After electing to return for his extra season of eligibility, Ohio State sixth-year senior kicker Noah Ruggles was notably absent from spring practice.
While it raised some concerns about his status with the program, he was simply taking the semester off and planned to returned to Columbus in time for summer workouts.
“He’s back,” head coach Ryan Day said during his media availability on Friday. “He needed a little time away, but he’s back.”
Ruggles made an immediate impact for Ohio State following his transfer from North Carolina last summer, as he converted 20-of-21 field goal attempts – including the game-winner against Utah in the Rose Bowl – and all 74 of his extra points attempts in 2021.
He was also one of three finalist for the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker, so naturally, him posting photos from Hawai’i while the rest of the team was in the midst of 15 spring practices caught many off guard.
“It was something I hadn’t experienced in the past before, but really, it was kind of a personal thing,” special teams coordinator Parker Fleming said of Ruggles’ absence. “It wasn’t a big deal. It was nothing bad. He’s an older guy. He’s mature. He can take care of himself, and that’s something he was doing the entire time he wasn’t with us.”
The two kept in contact despite the distance and Fleming noted that Ruggles didn’t even join the team until last June after sitting in the transfer portal for a few months.
“I talk to him all the time,” Fleming said. “He and I have a great relationship, so we were constantly communication. It wasn’t as much checking in, it was to make sure he’s got what he needs, make sure he’s doing what he needs to be doing, if he needs help from me or support from anybody here, we’re always here for that.”
Interestingly, Ruggles will have some competition this summer and fall after the Buckeyes added USC transfer Parker Lewis, who made 17-of-22 field goals – including a 52-yarder – and put 27-of-34 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks for the Trojans last season.
“I think all competition is good competition,” Fleming said. “Our job here is to make sure that we get the best out of our players every day. The motto around here is ‘Fight.’ Fight to be the best version of yourself every day, and in some places, the best possible way to do that is to compete.
“Sometimes competition against yourself is really good. Sometimes competition against other people brings out the best in everybody, and that’s kind of our mindset around here.”
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