Throughout his first year at Ohio State, Caden Curry bulked up from 245 pounds to 260 pounds. Learning to play with those extra 15 pounds was an adjustment for the 6-foot-3 Buckeye defensive end.
Curry didn’t feel like he could play as fast last season compared to when he was lighter. Getting that speed back is a big point of emphasis for Curry entering his sophomore season.
“Definitely getting my weight up, I lost some speed. So just trying to get that back,” Curry said this spring when asked what he is working on this offseason. “Just trying to get myself better and trying to get myself back to playing like I was when I was that skinny.”
As is often the case for Ohio State defensive ends coming out of high school, Curry was instructed to get bigger upon starting his career with the Buckeyes to better equip him to hold up physically against the 300-plus-pound offensive tackles he will routinely face in the Big Ten.
That might have slowed Curry’s progress as a freshman, but he said he was already starting to feel “a lot looser and faster” this spring and is confident he will get used to playing at a heavier weight.
“It's definitely different, heaviest I've ever been. But I feel like it's not gonna be that hard,” Curry said. “It's not like I have to work on it every day, like all day every day, but I feel like it'll come naturally once I just keep working and getting better.”
Despite feeling like he wasn’t playing as fast as he should be, Curry was impressive in limited playing time as a freshman. In just 78 total snaps as a third-string defensive end, Curry flashed the ability to be a disruptive playmaker off the edge, recording 14 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss and a half-sack.
“I thought every time he went in a game, he made a play,” Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson said. “I always said about Caden, you watch him play in high school, he just made plays, man. Somehow he found the football. And when you put him in the game and in the last half of the game, 'Caden Curry, Caden Curry.' That's what he is. And that's what we're looking for. He plays hard, and that's what I love about him.”
Some of Curry’s tackles came on special teams, where he had the rare distinction of playing on kickoff coverage as a defensive end, showing plenty of ability to run down the field even at his heavier weight. Curry expects his experience on special teams, where he played the third-most snaps of any Buckeye in 2022, to pay dividends as he steps into a more prominent role in Ohio State’s defensive end rotation this year.
“Just getting to the ball, getting off blocks, keeping people away from the ball, that kind of all just pitches in a little bit here and there and you kind of just feed off of every little thing and it kind of just makes you better as a player,” Curry said of how his special teams experience will help him. “Just seeing how everything moves so fast and just kind of reading it all at once makes you a better player all around.”
Johnson has spoken highly of Curry this offseason, saying he thinks Curry has “a good chance to be a factor for us now as he settles in going into the second year.” Curry spent the spring repping primarily as a second-team defensive end while mixing in with the ones as he is in line to be one of the top backup defensive ends, along with fellow second-year Kenyatta Jackson, behind juniors JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer.
Ryan Day also praised Curry frequently as a freshman, particularly early in the season, describing him last September as a player who had “been productive since he's got here.” This spring, however, Day said he felt Curry’s performance declined over the course of his freshman year, giving Curry something to prove to his head coach as a sophomore.
“I thought he came in last preseason and the first quarter of the season and really made plays. Just a tremendous football player. But quite honestly, kind of leveled off a little bit as the season went on,” Day said on the first day of spring practice. “We talked about that. Coach J talked to him about that. And then he's really picked it up this offseason.
“He's got to reestablish himself in that area because he does have the ability. He's got a high motor, makes plays, football player. He's done a good job with his body. And now into year two, he's going to really make a push here.”
Curry felt like his weight gain had something to do with not finishing the year as strong as he started it. But Johnson said the biggest reason why Curry’s playing time decreased as the year went on was simply that the Buckeyes relied more heavily on their more experienced defensive ends in more competitive games. Johnson expects Curry to see more frequent playing time this season, as Johnson likes to rotate at least four defensive ends in every game.
“We were in the situation that we were probably playing the older guys a little bit more. Wanted to keep those guys on the field, so he wasn't a factor for us going down the stretch,” Johnson said of Curry’s limited playing time in 2022. “But he played a lot of special teams, and that was his gig. Now it's time to play football. And I think he's ready to do that.”
Curry said he was happy just to have a role last season and that he “felt like I did the most I could” with the opportunities he got. But he’s motivated to make a more consistent impact this year knowing he’ll be relied upon more now that Zach Harrison, Javontae Jean-Baptiste and Tyler Friday are no longer with the Buckeyes.
“Last year, I feel like I was just kind of taking it in from my older players, the older roles and just seeing how they were playing the game and learning off of them every day. And I kind of enjoyed that, just seeing them and kind of just getting every little thing from him. So I think I can use that for my game this year,” Curry said.
“Us as a unit, we all have to step up. I mean, all of us have to take that next role. So we're all kind of taking that role on and we're all working together to be better. And to be the best that we can as a unit.”