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OSU football: First-year players can find big-time college football tough to tackle

For most first-year players, the move from high school or junior college to Division I power programs proves too much.
by John Helsley Published: August 12, 2013

Calvin Barnett chuckled when prodded to recall his “Welcome to the Big 12” moment.

It wasn't a sack or some opponent's blindside block leaving him seeing stars in the daylight.

And it wasn't all that funny at the time.

“My first legitimate workout,” the Oklahoma State defensive tackle said of his moment. “I'd never thrown up. Not in baseball being young, soccer, football, all the sports I played, I'd never thrown up.

“That day, it was a Friday, we did a full-body workout after we ran. And I threw up as soon as the workout was over. The guys were like, ‘Welcome to the Big 12.'”

As a junior college transfer, Barnett arrived at OSU in January of 2012, allowing him plenty of time to adjust to a new standard of play — and preparation — paving the way for a successful transition that ultimately saw him earn All-Big 12 status last fall.

Yet for most first-year players, the move from high school or junior college to Division I power programs proves too much. And despite their “star” recruiting status, or heavy hype or even their new coaches' lofty expectations, first-year players find it difficult to make an impact.

“It's a huge wake-up,” said Cowboys running back Desmond Roland, who is just now projected to fill a sizable role as a junior. “You can ask any player who first comes on campus, it's not the same. It's a business here.

“Most freshmen need to realize that before they come. I didn't realize that. But I realize it now.”

And it's not just freshmen. Junior college transfers have a higher rate for providing immediate help, which is why they're recruited to begin with, for early impact.

Still, many are slow to adjust in their first year, providing less-than-anticipated production.

“In my experience with junior college players,” said defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer, “usually that first year there's so much adjustment and the demands and all the things that we do, it's not until the second year that they come on.”

Recruiting rankings ratchet up expectations among fans, regularly prompting unrealistic expectations. A few obvious factors delay a first-year player's readiness: size and strength among them. Some of that is natural, just based on age.

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