Robert Landers has been one of the most disruptive forces on the Ohio State defense for years, it's just been difficult to notice.
That's what happens when you spend your career playing alongside superstars like Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Dre'Mont Jones, Nick Bosa and Chase Young.
With all those players in (or destined to be in) the NFL now, it's difficult to stand out or grab the headlines. But Landers' play is worthy of both, and he'll have the opportunity to showcase that this fall.
And that's not just because Ohio State is short on talented defensive linemen. Young is one of the Buckeyes' preseason All-Americans and should wreak havoc from the edge all season. Jonathan Cooper and incoming 5-star defensive end Zach Harrison will bring the heat from the other side. A steady rotation of interior linemen like Jashon Cornell, Taron Vincent and Davon Hamilton should keep the big guys fresh.
Ohio State's defensive line is arguably the deepest unit on the team, but that shouldn't stop Landers from grabbing his share of the spotlight.
It's easy to understand why he's been so overlooked, and it's not just because of the superstars around him.
As part of Ohio State's 2015 recruiting class, Landers was rated a 3-star recruit and the No. 481 overall prospect nationally. There were 27 defensive tackles and 25 Ohioans rated higher than him during that cycle, and his offer sheet was highlighted by more MAC teams than other Division I programs.
But then-head coach Urban Meyer and the defensive staff liked what they say from the undersized linemen and offered him a scholarship.
After redshirting his first season with the team, he became an integral part of the rotation on Ohio State's 2016 playoff team. He climbed the depth chart thanks to his absurdly fast first-step and ability to disrupt from the interior.
None of his season or career statistics are eye-popping. He registered a career-best 25 total tackles last year, adding to the 26 total tackles he notched from 2016-17. But his impact reaches far beyond the stats he puts up on the weekly box score.
It's not the speed of Landers' first step that's so impressive as much as it is the timing. Most plays it feels like he knows the other team's snap count, initiating his move at the exact moment the opposing center snaps the ball.
That type of disruption creates huge lanes and opportunities for his teammates.
Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson knows how much value Landers provides the unit, via Tony Gerdeman of The Ozone.
"He gives you no problems. He brings great energy. He’s got great leadership skills. He cares for the game, but he’s also a guy that can keep it light for the guys. When he speaks, the guys listen to him. The most important thing is that he’s a guy that does it by example. He’s worked extremely hard to be where he’s at. I say all the time that he’s gravity challenged, but he’s really athletic and he plays hard. He makes a difference for us."
That difference should be much more noticeable this fall.