Oct. 11, 2013
By Alex Marcheschi
OhioBobcats.com - Staff Writer
The word "freshmen" usually carries a negative connotation, especially in college. More often than not, they're usually bewildered young people in a new world and unaware of how things work.
However, that's not the case for three true freshman Bobcats on the football team. These new guys are excelling on the field, while most of the other freshmen on campus are just learning how to do their own laundry.
Offensive lineman Durrell Wood and his freshman linemen counterparts on the other side of the ball, Tarell Basham and Casey Sayles are making names for themselves.
The defensive linemen each saw significant time in the Akron game and made an impact, Basham recorded two sacks and Sayles tallied one of his own. Wood got the start at right guard against the Zips and played a very efficient game, a significant accomplishment for a freshman offensive lineman.
"It's kind of like a young quarterback stepping in; it doesn't happen a lot," said Ohio head coach Frank Solich. "You have to have the kind of makeup that Durell has - he's smart, believes in what he's doing, never questions himself and he's always shown from the very start that he was physically able to do it."
But it hasn't been easy for Wood, he's had to really work at it. College blocking schemes are complex, especially for a true freshman, but he's been able to persevere with some help.
"It's very difficult (to understand the gameplan), but having our coaches and upperclassmen is an immense help," Wood said. "I came along quickly thanks to them."
Basham and Sayles also have come along quickly, they certainly aren't built like freshman and they don't play like it either. Basham already has four sacks, and has wowed fans by occasionally dropping his 6 foot, 4 inch, 250 pound frame back into coverage.
"I know I'm a freshman, I recognize that," Basham said. "But, when I'm out on the field I don't feel like one, sometimes I feel like a fifth-year."
Confidence is a necessity for overcoming odds, and Basham has it.
"You really don't want to mess up because you don't want the seniors to see it," Sayles said with a smile.
The two are bright spots in the future of Ohio's defense. It's easy to recognize their potential, even though they still have a long way to go, but defensive lineman coach Jesse Williams says that they're potential is "unlimited," but it's a matter of getting it all together.
One would think that playing as a freshman would come with debilitating pressure, but the three have been able to zone it out and contribute. All three of them referenced their older teammates as stabilizers, but Basham specifically explained how he deals with the expectations.
"I don't play with pressure, in the game, off the field, in the classroom, there's no pressure," Basham said. "I've been playing football for 11 years; it's what I love to do, whether there are 500 people watching or 500,000 people watching."
The fact that the three were able to establish themselves in their very first taste of action in the Mid-American Conference is significant. Although their record doesn't show it, Akron was a capable opponent, as they showed in The Big House against Michigan and the freshman played well against them.
"It was a great thing, I was really excited after the game. Going in I was nervous, but the older guys stayed in my ear and just told me to do my job, to use my technique," Wood said. "We practice hard, so going in we were already ready."
Sayles echoed Wood, and expressed his happiness with how his situation has played out.
"I just wanted to play right away," he said. "Playing as soon as possible was my goal and this is great."
As far as goals go, Sayles' are coming along nicely and Wood wants to hammer down his technique. As for Basham, well, he has his eyes to the skies.
"I want to break the freshman sack record, the sack record in general is nine sacks and I already have four," Basham said.
And he's capable of it, as are the others with that type of success.
The future of Ohio football seems to be in good hands, the three have proven themselves as true freshman, and the only way to go from here is up.
Alex Marcheschi will serve as the OhioBobcats.com staff writer during the 2013-14 season. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BobcatFeatures.