COLUMBUS — The old guys club at Ohio State this year is exclusive.
Led by quarterback J.T. Barrett, seven players are in their fifth year of eligibility, meaning each had a redshirt year. Not only are all at the top of the Buckeyes’ depth chart, they’re among the best players in college football.
That doesn’t happen often at a program that churns our early departing stars for the NFL.
Barrett, who is 26-4 as a starter and the first three-time captain in Ohio State history, might not even be the best of them. That could be defensive end Tyquan Lewis, the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year and a top NFL prospect.
The fifth-year guys also include starting tight end Marcus Baugh, the team’s top returning receiver; center Billy Price, who has started 41 consecutive games on the offensive line; defensive tackles Tracy Sprinkle, an Elyria High grad, and Michael Hill; and Chris Worley, who will start at linebacker for the second straight year.
“You’ve got some guys that are battle-tested,” said Worley, who’s on the watch list for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker. “Every team goes through the tough times, the hard game and you have guys who have been through it, so that’s always a plus.”
Coach Urban Meyer said while he can never plan to have so many elite guys sticking around, it’s a great situation.
“You can’t put a price tag on that,” he said. “I saw that developing throughout the offseason. It’s unusual. I don’t think we’ve ever had that. You’d have to go back some years, because we usually don’t redshirt guys with intent that they’ll be here in five years nowadays.”
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said he’ll likely use a regular rotation of three players at cornerback this season — Damon Arnette, Denzel Ward and Kendall Sheffield.
Coombs has the difficult task of trying to plug the holes left by last year’s departing starters Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, both of whom were NFL Draft picks.
Ward was the third man in the rotation last year and finished with 23 tackles, nine passes defended and nine pass breakups. Arnette played in every game and is ready for prime time, according to Coombs. Sheffield is a former five-star recruit and junior college transfer who enrolled in the spring.
Others, including true freshmen Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade and Marcus Williamson, also could see playing time at corner.
More freshmen have lost the black stripes on their helmets, meaning they have done enough to be considered full-fledged members of the team. It also means they have a good chance of playing this season instead of sitting for a redshirt year.
Sheffield, Okudah, defensive tackle Haskell Garrett, defensive end Chase Young, running back J.K. Dobbins, safety Isaiah Pryor, offensive lineman Thayer Munford and linebacker Pete Werner all have been stripped of their rookie stripes since the beginning of camp.
Ohio Stadium sells out for most home football games, but the Buckeyes aren’t No. 1 in current ticket demand on the resale market. That distinction belongs to rival Michigan.
That’s according to ticket-reseller StubHub, which in terms of current ticket demand ranked Ohio State fifth behind Michigan, Notre Dame, Alabama and Penn State.
It’s not a scientific study of fandom, of course, just a snapshot of ticket sales on the website through Aug. 7.
The most in-demand game, according to StubHub, is the Florida State-Alabama contest on Sept. 2. The Michigan-Florida clash that day is No. 2.
The Ohio State-Michigan game on Nov. 5 ranked fifth.