July 11, 2012

Linebackers look to rebound from off year

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With Ohio State's fall camp a month away from kicking off, we at Buckeye Grove have decided to take a look at the roster that Urban Meyer will be working with in his first year as Ohio State's head coach. Today, we'll take a look at the current state of the Buckeyes' linebackers. You can see yesterday's preview of the Ohio State defensive tackles by clicking here.

From Chris Spielman to A.J. Hawk to James Laurinaitis, if there's one position that's synonymous with Ohio State, it's linebacker. You wouldn't know that by watching the Buckeyes in 2011, however, as the OSU linebacking corps proved to be one of the most inconsistent on the team.

With a new crop of recruits and the emergence of a pair of true sophomores, the Buckeyes' linebackers appear to be in store for a promising 2012, with several candidates emerging to attempt to stake their claim as the next great Ohio State linebacker.

One positive of a linebacking unit that saw constant reshuffling in its line-up due to injuries and inconsistencies is that it paved the way for some of the Buckeyes' younger players to see more time on the field. One of the players who benefitted from such openings was now-sophomore outside linebacker Ryan Shazier.

Despite not starting until the second half of the season, the 6-foot-1, 226-pound linebacker managed to record 57 tackles, five tackles for a loss, and three sacks- the most of any Buckeye linebacker. He returns as one of the emerging stars of the defense, especially after having spent an offseason in new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer's system.

"I feel good, I feel like I got stronger," Shazier said. "I'm bigger, but I don't feel slower or anything like that. I feel like I'm the same speed and everything. I feel amazing."

Backing up Shazier heading into fall camp is early-enrollee Luke Roberts. The true freshman is a 6-foot-2, 225-pound three-star recruit out of Lancaster, Ohio.

Starting opposite of Shazier at outside linebacker will be 6-foot-3, 237-pound Etienne Sabino. A fifth-year senior out of Miami, Fla., Sabino recorded 62 tackles- including 6.5 for a loss- and two sacks in 2011.

After an up-and-down four years at Ohio State, Sabino is determined to end his college career on a positive note.

"I expect to just build off of the Gator Bowl, the Spring Game and I expect to build and lead this team," Sabino said. "Coach Meyer has talked about leaders and I want to be a leader of this team."

Senior walk-on Stewart Smith is listed as Sabino's back-up heading into fall camp. A converted defensive lineman, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Smith has not seen any significant playing time over the course of his Ohio State career thus far.

Listed behind Smith is true freshman Josh Perry. An early-enrollee, the 6-foot-4, 231-pound four-star recruit has gained significant weight since enrolling in college last January, and is a safe bet to leapfrog at least Smith by the end of fall camp.

A pair of true freshmen could also find themselves on the Ohio State depth chart by the start of the season in David Perkins and Camren Williams.

Perkins- a 6-foot-2, 225-pound four-star recruit out of South Bend, Ind., while Williams is a 6-foot-2, 215-pound four-star prospect from West Roxbury, Mass. Given the youth and uncertainty behind both Shazier and Sabino, it would not be surprising to see either player crack the OSU line-up at some point in 2012.

Starting at middle linebacker this season will be former five-star recruit Curtis Grant. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound sophomore saw little playing outside of special teams in 2011- recording just two tackles in 10 games- but emerged in the spring to take control of the Buckeyes' middle linebacker spot.

"I think I have found a home there," Grant said of playing middle linebacker. "I like being in the middle and seeing what everyone is doing and just trying to help out the team the best that I can."

The dismissal of Storm Klein left a void at the back-up middle linebacker spot that has been filled by 6-foot-1, 233-pound redshirt freshman Conner Crowell. Another candidate to replace Klein is true freshman Jamal Marcus. A late addition to the 2012 recruiting class, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound three-star recruit could either find himself on the Ohio State depth chart, or potentially redshirting by the end of fall camp.

Other linebackers on the Ohio State roster include walk-ons Taylor Glancey and Andy Reed.


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