Gavin Cupp has a chance to earn significant playing time this season for the first time in his Ohio State career.
After arriving at Ohio State as a three-star recruit out of Leipsic, Ohio, in 2016, Cupp didn’t play a single snap in his first two seasons as a Buckeye. He finally saw his first collegiate playing time this past season, but most of that came on special teams, as he played on offense in just two games – blowout wins over Rutgers and Tulane – for 47 total snaps.
Now a redshirt junior entering his fourth season at Ohio State, Cupp is finally getting his chance to compete for a starting spot. With a lack of veterans on the interior offensive line following the departures of starters Malcolm Pridgeon, Michael Jordan and Demetrius Knox from last season, Cupp has been lining up with the first-team offensive line at left guard all spring.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day says that’s an opportunity Cupp has earned through hard work.
“He put in a great offseason with Mick, and so he’s kind of thrust into that role, and he’s a guy who’s been around for awhile and paid his dues,” Day said. “He’s a tough guy, and he’s kind of a workmanlike attitude every day. So he’s getting better. And the more reps he gets, the better he’ll be as well.”
Cupp has had to pay his dues, battling through injuries and doing the grunt work in practice only to watch from the sideline on Saturdays, to get to this point.
He feels like that’s all worth it now that he has the opportunity to potentially play a significant role, even though he hasn’t nearly locked up a starting job.
“It means the world to me,” Cupp said while meeting with the media this week. “Growing up in Ohio, just loving this place ever since I can remember, it’s really just a dream come true right now to get an opportunity like this. But with that opportunity comes a lot of responsibility. I really don’t have anything right now. It’s the middle of the spring. We don’t kick off for another couple months. So I still have to do a lot in order to maintain my position right now.”
With Jonah Jackson set to arrive this summer as a graduate transfer from Rutgers, Cupp still faces an uphill climb to earning a starting job this fall. With Josh Myers expected to start at center and Wyatt Davis expected to start at right guard, Jackson will likely get an immediate shot to compete to start at left guard, where Jordan was slated to start if he stayed at Ohio State for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft.
Cupp said he isn’t worrying about that potential competition yet, though. Instead, he’s focusing on getting better every day and trying to put his best foot forward with the opportunity he has right now.
“Just trying to improve in all areas this spring,” Cupp said. “There’s a lot of time till we kick off that ball. And a lot of things can happen. But I’m just trying to improve as much as I can and be the best me that I can going into summer camp.”
Cupp’s career at Ohio State has been very different thus far to that of Jordan, also a member of the 2016 recruiting class, who immediately earned a spot in the lineup as a true freshman and started every game of his three-year Buckeye career. Given the lack of playing time that Cupp has seen so far, there’s been reason to question whether he will ever play a key role on Ohio State’s offensive line, which remains far from guaranteed.
Nonetheless, Cupp is grateful that he’s had the opportunity to be a part of the Ohio State football program, and he recognizes that not every player can see significant playing time right away.
“Everybody’s got their different stories,” Cupp said. “Mine is just different. And that’s nothing wrong with it, nothing bad with that. Just got to keep your head down and grind, like I’m trying to do.”
“It means the world to me. Growing up in Ohio, just loving this place ever since I can remember, it’s really just a dream come true right now to get an opportunity like this. But with that opportunity comes a lot of responsibility.”– Gavin Cupp on finally getting the chance to compete for a starting job
Cupp also doesn’t necessarily think his career at Ohio State has been tougher than anyone else’s even though he hasn’t seen the field much.
“Everyone’s career is hard here,” Cupp said. “No matter if you start day one, or you keep pushing through. My career has just been coming to work every day and just keep your head down, keep working until you get an opportunity like I’m presented right now.”
Cupp believes he has improved significantly since he arrived at Ohio State three years ago, and so does offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. Specifically, Studrawa has seen Cupp become a more confident player with a better understanding of the game.
“He’s always been a strong kid, but now he’s gaining confidence in his ability to go block those guys,” Studrawa said. “To be able to go out there against the first string and say ‘OK, I’m as good as these guys, I can go get this done.’ And the second thing he’s really made strides in, he was a guy that was never confident in assignments either, the mental aspect of the game. Now he is. He knows it now, it’s been enough time, he can react now and go play and not worry about making mistakes.”
It’s helped a lot, Cupp said, that he’s had the opportunity to go up against Ohio State’s talented defensive linemen while also learning from the Buckeyes’ veteran offensive linemen over the past three years.
“You got the defense you’re improving on, but then you also got the guys in the O-line room who are just helping you tremendously,” Cupp said. “Jamarco (Jones) and Billy (Price), Malcolm and Meech and I can go on and on and on. Just having the group around you that helps you is just unbelievable.”
Cupp acknowledges that he’s not a perfect player, and he says there are “still a lot of things” he has to fix and work on in his game. But as he said multiple times in his interview session on Monday, Cupp’s mantra is to keep his head down and work, focusing on the daily grind while never allowing himself to get too high or too low on himself.
“I’m really just a guy who gives it his all,” Cupp said. “It’s not going to be right all the time. I’m going to have some mistakes. But I’m going to give it my all.”