adjustment that we have to make and finish a little bit stronger, a little tougher. We’ll see.”

    [HR][/HR]
    Meanwhile, the player who will likely touch the ball most for the Buckeyes this year — other than quarterback CJ Stroud — was busy this spring improving on [I]not touching[/I] the ball.

    Sophomore running back TreVeyon Henderson touched the ball 212 times last season, rushing for 1,255 yards and catching 27 passes for another 312 yards. In order to be a more complete back, however, he has also spent time improving as a pass blocker.

    Given how much the Buckeyes throw the ball, it’s a skill that every Ohio State running back needs to have.

    “They do a good job with that stuff,” offensive line coach Justin Frye said this month. “Trey will spend a little bit of time with us on some off days and special teams with those things. So if he’s in, then we talk more schematics for protection. I think it’s good for him to hear us up front what we’re seeing and saying and doing. So as he’s just sitting in there, he just gets a big picture. It kind of opens his eyes.

    “I think a more veteran player, he’s not gonna get incrementally faster, but he may be able to [I]play[/I] faster if he knows who the free hitter is. If he knows where the double team’s working and why it looks one way to another one, or in protection with the hand signals and what those things are gonna be. So that’s really where we spent more time with the backs. Just on the field and some group work stuff.”

    And how has Henderson taken to it?

    “He loves it,” Frye said. “He likes being in there now. The guys kind of bust his chops a little bit and he gives it right back to them. So it’s been fun having him in there.”

    [HR][/HR]
    Like TreVeyon Henderson, every other member of the Ohio State football team will be working this offseason to be at their respective bests for fall camp. This is the time when the players get back with strength coach Mickey Marotti and continue progressing towards meeting entirely different goals.

    New defensive coordinator Jim Knowles got a first-hand look at this kind of work back in the winter, and he knows with another offseason in the weight room, things will be even better. Combine that work with the advancements made in the spring on the implementation of the new defense, and Knowles likes where things are headed right now.

    “I really have just been impressed with our whole process, from Coach Day to Coach Mick,” he said. “We just need to stay the course. Those guys know what they’re doing in terms of how to structure this time of year. Stay the course in that aspect, and from a defensive perspective, we need to just continue to meet whenever we have the chance individually and groups when we’re allowed. The schedule dictates all of that, but we’ll take advantage of every opportunity we have just to have short meetings, again to keep things fresh in their mind and maybe throw in some areas that we weren’t able to touch in the spring.”

    [HR][/HR]
    During the winter and summer, every Ohio State football team essentially belongs to Mickey Marotti. He is the guy updating all of the other coaches on how players are doing and progressing. He spends more time with the players than anybody else, which is exactly how he likes it.

    That kind of constant presence puts an imprint on a football team, which is why when Marotti was asked recently if he ever thought of becoming a position coach like some other strength coaches have done, his answer was no.

    “I think I can make more of an impact on more people, on more of our players, being a strength and conditioning coach,” he said. “Being around them and talking about culture every day and growing up as a man, improving physically, mentally, emotionally. As a position coach, you only got your guys. I just felt like I could have more of an impact.”

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