Jalin Marshall felt a little anxious as he took the field Aug. 4 for the first practice of Ohio State’s 2014 season. He practiced only three times in the spring because of a knee injury and had forgotten how hard practice can be.
It wasn’t as hot that day as it could have been, considering these are the dog days of August, but as Marshall said, “Football is football, and football is tough.”
Almost two years have passed since the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Marshall last played a football game. He threw two touchdown passes and ran for three scores on Oct. 26, 2012, as Middletown beat Princeton 41-14 to end a 4-6 season.
Marshall redshirted as a freshman at Ohio State in 2013 but figures big in Ohio State’s plans as Aug. 30 season opener against Navy in Baltimore draws closer. He’s competing with 5-10, 185-pound sophomore Dontre Wilson for the starting job at the H-back spot.
“Jalin’s going to play,” wide receivers coach Zach Smith said. “I don’t know how much. I don’t know if he’s the starter. He certainly could be. It’s just a matter of how much he’s going to touch the ball.”
Wilson has the edge in experience. He played in all 14 games as a true freshman last season and started twice. He ranked fourth on the team with 983 all-purpose yards.
Marshall calls it a friendly competition between him and Wilson.
“That’s like my brother,” Marshall said. “We help each other. We want each other to be successful. We’re all on the same team. We want to win.”
Marshall practiced at wide receiver last fall after playing quarterback in high school. He moved to the H-back position in the spring but then tore his meniscus and had surgery in March.
Smith made sure Marshall got the most out of the spring by pairing him with senior wide receiver Evan Spencer, who also missed the spring practices with an injury, and letting Spencer teach him the offense.
That extra time on the sideline in the spring and last fall when he redshirted helped Marshall evolve on and off the field.
“I learned a lot,” Marshall said. “I learned how to be a receiver and how to go hard all the time and play fast. It’s really helped me coming into my redshirt freshman year.
“Practices are going really well for me. I’m enhancing my skills and getting better every day and showing the coaches they can trust me and I can play. Once I get the opportunity to get the ball in my hands, I can make a play with it.”
Smith raved about the improvements Marshall has made in the last 12 months.
“He’s night and day,” Smith said. “He’s not even the same player. Last year, he had a little transition going from quarterback to receiver. He was a little immature, a freshman who got away from home and didn’t know how to act like a pro.
“This year, he’s on the completely opposite end of the spectrum. He treats this like it’s his career. It’s his life. He’s here nonstop. He’s working out. He’s working on his skills. He’s in the meeting room watching film. I’ll go into my office, and he’s just sitting there.”
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