Marshon Lattimore making smart moves with healthy hamstrings

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio State coaching staff has stopped holding its breath watching Marshon Lattimore turn and sprint on a deep ball.

There is no reason to worry about managing the cornerback’s reps or easing him back to full strength on the practice field.

And in games, Lattimore is finally free to go unleash the potential that has had the Buckeyes so excited for years even when his pesky hamstrings were keeping it under wraps.

The process of ensuring those problems don’t pop up again is still lengthy, and Lattimore is perhaps more vigilant than he’s ever been in his career trying to prevent them. But once the pads go on, the redshirt sophomore at last is treated just like everybody else.

“When I’m playing, I’m playing,” Lattimore said. “I’m not hesitant at all. I don’t think about my hamstrings, really. I feel like I’m good.

“Sometimes you get a little soreness or tightness or something like that, but I always stay on top of that.”

In the past, any hint of that sort of pain in Lattimore’s legs might have set off a panic alarm for the defensive staff, which just couldn’t seem to find a way to keep the budding star on the field.

But as Lattimore has learned how to take care of himself since arriving on campus without much concern about even the basics of stretching properly, it instead has just become a piece of information he can share with the support staff as Ohio State collectively works before and after practice to keep him in top form.

“I’m just being more cautious with my hamstrings,” Lattimore said. “First, because when I was coming in, I didn’t know I was going to have this type of problem for the past two years. I just know what I have to do now to get them loose and stretching, just doing extra things to make sure that I don’t have a little hamstring problem.”

The extra attention is clearly paying off for Lattimore, who has already nabbed three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown during his first month as a starter for the Buckeyes. And now that he’s seeing the results and feeling fully fit, there’s no reason for him to change the plan even if it requires a significant time commitment.

There’s the contrast treatment in the hot and cold tubs. A stint in the floating tank that has been beneficial both mentally and physically for relaxation. Strengthening exercises with conditioning coach Mickey Marotti. Even some yoga this summer became part of Lattimore’s preparations as he has done everything possible to get those hamstrings ready for life in Ohio State’s secondary.

There has been one tweak made with how Ohio State uses its cornerbacks and monitors their workloads. The Buckeyes are substituting more in both practice and games than they have at any point since Urban Meyer arrived, unveiling a rotation with Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Denzel Ward that can even expand to include a couple other youngsters in an effort to keep fresh defenders on the field and cut down on the number of snaps per player. But that wasn’t in response to Lattimore specifically, the surest sign yet that he’s essentially being treated like everybody else -- even if Ohio State can’t simply just forget about the past issue.

“I don’t think it ever goes away,” defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “As Coach [Meyer] will tell you, once you’ve pulled a hamstring, you’re on the list to be a hamstring guy the entire career here.

“There are things we do every single day, but I’ve got to give credit to [cornerbacks coach Kerry] Coombs, there’s times where we get a little upset -- why is so and so out there with the ones? The reality is he knows his players, he knows what they need, he knows how to keep them healthy, and he knows how to get them to the game.”

Lattimore has learned that lesson now, too. And as long as he stays smart about his hamstrings, it’s opponents who will have to hold their breath when the ball is in the air.