September 19, 2012

Klein puts past behind him in season debut

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio - In what's been one of the roughest years of Storm Klein's life, Saturday provided a rare bright spot.

Making his season debut, the senior linebacker recorded two tackles in Ohio State's 35-28 win over California, spending time playing alongside the Buckeyes' defense and special teams units. It might not seem like much, but it's more than Klein could've ever asked for less than four weeks ago.

"Coming into the stadium today was really special for me. I didn't know if I was ever going to be able to do it again and just to come in," Klein said. "It was touching."

Following an incident involving the mother of his child on July 6, Klein was charged with domestic violence and was subsequently removed from the OSU roster by Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes' head coach left the door open for Klein to return pending a change in his case, but admitted that he didn't expect the Newark, Ohio native to return to OSU for his senior season.

"The charges filed against Storm Klein violate the core values of the Ohio State Football Program," Meyer said at the time of the incident. "It has been made very clear that this type of charge will result in dismissal."

After being kicked off of the team a month away from the start of training camp, Klein's future as a college football player appeared to be in doubt. No longer with access to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the former Licking Valley high school star spent his time working out wherever he could in an effort to stay in shape, hoping that a potential change in his trial would result in his return to the team.

"I was just praying about it and hoping for the best and continued training," Klein said. "Here I am today."

The reason why Klein was able to play on Saturday is because the change that he was looking for in his case finally happened. On Aug. 22, the domestic violence charge against Klein was officially thrown out as he pled guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.

A day later, Klein and his lawyer asked Meyer to reinstate him to the team- a request that the first-year OSU coach accepted, under the condition that the senior linebacker serve a two-game suspension as a result of his guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge.

"The charges that would have violated our core values have been totally dismissed," Meyer said in a statement at the time of Klein's reinstatement. "I have spoken extensively to members of both families and that has prompted me to re-assess his situation and allow him back."

Reinstated to the roster just in time for the start of the season, Klein sat out the Buckeyes' wins over Miami (OH) and Central Florida, spending practices making up for the time that he lost while spending more than a month away from the team. Due to both his work in the offseason and seniority, it didn't take much for the 6-foot-2, 242-middle linebacker to get back into game shape.

"I picked up right where I left off and just trying to get a win every week and help the younger guys get better," Klein said. "The defense is similar as last year, but there's a couple of checks and stuff. I came back in and I knew what was going on. It's pretty simple. It's just football."

The OSU coaching staff was apparently happy with what they saw from Klein in his short time back on the team- perhaps even happier with him than they were when he left. When the Buckeyes took the field for the opening kickoff in their battle with the Bears, Klein was on the field. And although co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said that he only played eight snaps, they all came with OSU's first-team defense while in its base unit.

"I played alright. There's a couple of plays I over pursued and stuff, there's definitely areas we need to work on, but the defense needs to take away big plays and stuff. We'll work on that," Klein said. "I was just out there having fun."

Klein's time in the Buckeyes' base defense is more than he could've expected not only over the summer, but in the spring, when he was beat out by Curtis Grant for OSU's starting middle linebacker job. But after starting in 10 games in the 2011 season, Klein views his new shared responsibilities as a positive.

"There's a lot of guys in there that are able to play this year, so we're splitting some reps and stuff and it's not hard on our bodies and we're doing a good job," Klein said. "I feel good. I feel really good."

Regardless of where, when, and how often his playing time is coming, however, Klein is just thankful for the opportunity to receiver any of it- especially considering that the chances of that looked so slim less than a month ago.

"I expected to come in and help the team and that's what coach wanted to do so that's what I did," Klein said. "Hopefully we just keep winning."


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