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Ohio State early enrollees already impressing strength coach Mickey Marotti

The incoming Buckeye freshman are eager to improve

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“They came mentally ready for what’s coming,” Marotti said Wednesday. “They came focused. They’re into it. It’s a really good group. We just had a meeting, and everybody in our department talked about how well the freshmen were doing taking care of their business.”

- Mickey Marotti via Bill Rabinowitz,

There’s a huge jump from high school to college football, even if you are one of the best athletes in the country. The Buckeyes are fortunate to enough to have some of those top tier players coming to town, and 14 of them have already enrolled at Ohio State. Mickey Marotti has been the strength and conditioning coach in Columbus for quite some time, and although it is super early for him to make any definitive judgments about the new crop of guys, their first few weeks of winter conditioning work have made quite the good impression.

During this part of the offseason, with head coach Ryan Day and a bunch of the other assistant coaches on the road hitting the recruiting trail, Marotti is likely the man on staff with the most daily interaction with the players. He just recently held his annual team meeting, one he describes his personal Academy Awards in terms of importance, which he uses to reset the team from last season and set the course for the next one.

Marotti was super impressed by how the freshmen handled the meeting. Mapping out the next seven to eight weeks for each player to enhance and improve, he says that usually freshmen are intimidated by such a hard regimen. This group of guys, however, were different, and a couple of the highly rated players seemed especially eager to get to work.

“We had a couple guys right away — (receivers) Julian Fleming and Gee Scott — say, ‘That was the best meeting ever! I can’t wait.’” Marotti said.

Fleming, a five-star receiver and the No. 3 player in 247Sports’ Composite, and Scott, the No. 10 wide receiver in the class, are two players in a four-man WR class that is just bursting with talent. It’s a great sign to see that these highly skilled guys aren’t just resting on their natural talents, and are instead ready to get to work to help the team however they can.

Marotti, who appreciates the enthusiasm, says he will see how long that enthusiasm lasts when winter conditioning ramps up in mid-February.

The XFL is getting ready to kickoff the weekend after the Super Bowl, and teams have begun to announce their official rosters. If Ohio State fans are looking for a team to root for, they should likely look no further than the DC Defenders, who have a trio of former Buckeyes on their official 52-man roster.

The biggest name on the list is quarterback Cardale Jones. After winning a National Championship with Ohio State as a third string QB, Jones would stick around for another collegiate season. It was a tough year bouncing back and forth for the starting job with J.T. Barrett, and Jones was ultimately selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. He was traded to the Chargers the following year and later had a brief stint with the Seahawks as his NFL career never really panned out.

Cornerback Doran Grant also made the cut. Grant was a big part of that very same National Championship defense on the other side of the ball from Jones, and was taken by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Grant never really got to see the field, bouncing between practice squads and active rosters for multiple teams and most recently playing in the only season of the now-defunct Allegiance of American Football for the Atlanta Legends.

Defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle is also on the roster. Last playing for Ohio State in 2017, Sprinkle went undrafted out of college. He was signed to the practice squad by the Carolina Panthers, spending some time with both them and the Cleveland Browns.

The Defenders will play in the XFL’s season-opener, taking place on Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ABC.

On Monday the NCAA announced that Columbus has been named one of four finalists to host the Women’s Final Four in either 2025 or 2026. The city will have until April 13 to submit a final bid. Tampa, Phoenix, and Portland are the other three cities in consideration t host the event.

In the 2018 postseason, all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four for only the fourth time in the 37-year history of the tournament. Notre Dame defeated UCONN and Mississippi State defeated Louisville in the Semifinals, and it was the Fighting Irish that came away victorious 61-58 in the National Championship game.

According to the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, the 2018 event brought in millions of dollars in spending around Columbus.

The entire sports world mourned the loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday afternoon. People across the globe were shook by the stunning news of the death of a legendary inspirational icon that extended beyond basketball, and his 13-year-old daughter who looked primed to be the future face of the WNBA.

Bryant’s impact on people across all sports and walks of life was well known, and many of Ohio State’s football and basketball players took to Twitter to voice their sorrows about the man whom a ton of today’s athletes grew up idolizing.

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