Twenty-six seniors are set for their final home game as Buckeyes on Saturday, a group that includes defensive tackle Robert “BB” Landers of Wayne High School and tight end Derrick Malone of Thurgood Marshall.
Starters Jonah Jackson, DaVon Hamilton, Jashon Cornell, Binjimen Victor, Branden Bowen, Jonathon Cooper, Austin Mack, Damon Arnette, Malik Harrison, Jordan Fuller and K.J. Hill are also among the group that not surprisingly means a lot to head coach Ryan Day.
“We have been through a lot in the last couple years and love these guys with all my heart,” said Day, who joined the program as an assistant in 2017 and is in his first year as head coach. “They have become family and so certainly for those guys who are having their last game in the stadium like that, it is going to be emotional and they deserve everything that they get in terms of praise and admiration from everybody in Buckeye nation for what they have done and that is a special group.”
Ohio State coach impressed with Nittany Lions players and coaches on both sides of the ball
2. Asked about his emotions Tuesday, Landers said he had not thought about it — yet.
“I honestly don't think it might hit me until after the game is because right now it's all focus, all energy on playing Penn State, not so much as this is my last go 'round in the ‘Shoe,” Landers said. “So I think once the game is over and the clock its zero-zero it will set in."
Landers is part of an unusually large group of fifth-year seniors at Ohio State this season.
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“They're almost like player-coaches, and they know what's right and they're around the team and the young guys more than we are,” Day said. “There’s a self-policing going on right there and those guys mentor the younger guys and want to leave a legacy behind. I heard that several times from many of the players.
“Having maturity like that is important because you can tell guys until you're blue in the face about, if we don't show up this week, here's what can happen. But guys who have been through it before and have those scars, it's a little bit more real.”
3. Chase Young is back.
More than one junior could also be making his last appearance at Ohio Stadium in an Ohio State uniform, too.
Young is the most notable because he is considered the best defensive player in the country, and he missed the last two games for violating NCAA amateurism rules.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive end did not speak with reporters this week, but his teammates confirmed he seems anxious to hit someone in a different-colored jersey for the first time since a dominant performance against Wisconsin on Oct. 26.
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“Chase has still been Chase,” Landers said. “One thing about Chase, outside of him being a phenomenal football player, but he's a phenomenal teammate and leader. And I think that's one of the biggest things for him that there was no drop off within those aspects of who he is and his character. Even in practice from the sidelines he's coaching guys up. He's telling them 'Hey, work on this, work on that. I saw this,’ especially with the young DEs that we have who have to play in those games when he when he was absent.
“So, as far as how Chases has handled that situation, he handled it beautifully so I'm proud of him and glad we got him back.”
Other Buckeyes who could enter the 2020 NFL Draft with eligibility remaining include cornerbacks Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade, running back J.K. Dobbins, linebackers Pete Werner and Tuf Borland and left tackle Thayer Munford.
4. As is typically the case for a marquee game, Ohio State is expecting a large contingent of recruits to be on hand for the game.
With the 2019 class nearly full, Day and his staff have been able to devote extra attention to current high school juniors and sophomores.
Lakota West sophomore offensive lineman Tegra Tshabola is among the 10 most important visitors according to 247Sports.com while Alter running back/defensive back C.J. Hicks is also expected to be in attendance.
They are both potential top prospects in the class of 2022.
The most notable uncommitted seniors expected to make the trip to Columbus on Saturday are Miyan Williams, a three-star running back from Cincinnati Winton Woods, and Xavier Carlton, a four-star defensive end from Draper, Utah.
5. Every projected starter is available for the Buckeyes.
Reserve offensive linemen Josh Alabi and Matthew Jones are listed as game-time decisions along with reserve defensive tackle Haskell Garrett.
Backup safety Josh Proctor is out, but he is the only player who has had much of a role this season who is listed as unavailable.
Last week, Cooper, Mack, Arnette and linebacker Baron Browning were held out of Ohio State’s 56-21 win at Rutgers.
Browning is listed as a co-starter with Borland at middle linebacker.