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Buckeye Football Notebook: 'You're going to notice him because he is outstanding'
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — If your name is Michael Jordan and you play any kind of sport at a major level, you better be pretty good. If you're not that good but you still want to play sports, you should probably go by your middle name instead.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, freshman left guard Michael Jordan belongs with the first group and has no problem with his name, even if quarterback J.T. Barrett did at first.

"When I first got here he used to call me Marcus because he felt like Michael Jordan was too great a name and I didn’t have the work ethic that Michael Jordan had," Jordan said. "Now he’s saying since I’m starting right now, he said I’m kind of getting the work ethic that Michael Jordan has. So he started calling me by my name now."

As you might expect, with the name that he has, the topic of basketball has come up once or twice in his life.

"Yeah, always," he said. "I play football. My name’s Michael Jordan. Everybody’s always expected me to play basketball. I’m 6’7”, they’re like, ‘Why don’t you play basketball.’ I’m like, ‘Football.’ I’m not Michael Jordan. I’m not a basketball player. I’m me and I love football."

His love of football is apparent to anybody who watches him compete throughout the entirety of every practice. It has been that competitiveness that earned him attention soon after his arrival. He is hoping that he will soon be known for more than just his name, but his name is anything but a distraction.

"It drives me because it’s my family name," he said. "I was named after my dad. His middle name is Michael so he gave me that as my first name. So it drives me to be the best I can so I can put on for my family."

Michael Jordan is not the only freshman on this team poised to make an impact for the Buckeyes this season. Like Jordan, wide receiver Austin Mack enrolled early and has gained his coaches' and teammates' trust every step of the way.

Mack has already been appointed to the receiver rotation, which isn't something that has happened that often under Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

What kind of contribution does Mack believe he can make this season?

"Definitely be a big impact on special teams," he said. "Help the team as much as I can. For anybody as a freshman that can play, being a Freshman All-American is always huge, so that’s definitely something I’d love to do if I get that opportunity. But just helping the team win as much as possible. Anything I can do to help these other guys in the room."

What will it take to be able to accomplish these goals?

"You know you just have to be on top of your game," he said. "You have to be willing to engage and make plays every time you touch the field. We’re all a unit and we’re all brothers so we all want the best for each other and we all want each other to make those plays. So we’re just pushing each other and trying the best we can to make those plays."

There hasn't been much talk about Ohio State's kicking game throughout camp. With senior punter Cameron Johnston returning, there is very little concern there. Junior place kicker Sean Nuernberger returns after losing, then regaining, his job last season, so there may be a question there. Still, having two veteran kickers is definitely an advantage.

"It makes a huge difference," said special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs. "I think our punter is the best punter in the country, I don’t think there’s any doubt about it. I think Sean is going to surprise a lot of people with his both distance and accuracy on field goal kicks, so we’re excited."

The Buckeyes are also breaking in a new long snapper in redshirt freshman Liam McCullough.

"You’re going to notice him because he is outstanding," Coombs said. "His speed and accuracy are very, very good. He’s going to have a great year and great career at Ohio State."

With each of these three spots the Buckeyes are trying to make it so that they will always have a talented player waiting in the wings to take over after watching for a year.

"That’s the goal," Coombs said. "We are now set up in an established pattern where we’re going to constantly have guys here that are kind of in the waiting frame while the other guy is here. You can’t spend a lot of scholarships on punters, kickers and long snappers, so you have to have guys who are in the wings.

"Liam McCullough is a guy who was here all year last year. He’s developed under the tutelage of Bryce Haynes, and now he’s ready to do the job. Drue Chrisman is here, he’s going to do the same thing with Cam Johnston. That’s kind of the pattern that we’ve evolved into and I think it’s a really, really good one. It’s really good."

Note: Urban Meyer stated on Monday afternoon that walk-on senior kicker Tyler Durbin would be handling the place kicking duties this week as Sean Nuernberger has been dealing with a groin injury.

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