Ohio State football: Transfer linebacker still not eligible to play this season

USC transfer Palaie Gaoteote (21) as the Ohio State Buckeyes began preseason camp for their 132nd season Aug. 4, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio.
USC transfer Palaie Gaoteote (21) as the Ohio State Buckeyes began preseason camp for their 132nd season Aug. 4, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio.

Credit: Marcus Hartman

Credit: Marcus Hartman

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State coach Ryan Day did not offer much information Thursday of who will play or what the depth might look like for Saturday’s game vs. visiting Oregon.

Day did confirm one player who will not see action, though: Palaie Gaoteote.

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A transfer from USC who was a five-star high school recruit, Gaoteote joined the football program during the summer and has been practicing with the Buckeyes since the start of preseason.

Thus far, he remains ineligible to play in games, though.

Day said in an interview early Thursday afternoon his waiver application for immediate playing time had been denied by the NCAA, but a team spokesman later said the school is continuing to work with the organization on his petition for immediate eligibility.

Day said earlier Gaoteote remains part of the team, but what’s next is uncertain.

“Just what I know is that it was denied,” Day said “We’re gonna look back into it and see if there possibly could be some sort of appeal or not, but we’re trying to put a plan together for what’s next for him.”

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Las Vegas Bishop Gorman product had 105 tackles in two seasons at USC and started 14 games.

He was not necessarily expected to start right away for the Buckeyes, but he could be another option for linebackers coach Al Washington as he replaces four seniors from last season.

“That’s a great person and a really hard-working kid,” Washington said in August. “The group has really embraced him, and hopefully it works out but I just love the fact he’s around. He gives off great energy and he’s definitely a good fit.”

Day said earlier in the year Gaoteote, who has not met with reporters since coming to Ohio State, had endured some hardship prior to transferring.

“Not to get into his family situation, but it was hard for him,” Day said. “When you get the details of everything he has been through over the last two years — and certainly the last year with COVID — you would understand why things are the way they are for him.”

Terajda Mitchell and Tommy Eichenberg started at linebacker for the Buckeyes in the season-opening win over Minnesota last week, and the coaching staff graded as champions. Cody Simon came off the bench and also earned that distinction.


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