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After a team scrimmage on Saturday, Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence wasn't satisfied with his performance.
"I had an okay scrimmage, I guess," Spence said. "But I can do a lot better. I'm still learning and everything like that, learning the plays."
Performances that are just "okay" aren't what many expected to get from the former five-star recruit, but Spence's showing on Saturday was enough to impress many members of the Ohio State roster and coaching staff. In fact, so much so that immediately following the scrimmage, he had the black stripe of electrical tape removed from his helmet, signifying his transformation from an incoming freshman to an "official" member of the Buckeyes.
"It was good. It felt good being a part of the team now and everything like that," Spence said. "Being only the second person, it felt like, I don't know, like I don't know if I deserved it yet, but I guess the team did."
All indications from the Ohio State camp have been that the removal of Spence's stripe was certainly a deserved one and that the 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end has been as good as he was advertised coming out of Bishop McDevitt high school in Harrisburg, Pa. Those waiting for Spence to be the one to give you confirmation of that, however, are likely going to have to keep on waiting.
"I think I could have done a little better. I always push myself to try to do better than I did. I'm never satisfied," Spence said. "I'm still going to keep working and everything like that and stay humble and hungry."
While Spence is anything but quick to praise himself, he's received plenty of high marks from Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and Buckeyes' defensive end John Simon. That's likely because the true freshman's work ethic is similar to that of Simon's, as seen evident by Spence's insistence on joining the Buckeyes' captain for 6 a.m. workouts.
"The passion that they have. I brought Noah in, 6 a.m. Sunday he came in and worked out," Simon said at Big Ten media day in July. "For someone to want to come in at 6 a.m. on Sunday, and he volunteered, so that shows that they're ready for college football, they want to take that next step."
Despite competing with him for playing time this fall, Spence sought out Simon's advice as soon as he arrived on Ohio State's campus in June.
"I asked him if I could come with him and everything like that so I can get better, bigger, and stronger," Spence said. "I knew when I came here that I was going to have to go against people a lot bigger than me."
Thanks to their versatility as players and a promise from Meyer that the best 11 players will play, regardless of what positions they play, it's likely that the new workout buddies will find themselves both on the field at the same time during certain points this fall. And Spence already has an idea what his role will be in those situations.
"I'll probably come in a little bit when it's like passing downs," Spence said. "I get to the backfield pretty good, I'm pretty good at that."
Although Spence's transition to the college level has been a smooth one so far, he's had at least one welcome to the big leagues moment, courtesy of a pancake block from OSU starting left tackle Jack Mewhort
"He put me on my behind the other day, I was just like, 'What?' I thought I wasn't blocked," Spence said. "He's pretty tough."
While there's nothing fun about getting pancaked by a player of Mewhort's size, the fact that Spence was going up against a player of the left tackle's stature can't be viewed as anything but a positive. After spending most of Ohio State's first two fall camp practices with the Buckeyes' third-team, Spence appears to be working his way up the depth chart, and if his attitude is any indication, that's something that's only going to continue to happen.
"It's a good experience. Getting on the field is always good," Spence said. "I'm just trying to get better and better every day."
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