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Winter workouts prove Ohio State still has plenty of strength, speed

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- No contest is necessary to figure out the strongest player on Ohio State’s roster during offseason conditioning.

Trying to crown the fastest guy on a team loaded with speed? That title is yet to be determined, and strength coach Mickey Marotti isn’t opposed to staging another race to settle the matter when winter workouts come to a close ahead of spring practice.

“I don’t know, let’s line them all up and race them at some point,” Marotti said Wednesday. “We haven’t done that, but we will. There are a lot of fast guys. We’ve got a lot of guys who can run.

“[Wide receiver and part-time track athlete] James Clark has made the finals of these 60-meter indoors [races] the last couple times. We will do it -- not right now, but we will.”

Billy Price probably won’t need to sign up for that race, but the veteran offensive guard already has his bragging rights secured a couple weeks before the Buckeyes report for practice.

Marotti didn’t say exactly how much iron Price has been throwing around, but he didn’t hesitate to point to him as the player setting the tone in the weight room as he prepares for a crucial junior season as one of the team’s few returning starters.

“The strongest in the weight room? It’s not even close -- Billy Price,” Marotti said. “You can ask any player, he’s a whole other level, strength-wise.”

There are a handful of offensive linemen trying to push him, just like at the skill positions, where a heralded batch of recruits from the past couple years are aiming to replace a number of proven veterans. Marotti hasn’t wasted any of his allotted workout time trying to bring all of them along in what has been dubbed the “Year of Development,” which doesn’t quite capture the urgency surrounding reloading a roster with just six returning starters.

Marotti rattled off names of both blockers poised to emerge from backup roles and wide receivers coming off injuries or redshirt seasons who could pick up the slack for a passing attack losing its top four targets. And while none of those races for playing time are close to complete, it’s clear the Buckeyes aren’t worried at all about the physical tools they have to work with.

“Guys had to really step up and grow here pretty quick,” Marotti said. “We only have a couple more months left before the season.

“All of a sudden, these new guys come in and you just see them grow up without them even doing anything. It’s like, it’s their turn.”

Price has already assumed his new role as Ohio State’s strongest man. And with quarterback J.T. Barrett, center Pat Elflein and linebacker Raekwon McMillan, the program has already named its captains as well.

Now all they need to settle is the speed debate before the pads come on again, and that day is coming quickly.