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Aug. 3, 2017

If there is one Buckeye opposing coaches will circle on the board in the locker room before kickoff this fall that would probably be Abdi Mohamed. The native of Westerville, Ohio, Mohamed heads into his junior year with 20 career points, the most by an active Buckeye. He made an immediate impact during his freshman campaign, earning All-Freshman honors and guiding the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title and NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2015. He earned second team honors a year ago, tallying a season-high 11 points in 16 starts. Now an upperclassman, Mohamed is focused on getting the Buckeyes back on top in the Big Ten standings starting next week when the team reports to preseason camp. We caught up with the OSU midfielder in this preseason spotlight:

How has your summer been?
My offseason has been great. Taking a few of classes in my major, which is sport management. I also have been training with our local MLS organization, Columbus Crew SC u23, where I have grown tremendously both as a player and person. I spent some of my youth club days playing for them. I also had Ramadan (our month of fasting) this summer. As much as I am used to playing while fasting, this summer was a challenge. But it went well and as I am every year, I look forward to doing it again next year

What have you worked on this offseason?
I worked on a lot of things. As I do every offseason, I like to grow as a player. Being a junior now, I have a leadership role to play. Playing with Crew SC, I was given the opportunity to train with first team players and I picked up subtle things that can be done during trainings. I also was given the task to develop my body for the upcoming season. The Big Ten is known to be a very physical conference and as I have proven to show I can maintain at such a level, I’d like to have an edge with the resources they have here for us at Ohio State.

You played multiple positions on the field last year. How did that experience help you grow as a player?
Playing in multiple positions is something that I have been doing ever since my youth club years. Just like any player would, I had to manage. This help me grow as a player in many ways but more so in leadership. I was sought to be the focal point in our attack and do what was necessary in defense to get the results we needed. And this is something I look to do regardless the position I play.

You became a dangerous striker off free kicks a year ago, what goes through your mind before taking a kick like that?
Free kicks are something I do with teammates after trainings to wind things down and we like to have fun after a hard practice. On any free kick I first look at how far I am from the goal and decide on what type of shot to take. Then I take a look at the position of the goal keeper to pick which side I want to place my shot. Most of the free kicks were around the top of the box so I look to get a clean strike usually over wall. Hopefully we see some of them this year again!

Being an upperclassman now, do you think you will take on more of a leadership role this preseason?
Wow! It feels like yesterday I was a freshman running late to our first captains. That’s a role being a junior comes with especially this year having 18 newcomers. The guys coming back know where we want to be and that’s in the same position this team was during my freshman year, which was competing in the Sweet 16, and eventually get past that stage. We have a strong group and training with most of them the past month or so made me realize that they want to accomplish what the 2015 squad did. They’re eager for a ring and that all starts with the leadership from us upperclassmen.

With 18 newcomers, how important will fall camp be to prepare for the season?
Preseason is something we’re all looking forward to. This team is a family and being around everyone you haven’t seen for the summer is going to be fun. But it’s also time to dial down and focus on what’s important which is taking this team back to being champions and make a postseason run. With the new group of guys, we look forward to having them join our family.

What matches are you looking forward to this year?
Having so many home games this year, I’m looking forward to playing in front of our fans a lot more. The games that I am most excited for are the conference matches, especially the home ones against TTUN, Maryland and Wisconsin.

Name a few teammates fans should watch out for this fall.
Fans should be in for a really exciting year. Everyone has been grinding this offseason and will really push to compete. Parker Siegfried will look to take command in goal with Niall and Hunter anchoring the back line. Brady Blackwell, who missed last year due to injury, will be a huge piece for us in the midfield. And of course my man Nate Kohl who I am looking forward to playing alongside again. There are also talented guys coming in that let’s just say fans need to come out and see for themselves.

Where have you seen yourself mature the most since your freshman year?
I’ve matured a lot since my first day on campus. One place that I would say the most would be my physicality. I know I said this before but this conference we play in is known for big fast defenders and playing my position, I had to adapt to the physicality of the game as I am more of an on the ball type of player. Getting a few pointers from the likes of Liam Doyle, Zach Mason and Kyle Culbertson also helped.

After being a part of the 2015 title team, what will it take to get back to the postseason this fall?
My freshman year was a special one. We got off to a slow start and I didn’t know what we were going to do to change things around. But we had strong leaders that did a great job. So I would have to say we need that from the returning upperclassmen. During games my freshman year, there would be moments where I would switch off for a second and I would have Liam already screaming from 60 yards away to get me to stay in the game. I usually couldn’t understand half of the things he said, actually everything he said, but it’s the little things such as that to get us back to where we need to be.