The rotation up front should be deep again this fall – perhaps deeper – but Landers said this week he is more comfortable in his role than ever.
“Last year was my first time getting my feet wet, playing games and getting used to the atmosphere,” he said. “This time I’m able to be a lot more relaxed. On the field, I’m a lot more comfortable. I know my role, I know what I can do, and it’s just about me doing what I’m capable of doing.”
Landers proved to be more than a run-stuffer last season, recording a tackle-for-loss every 40 snaps to lead the team.
“I have a good get off, and I’m good with using my hands,” Landers said. “With the leverage I have it makes it difficult for a lot of bigger offensive linemen to really handle me up front. My role is to change the speed (of the game), change the pace a little bit.”
Johnson likes what he has seen of Landers during preseason camp.
Larry Johnson talks about what Ohio State defensive tackle Robert Landers, a former Wayne Warrior, brings to the Buckeyes in his second year as a contributor.
“I’m really looking forward to him playing a lot of football this fall,” Johnson said. “He’s got a different talent. Everybody’s got a different thing, and his thing is he can twitch. He can get off the football. He can change the line of scrimmage, and you’ve got to find him, too.”
The jovial criminology major is also comfortable in front of a camera, and that is no accident.
Landers’ mother, Tracy Matthews, began training young Robert and his brother, Trey (a guard for the Dayton Flyers basketball team), to be ready for interviews early in their lives.
“She always had this one wooden spoon and we would be messing around playing and she would spontaneously put the spoon in my face and ask a question,” Landers recalled. “I’d be like, ‘I don’t feel like doing that right now.’ I’m sitting there playing video games and she’d come in with the spoon and just get to asking us questions.”
Turns out she knew what she was doing.
“When I was younger I hated it with a passion,” he said. “It used to put me over the ledge, but now I can honestly say it helped me a lot because I’m pretty poised when I speak.”
“We never really took her serious when she would say, ‘Eventually you’re gonna have interviews.’ Now I appreciate it. I tell her all the time.”
Wayne grad Robert Landers is one of Ohio State's key defensive linemen and one of the best interviews on the team. His mom made sure of the second one while he was growing up, and he explained how.
Landers also found out after he got to Ohio State he was more prepared than he knew to survive in the trenches of college football.
“There’s a lot of things Coach (Johnson) teaches here I already learned in high school,” Landers said. “It really kind of shocked me to learn how many guys had never done certain drills or hadn’t learned certain techniques before.”
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Of course, recruiting aficionados know Landers nearly ended up playing his college football elsewhere.
He initially committed to West Virginia before the Buckeyes offered him during his senior year.
He found changing his mind was not hard, but changing his commitment was.
“I’ve always been a Buckeye,” he said. “This was always my dream school. I was blessed to get from West Virginia an opportunity I had been dreaming about, a full-ride to any university so my mother wouldn’t have to pay for school, but once Ohio State came along, it was just a matter of I knew where I wanted to go.
“But it was difficult for me because my mom always preached to me you don’t own much but your name, and I had given West Virginia my word. It was difficult to pull that back, but I knew I had to go where it would end up being best for me.”
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He credited his grandfather with encouraging him to make sure he was making the final decision for himself and no one else.
“He said at some point in time you can’t do everything to please everybody,” Landers said. “You have to take a route that’s best for you. Is it selfish, yes, but sometimes you have to do what’s best for you.”
So far, it’s been best for both Landers and the Buckeyes.