Football

Spring Gleaning: Special Teams Looking For Consistency, Playmakers

Now that spring football is over, it’s time to look back at exactly what we just saw. We’ll continue going over each position group with what was learned and what still needs to happen. There are only three groups left. Up next will be the Ohio State special teams.

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Quick Position Overview

The Buckeyes must replace both kicking specialists and they’ll be attempting to do it with redshirt freshman place-kicker Jake Seibert and true freshman punter Jesse Mirco. New special teams coordinator Parker Fleming has spoken of having a number of options at kick returner, though declined to mention any names. Guys like Jaxon Smith-Njigba or Garrett Wilson could be called upon as punt returners. The coverage and protection units have plenty of options.

Expectations Going In

The expectations going in were that both Jesse Mirco and Jake Seibert would step up and establish themselves as the starters at their respective positions. In terms of the return game, the expectation was that while there were explosive options, nothing would happen in the spring because there’s so little full-speed practicing of actual returns during the spring.

Reality Coming Out

The reality coming out is that on the final day of spring practice, both Jesse Mirco and Jake Seibert struggled. The good news is that the intel from inside the WHAC is that both players performed well throughout the spring and that the spring game was a bit of an anomaly. As far as the return game goes, it’s all a wait and see situation.

Any Surprises?

The biggest surprise was probably the kicking struggles in the spring game, but it’s not wise to put too much stock into one practice. Still, people on the outside came away from the spring game no longer thinking that the situation would be fine. It will likely still end up that way but there are certainly more people concerned than they were before that final practice.

Unanswered Question

When asked which players were in the running at kick returner, Parker Fleming declined to give any names, but did say there are plenty of explosive players on the roster to turn to. The larger unanswered question here, however, is will they use the kickoff returner as a weapon or a waver? With offenses led by Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields, starting at the 25-yard line with a fair catch was good enough because the remaining 75 yards were pretty easy to come by. Now with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm, there could be a need for some increased return attempts.

So Now What?

So now Jesse Mirco and Jake Seibert will work throughout the summer and continue to do what they’ve both been doing for years. And everybody else will hold their collective breath and hope it works out. The good news is that Seibert has kicked more than most redshirt freshmen, kicking 16 PATs last year and attempting two field goals.

One Concern

Aside from the kicker and the punter, another major concern is replacing the losses of veteran special teamers like Justin Hilliard, Tuf Borland, and Luke Farrell. The Buckeyes need to find new reliable special teamers so that the punting and kicking can get off without a hitch.

Are We Sure?

Are we sure the Buckeyes are even going to need to punt or kick field goals this year?

Quotable

“It’s a competition. Always is. We’ll always play the best player at every position. Jake kicked last year. I don’t know if we expected him to. There’s a lot of situations where he went in and performed really well. He kicked in the national championship game for us. And so he’s not a new new player. Jesse, obviously, if he wins the job and everything works out, he will be new. New to a lot of things. But his development and Jake’s development has been really good. Had a great winter to get stronger and work through tough things. There’s a lot of things that specialists need. Mentally, physically, all that. And then getting with the team and doing our drills. It’s the first time for some of them to go through a punt period, or to go through a field goal period as the guy, and so that’s been really good. And I think that their development this spring has been key and they’re gonna have to continue develop through the summer and in fall camp for it to really maximize where they are. But so far, it’s been it’s been really good.” — Special teams coordinator Parker Fleming on having two new kicking specialists this year.

Depth Chart

Kicker

98 Jake Seibert | Redshirt Freshman | 6-1 200
As the scholarship kicker, Jake Seibert is going to be given every opportunity to win the job. The experience he gained last year will go a long way towards being a solid starter in 2021.
28 Dominic DiMaccio | Fifth-Year Senior | 5-8 195
Dominic DeMaccio is more experienced than your average walk-on kicker. He ended up as the team’s primary kickoff specialist and has also attempted placements in both 2019 and 2020.

Punter

29 Jesse Mirco | Freshman | 6-4 210 OR
The Buckeyes landed Jesse Mirco out of Australia. Ohio State has done well with the Australia route before (Cam Johnston) and they’re expecting similar successes over the next four years.
96 Michael O’Shaughnessy | Redshirt Sophomore | 6-3 208
Michael O’Shaugnessy has been with Ohio State as a walk-on for a while now but has never kicked in a game. That won’t stop him from competing for the job this year, however.

Kick Returner

NA NA | NA | NA OR
[Please check back in August.]
NA NA | NA | NA
[Please see note about about checking back in August.]

Punt Returner

11 Jaxon Smith-Njigba | Sophomore | 6-0 197 OR
The Buckeyes want sure hands returning punts and that’s what Jaxon Smith-Njigba brings. He’s also explosive enough to do something with a return if he wants.
5 Garrett Wilson | Junior | 6-0 188
The Buckeyes want sure hands returning punts and that’s what Garrett Wilson brings. He’s also explosive enough to do something with a return if he wants.

Long Snapper

42 Bradley Robinson | Fifth-Year Senior | 6-1 230
Bradley Robinson played well in his first year as a starter last season. Will still need to win the job again but there doesn’t seem to be any major concerns about him this year.
94 Roen McCullough | Redshirt Junior | 6-1 225
Roen McCullough played linebacker in the spring game. He has competed for the starting long-snapper job previously and will again — unless he’s starting at linebacker this year.