When Curtis Samuel's name was called during a spring scrimmage in April, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer gave him one simple instruction.
"Just go," Meyer told the freshman running back, according to Ari Wasserman of Northeast Ohio Media Group. "Just get the ball and go.”
Moments later, Samuel broke through the line and darted past the defense for a 50-yard touchdown.
It was that playmaking ability that caught Meyer's attention during spring practice. Over the summer, Samuel earned the respect of upperclassmen on the team with his work ethic and maturity.
Speaking at Big Ten media days, star defensive tackle Michael Bennett raved about the young ball-carrier.
"Curtis Samuel has a lot of maturity for his age," Bennett said, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group's Doug Lesmerises. "He likes to work and he's gotten a lot better and a lot bigger. I remember he's got a different mentality that you don't see freshmen usually have."
On the set of ESPN's Mike & Mike show a few days later, Meyer revealed his excitement for the freshman running back.
"This guy named Curtis Samuel, a kid out of Brooklyn, New York, a true freshman who came in the spring. He really stole my heart," Meyer said. "He does everything right. He's a gifted athlete, kind of a freak athlete.
"This kid's a stud."
That assessment was just as true last year, when Samuel was rated a 4-star all-purpose back and the No. 59 overall recruit in the country. He had earned offers from programs such as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame and USC, but the opportunity to play in Meyer's spread offense was too good to pass up..
Samuel's hype train started crawling this spring, but as the 2014 season nears, it's gaining speed. And unlike some freshmen before him, Samuel is in great position to live up to the preseason hype.
That's because the Buckeyes have an actual need for his services.
Dontre Wilson generated more preseason excitement last year than any freshman since Terrelle Pryor, but with Corey Brown at receiver and Carlos Hyde in the backfield, his opportunities were limited.
Both Brown and Hyde have graduated, creating a big need for playmakers. Wilson is in line to replace Brown in the slot, and Ezekiel Elliott is the front-runner to fill in for Hyde, but Samuel has surged past a number of talented players in a deep stable of running backs.
By the end of spring practice, Samuel was slotted as the No. 2 back behind Elliott, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors.
“We have some depth there, but right now 15 (Elliott) and 4 (Samuel) are the two,” Meyer said.
That momentum carried over throughout the summer and into the first week of fall camp.
As part of the Big Ten Network's football tour, Tom Dienhart was in Columbus on Wednesday to catch a firsthand glimpse of the Buckeyes. He was impressed with the blazer.
"The guy is pure, unadulterated speed at running back."
But it's not just his speed that's standing out.
According to Lesmerises, Bennett told a story highlighting Samuel's toughness. During spring practice, Samuel got his bell rung by senior defensive end Steve Miller on a simple inside run. The very next play, Samuel came right back and "just knocked someone else out cold."
It's rare for a freshman to have that kind of attitude, but Samuel is a speedy playmaker who is showing the ability to lower his shoulder and deliver a blow with the big boys.
Since arriving in Columbus in January, Samuel has done everything right.
"That's why I enrolled early," Samuel said, via Lesmerises. "I wanted to get a head start so I was more ready to be a contributor in the fall."
If he stays on the same track, he'll have a big impact on the field this season.