Chip Trayanum Earning Second-Team Reps in First Year At Linebacker: “Chip is Probably One of the Most Athletic People I've Seen Come Through This Facility”

By Griffin Strom on August 13, 2022 at 8:35 am
Chip Trayanum

Ohio State is not short on mouths to feed at linebacker.

Four players started in the Buckeyes’ two inside linebacker positions last season, and even though those two spots appear to be locked up by Tommy Eichenberg and Steele Chambers ahead of this season, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty more credentialed candidates searching for significant roles of their own.

Freshmen aside, one of the most promising players vying for opportunities has the least college linebacker experience of the bunch.

So far, that doesn’t seem to be much of an impediment for Chip Trayanum. The Arizona State running back transfer became the first Buckeye to shed his black stripe during preseason camp this week, and after seven months in Columbus, Trayanum’s athletic profile has wowed even his most tenured stablemates.

“To be honest, man, Chip is probably one of the most athletic people I've seen come through this facility, already being here in the offseason,” fifth-year linebacker Teradja Mitchell said Monday after preseason practice. “He's fast, he's strong, I'm excited to see him play. I feel like he's made a great transition over from running back to linebacker. And like I said, I'm excited to see him play.”

Judging by the input from his Buckeye teammates, fast and strong may be underselling it. During interviews this week, a group of Mitchell, Eichenberg, Chambers, Cody Simon and Palaie Gaoteote unanimously agreed Trayanum is the fastest player in Jim Knowles’ linebacker room. That notion seems to be more than conjecture, as Chambers said Trayanum’s speed tracked as fast as 24 miles per hour when put to the test this offseason.

“I don't know why he does it, how he does it,” Chambers said.

The praise didn’t stop there, as each of those Buckeyes also mentioned Trayanum when asked to name the strongest Ohio State linebackers. Although he played running back during his first two seasons of college football, Trayanum “already looked like a linebacker” upon arriving on campus, Mitchell said. After an offseason with Mickey Marotti and the Ohio State strength staff, Traynaum “looks crazy” and is “jacked up, for sure,” Mitchell said.

Traynaum’s given first name is DeaMonte, but his feats in the weight room earned the Akron native another new moniker from one of his teammates this week.

“He's Hercules, man,” Chambers said.

Putting up impressive numbers off the field is all well and good, but it won’t mean much to Trayanum if he doesn’t earn a consistent spot in Knowles’ linebacker room sooner or later. Fortunately for Trayanum, his strength and conditioning work already appears to be translating to the practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

When Ohio State opened up a full practice for members of the media to view on Thursday, Trayanum was the Buckeyes’ second-team Will linebacker. Trayanum even saw reps ahead of Simon, who started 10 games for Ohio State last season. Simon may still be getting up to speed after recovering from shoulder surgery in December, but Trayanum’s current positioning on the depth chart is a positive indicator nonetheless.

“Man, Chip is a beast. I don't know if you guys know this, but Chip is a beast,” Gaoteote said. “He's strong, fast, smart. I mean, he could play running back if he wanted to. But just seeing him get his black stripe off means a lot. I've been real close to him ever since he came, especially from him coming from the Pac-12. We have a real good bond and seeing that, I'm happy for him.”

A standout linebacker in high school, the learning curve of returning to the position at the highest level of college football – and in a complex Knowles scheme, no less – is likely the largest obstacle standing between Trayanum and more time on the field.

“First year back at linebacker and he's doing a phenomenal job. He’s a dependable dude, accountable, and he's gonna make the play when his number's called.”– Tommy Eichenberg on Chip Trayanum

But it’s not as if Trayanum doesn’t have a model to follow in switching from running back to linebacker. Chambers worked his way into the starting lineup by the end of the 2021 season after making the move from offense just last preseason. His success only imbues Ryan Day and company with more confidence in Trayanum’s ability to pull off something similar.

“You want really good athletes at the linebacker position, so most really good linebackers in high school play running back for their high school team. And those are two guys that did that,” Day said Thursday. “You can see that Steele had an impact last year. I still kind of had to do it because we were a little light linebacker and it was kind of a need. I think this one with Chip, I mean he certainly has all the skills, works really hard, guys on the team respect him, plays hard.

"He's tough, he has all the skills. So it's just getting more and more reps and playing. As soon as we feel like he's ready, he'll play.”

From what Simon saw from Chambers last season, he said there’s “always a little grace period” when making such a switch, but Trayanum has “picked it up really well” thus far. His preparation and level of fitness is aiding him further, as Simon said Trayanum entered the Buckeye program “physically ready at any position he wanted to play.”

However long that grace period lasts, Trayanum appears to be positioning himself for a bright future in the middle of the Buckeye defense. With three years of eligibility remaining, he has plenty of time to round out his skill set as a linebacker.

“He's a grinder. He works hard every single day. First year back at linebacker and he's doing a phenomenal job,” Eichenberg said. “He's a dependable dude, accountable, and he's gonna make the play when his number's called.”

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