Seth McLaughlin “Head Over Heels” Happy to Be At Ohio State, Developing Command As Buckeyes' Potential Starting Center

By Andy Anders on April 1, 2024 at 6:00 pm
Seth McLaughlin

Seth McLaughlin is the personification of a second wind.

After a rough end to an accomplished Alabama tenure – his snapping struggles against Michigan in the Rose Bowl have been well-documented at this point – a change of scenery while staying at the top level of college football is just what he needed. And Ohio State has provided that change.

“I’m absolutely head over heels, just so happy. It’s been super refreshing being here,” McLaughlin said. “I love the guys in this locker room, like truly. Every single guy throughout every single position group has been so open and welcoming and just really loving. They know where I came from and I think they have respect for that. So I hope that they can see that I can add to this team.”

While settling into Columbus and building chemistry with his teammates, McLaughlin is trying to establish his command within the offense as he works to be Ohio State’s starting center this fall.

“He just jumped right in,” Ohio State offensive line coach Justin Frye said. “Unbelievable job both ways of him just coming in, shelving the ego – he really had none – walking into a room, as we told him when we recruited him, ‘You’re walking into a room with a bunch of good dudes.’ Then our good dudes were good dudes. He came in, there was no (friction). It’s like, ‘You’re here. This is how we do it, this is how we operate and let’s go.’”

It’s been a quick process for McLaughlin to move on from his snapping snafus of last year. 

“Last year happened. I can’t go back and control what happened,” McLaughlin. “But this year I can put my best foot forward and be the best center or offensive lineman that I can be. And that’s really all I can control now.”

With 24 games as a starter under his belt from the Crimson Tide, McLaughlin’s experiences are helpful for an Ohio State offensive line that is all but guaranteed to start at least one player who has never started before.

In windows of spring practice open to the media, Josh Fryar has been the starting right tackle with Luke Montgomery slotting in him next to him at right guard. That’d also place the sophomore Montgomery, who only saw action in mop-up duty and in rare instances as an extra offensive lineman in 2023, next to McLaughlin on the interior.

“The inexperience part, it all goes away if you communicate well,” McLaughlin said. “Everybody knows what they’re doing, especially if you communicate. And if everybody knows what they’re doing, then you’re gonna have success.”

The inexperienced players on the roster have noticed the game knowledge that McLaughlin possesses and how effective of a communicator he can be. 

“He’s a really smart football player,” Ohio State offensive tackle Tegra Tshabola said. “You can just feel the knowledge in the room when he starts to answer questions that coaches are asking. When he explains it, it’s like he hears it one time and he’s got it down. He’s very smart.”

"He’s a really smart football player. You can just feel the knowledge in the room when he starts to answer questions."– Tegra Tshabola on Seth McLaughlin

Command and communication are essential aspects of playing center, of course, being the lineman responsible for coordinating pass protections and blocking alignments. McLaughlin's experience, combined with his football IQ, gives him an innate command at the line, though he still has to learn a new offense.

“Command, it’s just great communication, getting everybody on the same page,” Frye said. “Having a bunch of banked reps helps, but then when you come into a new offense, he might have called (a protection) ‘yellow’ and we call it ‘green’ or something. ... The comfort of having the ball in your hand, having a guy – you talk about (difficulties) of football, play one-handed and have Tyleik Williams this far from your face. You better have command of something.”

Of course, the center position isn’t fully McLaughlin’s yet. Redshirt sophomore Carson Hinzman started each of Ohio State’s first 12 games last year at the spot before being benched ahead of the Cotton Bowl.

While McLaughlin said he doesn’t look at things as a competition since he and Hinzman are “good friends,” Frye believes the battle will bring out the best in his portal acquisition.

“He’s improving every day,” Frye said. “That’s what’s making the battle and the competition, all these graded snaps good for us, because they all have that mindset. So from Seth, awesome. The unit and the group, awesome because there was no combativeness to it. It was, ‘Get in, let’s go, let’s compete.’ And then you let the guys play.”

Regardless, McLaughlin is loving his time at Ohio State more than two months in.

“We go through a lot of hard stuff together and that brings everyone together,” McLaughlin said. “It’s kind of just embracing the suck together and I think guys do a great job of bringing people in and they really make us one of their own. It feels like I’ve been here four years, the way they’ve accepted me. So I’ve loved that.”

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