OSU then-redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) calls a play during the first half of the Buckeyes game against Penn State on Oct. 22. The Buckeyes lost 24-21. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Former Photo EditorOhio State named a program-high nine captains for the 2017 season last week, a total that has been on a steady incline every season since 2014.Some more outspoken fans have criticized the high number, but the players said it’s clear the players given the honor deserve it.“Somebody had said something slick on Twitter or something about [the decision to have nine captains],” defensive end and captain Jalyn Holmes said. “But that just shows that we’ve got a lot of leaders on the team.”This team is not quite as young and inexperienced as it was a season ago. Last year, the team was replacing a litany of key players at several positions after a record-setting 12 former Buckeyes were selected in the first four rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft.This season, Ohio State returns multiple starters. And with one of Meyer’s finest recruiting classes — the class of 2013 — going out for its last hurrah, there is a strong core of players who have played alongside one another for five seasons and bring experience and leadership to the team.One such member of that class, defensive end Tyquan Lewis, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and two-time captain, emphasized the depth of leadership on the team, citing the close relationship of the team.Ohio State redshirt senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis walks into the Hyatt Place to check in for fall camp on Aug. 6. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports Editor.“We could have had four captains, but it’s hard to leave people out when the team’s this close and you know those guys are leading the way,” Lewis said.The Buckeyes adamantly reiterated that each captain deserved his role and was selected by teammates based on merit, not as a participation trophy to those who have stuck around the program for the longest. “If one of the nine of us wasn’t captain, it’d be like they deserved it and didn’t get it,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “Everybody really is doing their part to be an example for this team. And that’s why we have so many.”Like his fellow captains, Hubbard said the honor was one of his goals and that it was a main reason for his return to Columbus.Reflecting back on a conversation with former Ohio State player and coach Mike Vrabel, coach Urban Meyer said he realized the fallacy of limiting the number of captains because one of the Buckeyes’ key leaders was excluded from the honor.“I wasn’t named captain, but I was still a captain,” Vrabel said, according to Meyer’s recounting.Meyer said he doesn’t want to exclude any deserving players from captain roles by limiting the number of captains. “Whoever deserves it is going to be captain, and it will be on the wall, down the hallway and you’ll forever be known on your resume as a captain of the Ohio State University football program,” Meyer said.OSU then-sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard makes a diving tackle on Indiana redshirt junior quarterback Richard Lagow (21) during the second half on Oct. 8. The Buckeyes won 38-17. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Former Photo EditorHolmes said that whether or not he was a captain, he would still be that guy that his teammates could come to for anything, whether in football or life.“Captain means a helping hand,” Holmes said. “The young guys can come to me with whatever and I can just be that helping hand for them.”Another Buckeye who has been a leader in the program for years is two-time Big Ten Quarterback of the Year J.T. Barrett, who became the first three-time captain in Ohio State history this fall.“When you think about a captain, you think about them going about it the right way,” Barrett said. “Having respect for the game, having respect for other people and also trying to make everyone better.”With so many captains, some skeptics might have doubts about the ambiguity of leadership on the team. “We all look to him [Barrett] as the captain of the captains,” Hubbard said.Lewis and preseason first-team All-American center Billy Price join Barrett as the other multi-year captains on the team. Defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle, linebacker Chris Worley and wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Parris Campbell are the other first-time captains in addition to Holmes and Hubbard.