In the age of the transfer portal and NIL freedom, “patience” is often treated as a four-letter word by college athletes.
For some, being asked to wait a few years is a slap in the face. It’s an insult and a complete 180 from what they thought were told in recruiting.
In other words, it’s reality.
Any team that has ever won anything has done it with players who were patient and prepared every day so that they would be ready when their times came.
And when it comes to the offensive line, patience is more than a virtue, it’s a necessity.
When the Buckeyes take the field on Saturday against Arkansas State, their offensive line may reflect that patience. Starting center Luke Wypler is nursing a lower leg injury and his status is cloudy for this weekend. If he can’t go, it is expected that fifth-year senior right guard Matt Jones would slide over and handle the snapping duties.
Stepping in for Jones at right guard then would be fourth-year junior Enokk Vimahi.
Together, the two of them have combined to play in 43 career games as reserves for the Buckeyes. Jones has six career starts under his belt, but is a full-time starter now. Vimahi is one of the Buckeyes’ top reserves on the offensive line. Having the both of them stick around for as long as they have despite their lack of starting jobs prior to this year is huge for the OSU offensive line.
It has also become rarer and rarer. Which is why Ohio State head coach Ryan Day tries to identify those kinds of players in recruiting.
“It’s harder and harder every year,” Day said on Thursday. “But you have to recruit great people who want to focus on development. If the number one thing is NIL and everything else, then those types of situations don’t happen.
“I think when you look at our guys, they love being Buckeyes. They love being part of the team, they love what it means to live in Columbus and be part of our team. And with that, when you make it, the rewards are endless. And you’re seeing that with a couple of guys who put some good hard work in.”
Jones played in every game last year, starting twice due to injury, earning an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten nod for his efforts. Last week against Notre Dame, Jones played with a fever and eventually left the game late. Vimahi stepped in for him and was equally effective. Both guys used their respective time on the sidelines over the years to be ready when they were called upon.
Just like a number of other fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-year Buckeyes, they have remained productive while putting all of that patience to good use. The crazy thing is that it doesn’t have to end this season.
“Having the COVID year is an extra bonus for us,” Day said. “Being able to have some of these guys here for an extra year is going to be really important. There’s an opportunity for some of those guys to come back for another year or two, which is amazing. And that’s very unique. We’ll have guys that are maybe 22, 23 years old, who will still maybe have another year left, which is very, very exciting for us.
“Maybe some of those guys would have moved on to the NFL, where they get to come back for another year because there’s so many advantages to being part of this program, being a Buckeye. And I know that these guys love it, and they enjoy it. Because once you leave, it’s over. I mean, you’re always a Buckeye, but you’re moving on to the next phase of your life.”
Those who remain patient and put in the time also build a pride and love of the program that is difficult to quantify, but every coach knows it when they see it.
The Buckeyes have more than a few of those types, including two guys on Saturday in Matt Jones and Enokk Vimahi who will be ready to keep this train rolling.
“It’s very important to have those guys in the program and it’s becoming more difficult, like you’re saying,” Day said. “But hats off to those guys for sticking it out. And now they’re getting to see all the sacrifices they’ve made pay off.”