COLUMBUS – Nineteen Ohio State seniors will dress for their final home game on Saturday when the Buckeyes play Illinois at Ohio Stadium.
Twelve of the 19 are familiar names, like J.T. Barrett, Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes and Billy Price.
Those 12 arrived as 4-star and 3-star recruits. They were in the spotlight from the day they committed to Ohio State. And, for the most part, they lived up to their reputations.
But seven of the seniors are walk-ons who in some cases waited until their senior seasons to get a scholarship or finished their careers without ever going on scholarship.
The longest running walk-on careers belong to cornerback Trevon Forte (Youngstown Mooney) and receiver Elijaah Goins (Concord, N.C.), who joined the team in 2013.
The others are safety Clay Raterman (Dublin Coffman), linebacker Jackson Hayes (Dublin Coffman), cornerback Cin’quan Haney (Dayton Chaminade-Julienne), tight end Zach Turnure (St. Louis) and defensive end Nick Seme (Wadsworth), who walked on this year.
Most of their playing time came on special teams or late in games that were blowouts. Some of them have never played in a game.
Seme, a 6-foot, 3-inch, 250-pound defensive lineman who played a year of football at Ashland University before enrolling at Ohio State, tried out for a walk-on spot earlier this year after seeing an advertisement.
He told The Medina Gazette being part of OSU’s team “doesn’t feel real” and said, “I was kind of star struck at first, seeing guys like Sam Hubbard, Jalyn Holmes, J.T. Barrett and the coaches.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer singled out Seme on his weekly radio show on Thursday, saying he is more valuable than some scholarship players.
Turnure has been a standout on special teams for Ohio State this season.
“He’s on scholarship now and it’s not because of a gift. He’s one of our most productive players on the team,” Meyer said during his weekly Monday press conference earlier this week. “Even when you see him not making a tackle he’s usually creating enough chaos that someone else makes it.”
Seven of the recruited seniors arrived with the star-studded 2013 recruiting class: Quarterback J.T. Barrett, defensive end Tyquan Lewis, center Billy Price, linebacker Chris Worley, defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle, defensive tackle Michael Hill and tight end Marcus Baugh.
Five were in the 2014 recruiting class: Defensive end Jalyn Holmes, offensive tackle Jamarco Jones, safety Damon Webb, safety Erick Smith, and quarterback Stephen Collier, whose career was ended by an injury.
Talking about the senior class on Monday, Meyer said, “We’re very close to this group of seniors. It’s very well documented the respect and love we have for these guys because it’s the first time we’ve had a couple of fifth-year seniors who have decided to stay throughout their journey and we’re going to treat them right. And the best way to treat them right is go win this game (against Illinois).”