While Pete Werner wasn’t one of the more highly touted members of Ohio State’s 2017 recruiting class, he’s seemingly impressed Ohio State coach Urban Meyer as much as anyone in that class since he arrived on campus last summer.
Dating back to last season and continuing this spring, Werner’s name has been one of the first out of Meyer’s mouth on several occasions when Meyer has been asked about the players from the class of 2017 – or even on Ohio State’s entire team in general – who have impressed him with their development and performance.
As a true freshman, Werner was lauded for his play on special teams, as he became a regular on the Buckeyes’ kickoff, kickoff return and punt block/return units.
"One of the most improved players on our team the last couple of weeks," Meyer said of Werner last October. "Buy stock in that guy for his career. He's got some good stuff going right now."
Since then, Werner has only continued to improve his standing in Meyer’s eyes, as Meyer named Werner in a press conference earlier this week as one of several players who have made big leaps in their development from last season to this spring.
How has Werner made such a positive impression on Meyer in less than a year on campus? Werner attributes that to giving consistent effort.
"Coach Meyer mentions going hard a lot and excelling at going hard at your full potential," Werner said. "The one thing that I’ve been taught at a young age – from my high school, my parents – is always go hard. And I think he recognizes that.
"Mistakes can be changed, you can learn from that, but going hard takes a little bit longer. So I think going hard is just something that he really likes."
Although Werner didn’t see much playing time on defense last season, playing only 37 snaps at linebacker, he says he loved having the opportunity to play on special teams as a true freshman – and expects to be a regular in that phase of the game again this season.
"Special teams definitely helps me out … it’s a good start to something bigger," Werner said. "So I’ll still play all special teams, I’ll still excel on that is the plan, and then get reps at linebacker. But it helped me a bunch. And it’s crazy how special teams, and working with that, can help you excel in the linebacker position, too."
“The one thing that I’ve been taught at a young age – from my high school, my parents – is always go hard. And I think he recognizes that.” – Pete Werner, on how he has impressed Urban Meyer
That said, the impression Werner has made already in his Buckeye career could lead to more substantial playing time at linebacker this season. While Malik Harrison and Keandre Jones are the frontrunners to start at outside linebacker as of now, Werner is competing with both of them this spring, and linebackers coach Bill Davis said earlier this week that he does expect the Buckeyes to play more than three linebackers regularly between their various defensive packages.
Werner has seen time at both outside linebacker positions this spring – starting the spring primarily as the second-team strongside linebacker, but now primarily lining up as the second-team weakside linebacker – and says he is enjoying the opportunity to compete with Jones, Harrison and the rest of the Buckeyes’ linebackers.
"It’s very competitive right now," Werner said. "With the linebacker group, we’re all one strong, it’s a great group of guys that are very competitive and we’re all fighting super hard. So we’ll see how it ends out."
While the product of Indianapolis' Cathedral High School (where Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin also played) now has a season of collegiate playing experience under his belt, this spring has been his first spring at Ohio State, which he says has continued to be a learning experience, though he is starting to feel increasingly more comfortable.
"Going through winter workouts and spring, it’s been a huge adjustment, having a lot of reps, a lot of hitting," Werner said. "Progression is going well so far, and just getting adjusted to everything. I’m to the point right now where everything should be all right, so progression-wise, I’m doing pretty well."
Even as Werner is becoming comfortable within Ohio State’s defense, though, he’s making sure to never stop abiding by the mentality he’s been taught.
"All I’ve been taught is going hard, so I’m trying to exceed and push to my full potential," Werner said. "So trying to progress and learn everything right now, especially in spring where there’s a lot of hitting, and I know that we have a few practices left and I got to go as hard as I can right there. So I got to just make strides."