Ohio State redshirt junior offensive lineman Ben St. John and his Buckeye teammates haven’t exactly had it easy since the end of last season.
St. John, a 2010 graduate of Woodmore High School, and the rest of the Buckeyes have been sweating it out in the weight room under the direction of Mickey Mariotti, OSU’s assistant director for football sports performance, in preparation for the first day of fall practice on Aug. 4.
“It’s been a tough offseason working out,” said the 6-foot-3, 290-pound St. John. “I feel I’m getting stronger and I’m in better condition. Coach Mick and his staff do a great job with us in the offseason, and I try to buy into that and do what they ask me to do.”
Chances are that St. John, a preferred walk-on who is majoring in nutrition and industry, will never see the field in 2013. The Buckeyes have four starters returning on the offensive line, and the only open spot is at right tackle, where the front-runners are sophomores Taylor Decker (6-7, 315) and Chase Farris (6-4, 300).
St. John’s Jesuit graduate Jack Mewhort, a 6-7, 308-pound senior returns at left tackle after an All-Big Ten junior year. “He’s someone I really look up to,” St. John said.
“I’m optimistic,” St. John said of his chances of getting playing time this fall. “I go out there every day and do the best I can do and push myself to my limit. There’s nothing more I can do than do my best and hope my opportunities come.”
St. John said the OSU coaching staff has yet to announce a three-deep depth chart, but he knows things will get sorted out the first day of fall camp, when incoming freshmen are added to the mix.
“I’ve been practicing at guard and tackle through the summer and working on my technique for both,” St. John said. “I’m not sure if I’m going to have a firm spot or if they’re going to move me around. I love the sport and I understand the sport. I think I have a pretty good grasp of the offense, and that makes me an asset. The coaches can say you’re going here or going here, and that makes my value go up.”
St. John, who wears number 67, said the Ohio State campus is buzzing with anticipation of what many experts predict will be a championship-caliber season for the Buckeyes. Ohio State is favored to win the Big Ten title and is a trendy pick to face Alabama in the BCS national championship game.
“We’re all excited,” St. John said. “We are coming off a 12-0 season last year and we have expectations from everybody. Today (July 24) it was a little cooler in Columbus and people are talking and tweeting like, ‘Hey, it’s football season.’ I get goosebumps thinking about it, that the season is right around the corner.”
The Buckeyes open the season Aug. 31 against Mid-American Conference foe Buffalo at noon at Ohio Stadium.
“We do team runs in the stadium, and I was in there last weekend,” St. John said. “You hear songs come on (the loudspeakers) and it brings back a lot of emotions. You think, I want to be back in that ‘Shoe. Game days here are unbelievable. It makes you want to go right now.”