While Ohio State doesn’t need to establish any traditions – they’ve already got plenty as a college football blue blood – they jumped at the opportunity a few years ago. When College Football allowed players to wear the number 0, it was only natural that Ohio State was going capitalize. Enter the Ohio State Block O jersey.
In addition to the fact that the zero looks like an O, it was used as a way to commemorate the great Bill Willis. Willis played for the Buckeyes as an edge rusher from 1942-44. While he wore 99 and that number has since been retired, Willis exemplified what it meant to be a Buckeye. Hence, the new tradition.
This year, it’ll be the fourth year of the Block O jersey. It all started in 2020 with edge rusher Jonathan Cooper. In 2021, it was Thayer Munford. As an offensive lineman, Munford couldn’t physically wear the Block O, so he wore a commemorative patch. Last year, it was fifth-year senior receiver, Kam Babb.
2023 Ohio State Block O Candidates
Two receivers in a row? It’s possible and Julian Fleming is the most likely in that ridiculously loaded room to rep this year’s Block O jersey. It’s been a trend that the honor goes to an older player who has one year left and Fleming is, more than likely, in his final season in Columbus.
Remember the hoopla when Ohio State went into Pennsylvania and plucked the top wide receiver recruit of 2020? He was the crown jewel of a class that featured fellow elite prospects, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott, Jr., and Mookie Cooper. JSN is about to be a first-round pick, Scott is a tight end fighting for his life on the roster, and Cooper transferred to Missouri.
It was expected that Fleming was going to be the next great Buckeye receiver but injuries derailed his early years. He appeared in just four games in 2020, totaling just 74 yards off of seven receptions. In 2021, it was more of the same. Fleming managed just one score and 86 yards off of 12 receptions in eight games.
Last year, behind a trio of future first-rounders, Fleming finally got to show what he can do. In 12 games, he hauled in 34 passes for 533 yards and six touchdowns. He kicked off the year strong, scoring all six touchdowns in his first five games. Two of those scores were in Week 3 against Toledo in his first appearance after having to sit out the first two due to injury.
With Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. coming back and going to command the targets as well as one of the many top-rated young receivers in the room, Fleming could very easily have taken his talents elsewhere. Sticking around despite injuries and the possibility of being passed up shows that Fleming is team-first. He would be a great option for the Ohio State Block O jersey.
The Buckeyes offensive line is going to need some leadership in 2023. With the departures of Paris Johnson, Jr., Luke Wypler, and Dawand Jones, both Matthew Jones and Donovan Jackson are the only ones left with any experience.
Jones could easily have forgone this year for the NFL but elected to return for another season.
He started 12 games for the Buckeyes last year, only allowing a single sack in 730 snaps. He missed the Michigan game and it was obvious that that offensive line was missing his services. Jones did come back to play against Georgia in the CFP and played well lined up against future top-10 pick, Jalen Carter.
In the three years prior, Jones appeared in 29 games and started in five. He was often the first lineman off the bench and was actually the starting center during the CFP run in 2020. Honoring Jones with the Block O jersey would be perfect and what better way to establish a leader on the offensive line.
As of spring practice, Jones has been taking reps at right guard. However, he has experience at center if Josh Fryar decides that that’s the best way to get the five best offensive linemen on the field.
Is there a bigger team-first player on the team than Cade Stover? Well, the case could be made for Steele Chambers or Chip Trayanum, but Stover is a coach’s dream.
Stover came into Columbus as an outside linebacker/edge rusher in the 2019 class as a four-star recruit. From there, he’s logged a good chunk of time at both linebacker and tight end. In a career that could rival that of Zach Boren and his positional changes, Stover has shown his ability to be a leader on and off the field.
Stover is another case of a player electing to stay in town instead of testing the NFL waters. He amassed 406 yards and five touchdowns off of 36 receptions and was an integral part of the Buckeyes offense in crucial moments, much to the chagrin of Twitter at times…In that loss to Michigan, Ohio State drew something up for Stover on a crucial 4th down in Michigan territory.
Stover will be a leader on offense in 2023. If the Buckeyes were looking to reward one of, if not the most team-first players on the roster, Stover will be the recipient of the Block O jersey.
If the Block O jersey is meant to go to a leader and one who exemplifies the Buckeye way, why not look to the literal middle of the defense and the guy who was named a pre-season All-American? Tommy Eichenberg was one of the biggest emotional leaders last year and earned all kinds of honors.
He burst onto the scene in 2021, playing consistently and ended up with the second-most tackles on the team. He got his opportunity to really show out in the Rose Bowl against Utah. C.J. Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba were not the only ones re-writing the record books on that night. Eichenberg was everywhere and notched a Rose Bowl record 17 tackles.
He took over in 2022, however. As a captain, “Tommy Two Thumbs” played through injury and led the defense in a massive way. Realistically, Eichenberg was the only defender worth anything alongside Chambers and J.T. Tuimoloau. On the year, Eichenberg amassed 186 tackles, 18.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, and even returned one for a touchdown against Iowa.
If Eichenberg left Ohio State after the 2022 season, he likely could have tested his way to a late-day-two, early-day-three pick. Instead of that payday, he decided to return to Ohio State for another year to finish refining his game and to lead a defense that desperately needs direction.
By giving Eichenberg the Block O jersey, the Buckeyes reaffirm their commitment to giving the honor to a leader and true Buckeye. And, what better way to get the word out about the tradition when the jersey is flying everywhere for nearly 200 tackles?
Finally, Josh Proctor came to Ohio State with massive expectations and a nose for the football. He was a four-star recruit out of Oklahoma and looked like he could be the next big thing at the safety position. Unfortunately, injuries derailed his career. After the 2022 season, Proctor even considered transferring out to get a change of scenery with his two years of eligibility remaining.
Proctor appeared in just one game as a freshman. In 2019, he continued to back up Jordan Fuller at safety, playing sparingly. He ended the year with just 13 tackles and an interception. None of those tackles were bigger than when Proctor ended the B1G Championship by baptizing Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan on the final play of the game.
2020 came around and Proctor took over as the starting safety. He played in seven games, notching 20 tackles and an interception. It looked like 2021 was going to be his year. Proctor had all of the momentum from 2020 and the Buckeyes were hoping to not be terrible on defense. Unfortunately, Proctor suffered a season-ending injury in the second game of the year in a loss to Oregon and that defense was straight-up awful all year.
Last year, Proctor appeared in 11 games. He ended up with 21 tackles, 1.5 for loss, and a sack, all of which were career-best.
Proctor is as hard-hitting of a safety as any. He’s adept at coming downhill and laying the wood on receivers in his area. Due to his decision to stay at OSU and his hard-hitting tendencies, Proctor could be the one to don the Block O jersey this fall.
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