Ohio State freshman Jalin Marshall is making the transition from quarterback to receiver. And his progress was slowed during preseason camp when he missed a handful of practices because of concussion-like symptoms.
But OSU receivers coach Zach Smith sees the former Middletown star as a potential impact player this year. Marshall may be raw, but he has a sturdy frame, top-tier athletic ability and a high football IQ from all those years of running the show.
“Personally, I love quarterbacks that switch to receiver because you’re getting some intangible qualities as the leader of his offense in high school,” Smith said. “He was the guy taking the ball every snap. His high school coach said, ‘This is my best player. I want him to touch it every play.’
“There are some rough fundamental issues. They haven’t been in a stance or caught a slant route their whole career. But the intangible value of a kid like Jalin Marshall far outweighs the deficiencies of getting into a receiver stance. That’s my job. I’ll get him in a stance. He’ll know how to run a slant route.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound Marshall was considered the No. 1 recruit in Ohio. He finished as the top career rusher in Middletown history with 4,759 yards and also was a state champion in the long jump.
He played receiver in the Under Armour All-American game and caught a 44-yard TD pass. And he believes his QB experience is paying off at his new position.
“We understand coverages and stuff like that,” he said, “and we understand what we need to do to get open.
“Once I learn everything and learn what I need to do and get better, I can help others around me.”
Smith doesn’t think Marshall will need much time to become an asset on offense.
“He’s a smart kid, a really smart kid,” he said.
Smith added: “It’s new to him, and he’s making strides. He’s shown flashes where you say, ‘Wow, he’s going to be a good player.’ But it’s a matter of how soon can we get those flashes to become a consistent light?”
Another former Middie making a push for playing time is defensive lineman Rashad Frazier, who’s been one of the biggest surprises in preseason camp.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound sophomore didn’t play football until his senior year at Middletown. He signed with Purdue but stayed only one year, deciding to become a walk-on at OSU.
He sat out last season as a transfer, but has impressed the coaches so much that he’s been awarded a scholarship. He’s in the rotation on the front four where OSU hopes to have as many as eight players in the mix.
“He goes hard. He plays hard. He knows what to do. We’re glad he’s here,” defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said. “It’s been refreshing. He’s had a long road starting out at Purdue, leaving that program, walking on here, earning a scholarship — literally EARNING a scholarship at Ohio State.
“He’s got his grades in order. He’s got his stuff outside of football in order. And he practices hard every day. I would imagine he would be in there (as a part-time player).”
In just one season with the Middies, Frazier picked up scholarship offers from Purdue, Michigan State, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
“He’s just really learning the game,” OSU co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “He’s a Middletown, Ohio, kid who has a lot of upside. He goes really, really hard. I think with his potential, we’re just scratching the surface.”
Defense praised: The Buckeyes return only one starter among their front seven, All-Big Ten linebacker Ryan Shazier. But there’s no panic among the coaches because most of the players they’re counting on have been in the system for at least two years.
“Defensively, we have more speed,” Fickell said. “There’s more confidence. When guys know what they’re doing, their ability to play fast is obvious.
“The reality is the game is won up front, whether that’s the offensive line or defensive line, and I like the makings of what we’ve got.”
Gotcha: Quarterback Braxton Miller showed how far he’s come in reading defenses during a scrimmage situation. He noticed safety Vonn Bell leaning toward the line of scrimmage and foiled a blitz by checking to another play.
Miller’s mind last year probably would have been too cluttered to pick up that subtle signal.
“Before the play starts, I know where the defensive guys are going to be,” he said. “It’s crazy because Vonn Bell just brought that up (this week). He said, ‘How did you know I was blitzing?’ I go, ‘It was your body posture, man.’ I’m getting better at things like that.”