When Chris Carter first arrived at Ohio State, it was hard for him to see the future from a spot he truly did not enjoy – covered in sweat and black plastic beads on the turf of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
At the time, the nearly 400-pound offensive lineman was just trying to get through conditioning drills. Being a svelte 340-pound defensive tackle – yes, that adjective actually does apply in this case – in the two-deep for a team with national championship aspirations might as well have been as far away as Antarctica.
“I’ve made many strides just health-wise and weight-wise and everything,” Carter said while standing on the WHAC’s indoor field Aug. 11 during the team’s Media Day. “I have to give credit to my teammates for helping me through the tough times when I was crawling on this field we’re standing on, and they helped me get through it.”
“Sometimes crawling,” he said, nodding his head. “Sometimes, yeah.”
Back then, desperate times called for desperate measures. Carter arrived at Ohio State listed as a 370-pound offensive lineman out of Cleveland JFK, but the reality of the situation was he was closer to 400 pounds.
He was also in the doghouse for an off-the-field incident that delayed his signing at Ohio State for a time, not a good combination for someone hoping to make a good first impression on the Buckeye coaching staff.
He redshirted along the offensive line in 2011, then underwent a pair of fruitful changes. When Urban Meyer and his staff arrived in early 2012, it was a put-up-or-shut-up moment considering the group’s mandate that the Buckeyes get into shape.
Carter started making strides on that front with the help of strength and conditioning maestro Mickey Marotti, but he didn’t feel he was going anywhere on offense, so he switched over to the defensive side of the football during spring drills.
With everything starting to click, things have been looking up for Carter ever since.
He’s now checking in at 345 pounds, almost at the weight Meyer said he'd have to reach in order ot have a chance to play at OSU, but the truth of the matter is that you’d never guess that based on how trim he looks at the moment. In fact, his thick, long beard – which is generating a lot of “buzz,” in his words – is what stands out the most now about his appearance, not his size.
“For that, I have to give credit to Coach Mick and his program,” Carter said. “He put a lot of muscle in here.”
At that weight, Carter is suddenly an interesting proposition at nose tackle. He’s certainly hard to push around, and now his knowledge base is starting to catch up to his obvious physical abilities which include nimble feet to go with his bulk.
“He’s a guy we’re hoping we can get something out of,” defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “He’s in his third year in the program so we know he’s going to go really, really hard and give it everything he’s got. We're going to see.
“We’re counting and hoping that we see what we’ve seen out here.”
It helps that Carter feels like he’s found a home on the defensive side of the ball.
“I should be prepared to get in there and bust some heads,” he said. “Whatever I’m at, I just have to get in there and be the man in the middle and take up some ‘A’ gaps. I love being a defensive lineman, being able to attack rather than react.”
Whether Carter is going to be able to contribute to the Buckeyes given the entrants in the team’s derby for playing time at defensive tackle – a battle that includes presumed starters Michael Bennett and Joel Hale along with five-star sophomore Tommy Schutt and hyped true freshman Michael Hill – remains to be seen.
However, there’s nowhere Carter would rather be than where he is at the moment.
“It’s crazy, me coming in and seeing the scales hitting almost 400 pounds and I’m dying out here in conditioning, in practice, and now I’m a lot healthier, I’m a lot more conditioned and I feel better overall,” he said. “So yes, it is an amazing change.”
“I can’t imagine being anything but a Silver Bullet. This is the holy grail.”