Reid Carrico Trying to Prove He Deserves Role on Ohio State’s Defense After Quiet Freshman Season

By Dan Hope on May 31, 2022 at 11:35 am
Reid Carrico

Even as Ohio State’s linebacker corps struggled last season, Reid Carrico rarely saw the field as a true freshman.

While Teradja Mitchell, Tommy Eichenberg, Cody Simon and Steele Chambers all started games over the course of the year, Carrico played in only four games, with all of his snaps coming late in blowout wins. His 19 total defensive snaps were the fewest among all linebackers who played for Ohio State last season. Eleven other linebackers saw more playing time, including two walk-ons (Ryan Batsch and Cade Kacherski), two players who left the team before the end of September (Dallas Gant and K’Vaughan Pope) and even a tight end who moved to defense for just one game (Cade Stover).

Playing in only four games last season allowed Carrico to take a redshirt year, preserving his four seasons of eligibility. But now that his eligibility clock is ticking, Carrico doesn’t want to wait any longer to make an impact for the Buckeyes.

“What I've tried to kind of grasp is you're gonna make mistakes your first year or as a freshman young guy, really. And I just tried to learn from my mistakes the best as I can, make them one time and then the next time get it right,” Carrico said this spring. “Obviously I didn't really have a role (last year) besides some special teams stuff, and really that's what this whole offseason was about, this spring ball is me trying to find my niche in the defense and go make some plays.”

Carrico seemingly found that niche this spring, when he took reps with the first-team defense in practice as a Sam linebacker. He quickly made an impression on his new defensive coordinator and position coach, Jim Knowles, while lining up at that spot this spring.

“Reid has a chance. He's a quiet guy, but he's definitely determined. And I see him making progress every day,” Knowles said in March. “We put Reid in there (at Sam) today and I thought he did a great job. So I think he's got a chance to really contribute in that area.”

Carrico, who’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, believes he’s well-suited to play Sam because “I'm long, strong and I can run.”

“You got to be physical every single play,” Carrico said of playing Sam. “You got guys you’re just two or three yards from and they're coming to run through your face and you got to go run through theirs. That's pretty much the reality of the position.”

Ohio State isn’t going to have a Sam linebacker on the field on every play. Knowles’ base defense is a 4-2-5, so the Sam position will only be used in three-linebacker packages. The Buckeyes are likely to use those packages primarily against teams like Wisconsin and Iowa that frequently have more tight ends and backs on the field than wide receivers; against spread offenses, Ohio State will likely only use the Sam linebacker in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Given that, Carrico doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as only a Sam linebacker. He still took most of his reps this spring at Will, one of the two primary linebacker positions in Knowles’ defense, and strives to eventually be a starter at one of the two inside linebacker spots. A four-star recruit who was ranked as the No. 9 linebacker and No. 87 overall prospect in the 2021 class, Carrico has that potential.

That starting role likely won’t come this year with Chambers, Eichenberg, Simon and Mitchell all still on the roster and Chip Trayanum, Palaie Gaoteote, C.J. Hicks and Gabe Powers also all vying for playing time. So for now, Carrico just wants to prove he belongs in the linebacker rotation in any role.

“You just got to have some physical dudes that are willing to do a dirty job and as a redshirt freshman in my second year, I'll do any job. It doesn’t matter,” Carrico said. “Coach Knowles didn't really know anything about me when he showed up. I just tried to make it known who I was, and get my name out there. Because I think that I can help the defense, I think I can help the team win.”

With nine scholarship linebackers on the roster who could all still have a legitimate shot at earning a spot in the rotation entering preseason camp, Carrico knows he must continue to find ways to stand out among his peers if he’s going to earn more playing time this year. And he thinks his ability to multiple roles, particularly at Sam, gives him a chance to do that.

“What it all boils down to is you got to have something that sets you apart from everyone else,” Carrico said. “If you want to find a role, you got to do something to stand out. You can't have a bunch of cookie-cutters at linebacker. You got to have some diversity in what people can do. And I think that I can play the Sam role, I think I can rush off the edge or whatever it may be. Whatever this Sam thing leads to.”

“As a redshirt freshman in my second year, I'll do any job. It doesn’t matter.”– Reid Carrico on competing for a role

Carrico says he put in extra effort during offseason workouts to show he’s willing to do whatever it takes to earn his first significant playing time at Ohio State and help the Buckeyes’ defense this season.

“You got to give great effort. You got to be a good tackler. You got to put the Silver Bullets first,” Carrico said. “And then personally, when it comes to finding a niche or a role, you got to have something that sets you apart.”

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