With just nine days remaining until Ohio State kicks off the 2021 season at Minnesota, the final pieces to what the Buckeyes will look like this season are beginning to fall into place.
Perhaps no aspect of a team’s makeup is more important than leadership, and on Friday, that leadership was identified with the selection of the latest Buckeye captains.
Six captains were announced in senior offensive lineman Thayer Munford, senior wide receiver Chris Olave, junior wide receiver Kamryn Babb, senior defensive lineman Haskell Garrett, junior defensive lineman Zach Harrison, and senior linebacker Teradja Mitchell.
For each of the six players, this season marks their first as captains at Ohio State. The absence of a returning captain marks the first time in eight seasons the Buckeyes do not have a single two or three-time captain on the team. Per team tradition, the players were voted on by their teammates, with Munford being the leading vote-getter on the team.
“They were selected by their teammates, which is one of the biggest honors you can have as a football player. To be selected a captain at Ohio State means even more because of the great ones that have come before,” head coach Ryan Day said on Saturday.
It comes as no surprise that the majority of the announced captains have also been key contributors on the field for the Buckeyes over the past two seasons. Munford, Olave, Garrett, and Harrison have combined for more than 50 starts, making them among the most experienced veterans returning this season. Mitchell, while having never started a game at Ohio State, is expected to lead the Buckeyes’ linebacker unit this fall.
One name that likely comes as a surprise to many outside the program, however, is Babb, whose playing time in Columbus has been relegated to parts of just seven games since signing as a high four-star recruit in the 2018 class. Babb’s luck has been nonexistent, having suffered several knee injuries that have all but ended his active playing career at Ohio State.
But while his college football journey has played out in a fashion he never could have imagined, Babb has remained with the program throughout the constant setbacks, making him perhaps the most inspirational captain on the team.
“This is a guy who has been through four ACL (injuries), he’s currently unavailable. But he came up and spoke to the team last week about what resillience means, and that was a word we spent about three days on during camp,” Day said of Babb. “It’s something that’s the mark of a lot of successful people, their ability to be resilient and bounce back from adversity, failure, and emotional pain. And he’s like the epitome of that.
“He got up in front of the team and talked about how he did do that, how he stayed positive. He’s been an unbelievable leader. He’s set a standard. The hard part for Kam is he really hasn’t spent a lot of time on the field. But his impact has been left already on this program, and I know he wants to leave a legacy. This is an unbelievable way for him to do that. He could have walked away two or three different times and he hasn’t. He stuck with us, so I’m just really happy for him and proud of what he’s done already in this program.”
Of course, on a team where expectations of winning the national championship never change, the Buckeyes will need far more than just six of their players to step in and lead if they hope to get back to the College Football Playoff. Day said on Saturday that not being named a captain isn’t an indictment on a player’s leadership qualities, nor is it a pass to back off on being a leader.
“It’s a good mixture of guys, so we’re going to count on those guys to be leaders for us. But some of our greatest leaders in the last five years, at times, weren’t captains,” Day said. “So, we challenged our team to make sure that even if you weren’t named a captain, it doesn’t mean that you’re not a leader. We need great leadership this season, and that will dictate how far we go into this season.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.