After Emeka Egbuka averaged 29 yards per kickoff return as a true rookie, Ohio State seemed unlikely to change kickoff returners this season.
Just two games into the 2022 season, however, Ohio State decided to go in a different direction.
While Egbuka was Ohio State’s season-opening kickoff returner against Notre Dame, Chip Trayanum was deployed fully in that capacity against Arkansas State, though he didn’t did not have the opportunity to return kicks. Ryan Day said Thursday that Ohio State plans to keep Trayanum in that role for at least the next game against Toledo and Trayanum could potentially stay in that role throughout the season.
“We’ll give it a chance and see how it goes,” Day said Thursday. “We think he’s shown us enough that he’s earned the right to take him back. And I think the guys believe in him. So like anything else, we’ll put him back out there and then assess after that. the game and we’ll sort of see where to go next.
While Ohio State certainly doesn’t want Toledo kicking off often — because kickoffs, other than those that start each half, don’t come until after scores — Day hopes that Trayanum will have the opportunity to return at least one kick this week.
“We’re hoping to get the ball in his hands and see what he can do,” Day said. “I think the guys believe in him. And we can’t wait to see if we’ll release one. We were unlucky last week, but maybe we’ll see what happens this week.
Although it is unconventional for a linebacker to return kickoffs and Trayanum has never returned a kickoff at the college level, he played running back at Arizona State for two years and is widely considered one of the fastest players at Ohio State.
Day thinks Trayanum’s background as a running back and his combination of speed, size and strength at 230 pounds give him the potential to be a weapon in the kickoff rematch for the Buckeyes.
“He carried the ball in college games. When you look at his numbers on the GPS, he’s really fast,” Day said. “And then also he has strength in him. And I think when you’re looking for someone to come back into the kick-off game, you have to have someone who is strong. Because it can be a situation where you have to be strong. You have to be built much like a bigger running back or wide receiver, in my opinion, to do it all the time. Now, you can try to hit a home run once in a while with maybe a lighter guy, but you run the risk of him getting hit. So we think he really has an opportunity to be a good returner for us.
Egbuka — who has a more slender build than Trayanum at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds — backs the decision to make Trayanum the kickoff returner, believing Trayanum can accomplish great things in the role.
“Chip Trayanum might even be better than me,” Egbuka said on Wednesday. “He hasn’t had a chance to come back yet, but you’ll see on Saturday he’s a very special talent. One of the sportiest, if not the sportiest guys in the team. I’m delighted to have him. see some things returned.
Ohio State hasn’t scored a return touchdown since kicking off Jordan Hall with an 85-yard return for a score against Michigan in 2010, but Egbuka thinks Trayanum could be the guy for it. end this drought.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he took the first one he ever picked up,” Egbuka said. “I mean, he’s one of the fastest guys on the team at 230 pounds. He can do backflips like it’s nothing. He’s one of the strongest guys in the game. If it was me personally on the kickoff team, I wouldn’t want to tackle him.
“Seeing him come back to training, it’s like you don’t really realize how fast he is until he hits that crease. And once he hits that crease, no one in the l The scouting team couldn’t catch him, so like I said, I wouldn’t be surprised if he took it back.
Although Egbuka isn’t returning kicks at least for now, he will continue to play a major role in Ohio State’s offense as one of the Buckeyes’ starting wide receivers, so that he has also taken over kick-off return duties since Jaxon Smith-Njigba suffered a hamstring injury against Notre Dame – giving the Buckeyes reason to remove kick-off return duties from his plate if they feel they have another player who can be a dynamic kickoff returner.
For Trayanum, whose only playing time on defense so far came in the final 15 snaps of the Buckeyes’ 45-12 win over Arkansas State, the kicking return gives him the opportunity to play an expanded role on special teams while waiting for the chance to play a bigger role in defense.
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