Dallas Gant preferred not to get into the details of what happened. He declined to divulge the specifics of what he’s dealing with.
Yet he did say he will miss the entirety of Ohio State’s already-underway spring practices with a foot injury that has him walking gingerly. The senior linebacker says he’ll get back to working out at some point in the summer with a “full recovery” expected well before the season kicks off.
Llinebackers coach Al Washington said Gant missed time in the offseason due to injury last year, too. At that point, though, the Buckeyes viewed him as a backup with Tuf Borland and Pete Werner taking the vast majority of snaps at the two inside linebacker spots. Now that Borland and Werner are gone, this spring was an opportunity for Gant to cement himself as a starter at middle linebacker, where he says he expects to play.
Instead, this foot injury will hold him out of practices until preseason camp gets underway in a few months.
“Everybody, I don't care if you're the best of the best, you need reps. You need to participate. It's not good that he's not able to,” Washington said. “I wouldn't put it in the good category. I do think he could have benefited from having had these practices, just like he would have benefited from spring ball last year and preseason camp. But in the same breath, there's still ways to get better mentally and visualizing what you're doing and understanding what we're asking guys to do at a deeper level, leading. There's other things you can do to help.
“You wish Dallas would've had an opportunity, for sure. But I don't think it's damaging. It's just something you have to overcome and you have to find a way despite that.”
This hurdle is just the latest for Gant, who has bided his time in Columbus awaiting an opportunity like the one now in front of him.
Quietly, he has been ready for a big-time role for a while. Initially, he played eight defensive snaps as a true freshman in 2018, avoiding a redshirt to indicate the coaches’ belief in his readiness after coming in as the No. 166 overall recruit out of Toledo in the 2018 class. The next season, he jumped up to 118 defensive snaps – the most among the Gant-Teradja Mitchell-K'Vaughan Pope trio – as a backup in the middle. That year, he recorded 21 tackles, including 1.5 sacks. Seemingly ready to start, he sat behind Werner and Borland once more as a junior in 2020, tallying 17 tackles as the primary backup at Mike.
The waiting process, Gant admits, hasn’t always been easy for him or the others in his class.
“It's frustrating at times, but you're playing behind great players, Buckeye greats that will be remembered forever that really set the tone for us,” Gant said. “That really kind of guided the way for us. Now we know how to act, how to do things. It's a mindset that it's our time now to prove ourselves as that linebacker core and that there won't be a drop-off between those older guys that have played the last three, four years. It's our time to take over now. We're just going through spring, trying to get better and take over that void.”
The ideal spring for Gant would have been to get used to playing alongside Mitchell on the first-team defense. Sure, Washington and his two senior linebackers were careful not to spill anything about how the depth chart looks. But after waiting their turns and serving as second-team inside linebackers a year ago, they’re viewed as the favorites to man the middle and weakside positions.
No spring for Gant means he’ll just be watching Mitchell and everybody else from the sideline as he progresses through the rehabilitation process.
“Just watching film, watching practice, trying to help the guys with what I see,” Gant said. “Watching specific guys, I'm helping the younger guys specifically, like Reid (Carrico) and Tommy (Eichenberg) – all the younger guys basically. Watching film, trying to help them with what I know. Helping them perform in practice and stuff. Really just film and doing what I can.”
It’s not what he wants to do. But he’ll try to make the most of it before taking the field in August to attempt to become the starting middle linebacker.
“Obviously it's hard,” Gant said. “Spring is a time to develop your skillset, stuff like that. Things happen. You've just got to find a different way. If it means watching more film, different types of lifting, focusing on things that I can focus on, stuff like that. Developing the way that I can even though I can't practice with my teammates and all that. It's tough not being able to practice, but being back by summer and stuff like that, I'll be able to develop myself pretty well. It'll just be closer to the season in that aspect.”