COLUMBUS — Talent was never a question with Marshon Lattimore. But health was.
The redshirt sophomore cornerback, who has earned a starter’s role this season, was one of the most highly regarded players in Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting class. According to 247 Sports, he was the No. 6 cornerback prospect nationally that year and the No. 52 player overall.
OSU’s coaches saw flashes of the talent those numbers predicted in his first preseason training camp, but only briefly when Lattimore suffered an injury to his left hamstring after only a few days. He tried to come back, probably too soon, and reinjured the hamstring, which caused him to miss all of the 2014 season after having surgery.
Last year, he made a few appearances in the early part of the schedule, shut it down after eight games and said he was hurt all season.
So, if Ohio State gave out a Comeback Player of the Year Award, he certainly would be in the lead after winning the starting cornerback job that became vacant when Eli Apple left a year of eligibility on the table to enter the NFL draft.
Lattimore has looked like the special talent OSU thought it was getting on Signing Day in 2014 this season. And never more so than when he intercepted two passes and returned one of them 40 yards for a touchdown in a 48-3 win over Tulsa last Saturday.
The hamstring problems began at Glenville and followed him to Columbus. Once it became clear this was a chronic condition, Ohio State monitored his every move on the practice field and in the weight room and the coaches held their breath he wouldn’t be lost for a third time.
During spring practice coach Urban Meyer talked about getting a greater volume of work for Lattimore.
“The trainers are doing everything they can, but that’s the frustrating deal. When he’s that talented, we just have to make sure,” Meyer said in April.
Lattimore said, “I mean I really wasn’t trying to think about all that. Every time I would get 100 percent, that’s when something would happen. But I never really got down. My family, Coach Meyer and Coach (Kerry) Coombs kept me up.
“I knew once I got my opportunity I was going to take advantage,” he said. “You just have to stay positive throughout the whole process. I have younger kids looking up to me from Glenville and areas all around Cleveland. I didn’t want to let anybody down.”
Safety Malik Hooker said Lattimore’s comeback is a feel good story for his teammates, too.
“When Marshon got the pick I was so happy for him because he’s been going through a lot since he’s been here. Just a lot of injuries and disappointment. For him to get to touch the end zone was definitely a great feeling for him,” Hooker said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.