COLUMBUS — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer didn’t waste any time confirming Elyria High graduate Chase Farris had won a spot in the starting lineup.
“We didn’t improve as a team … but we did individually get better,” Meyer said after the Gray team’s 17-14 win over the Scarlet team in the spring game. “Some of the names off the top — Chase Farris has earned his way, he’s now the starting right tackle for Ohio State.”
The reveal wasn’t shocking, as Farris had spent considerable time on the field at the position in a backup role during last year’s national championship season and had seen all the first-team reps this spring.
It was special.
“It’s just a blessing to be able to play for The Ohio State University and to be able to do it with those other four guys on the offensive line,” Farris told The Chronicle-Telegram. “The chemistry has already been built. Besides the time we played together in games, we spent a lot of time dealing with each other during drills in practice — and this spring even more — so it’s there for sure.”
Farris, who will be a fifth-year senior, will be the first Ohio State starter from Lorain County since Elyria Catholic’s Matt Wilhelm helped the Buckeyes win a national title in 2002. While he proved to be a solid blocker during his relief appearances in 2014, he has turned it up a notch over the past few weeks.
“He’s had a great spring, a great offseason since the national championship game,” coordinator and line coach Ed Warinner said. “The reps he’s gotten against Joey Bosa — he goes against Chase almost every down — and the reps he’s gotten against some other high-level defensive players, that’s helped him grow and boosted his confidence level.
“When you start seeing everything go right, it helps you play pretty well.”
Bosa lined up against Farris early Saturday, and was able to beat Farris around the edge for a touch sack of Cardale Jones. It sounded like it wasn’t the first time the junior defensive end had put a move on Farris.
“Joey Bosa is going to be a first-round draft pick,” Farris said. “You have to have the best practice every day when you’re facing a guy like that. He’s the toughest guy I’m going to face all year.”
After dealing with the All-American during the first two series, Farris lined up for the third and was surprised to see a familiar face — fellow Elyria High grad Tracy Sprinkle.
“That was a lot of fun,” Farris said. “I saw on Twitter that Elyria vs. Elyria thing when the rosters were announced and Tracy and I were on different teams. That was kind of funny.”
Sprinkle was able to make Farris work for his blocks, but was much more effective when he moved into the defensive tackle position. The redshirt sophomore played three of the four defensive line positions during the scrimmage.
“I got my three-technique opportunities,” Sprinkle said. “That’s where I do my best — I’m a three-technique guy, a pass rusher.”
A three-technique defensive lineman usually lines up on the outside shoulder of the guard, and the Gray squad was aware of Sprinkle’s pass-rushing abilities as they double-teamed him nearly every play.
Despite having to fight through multiple bodies, Sprinkle managed to get his hands on Jones on several occasions, including midway through the second quarter when Jones was sacked. Despite Sprinkle getting to Jones first, Donovan Munger was credited with the sack.
“I got to him a few times, but I wasn’t allowed to hit him,” Sprinkle said with a laugh. “I’ll just leave it at that. They might not have shown up on the stat sheet.”
The chance to go against Farris, the sack and playing for the bulk of three quarters made for a great day for Sprinkle, who was celebrating his 20th birthday.
He knows it’s all part of the process that Buckeyes players have to go through to earn time on the field.
“(Farris) is a gifted guy and he had to wait his turn. Now he’s getting the rewards of all that work he’s put in throughout the years,” Sprinkle said. “(The process) can be frustrating. But I have great guys around me and I’m surrounded by great coaches, and they’re all pushing me to be better. I can feel myself getting closer to being in the rotation, and when you have those guys and those coaches all telling you that you’re close, it’s a lot of motivation.”
Farris is also motivated and doesn’t expect to rest now that he’s cracked the starting lineup. He knows he has some tough months ahead of him before the season.
“This summer is going to be like any other summer — it’s going to be a grind,” he said. “We won the national championship and now we’re going to have to push the envelope even harder. Everyone is going to give us 100 percent, so we need to be ready to give it right back.”