Once again we are joining with the Buckeye Blogger Network - this time to preview the Spring Game, with each blog taking a different position. Besides us, the BBN consists of Men of the Scarlet and Gray, Our Honor Defend,The Buckeye Battle Cry, Buckeye House Call, the Buckeye Blog, and Fox Sports Ohio. Special thanks to Grant Edgell of Buckeye House Call for the cool graphic.
We are taking on the position of linebacker, which I think will be one of the most important for Buckeye success in 2012. Along with the other bloggers we are answering three simple questions:
1) What will be most different this year than last?
Dave: Let's hope that the answer is everything, because last year was pretty bad. In fact in 40 years of watching OSU football I'm not sure if I can remember a worse performance from a linebacking crew than in 2011. Andrew Sweat, who used up his eligibility, had his moments but lacked the kind of speed fans are used to seeing. The other two starters from last year are back, in Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein. Sabino has the skills, but must quit overrunning plays and become more dependable as a tackler. I think the light goes on for him this year as a senior. I am not as sold on Klein, a small school superstar who has not shown he has what it takes to be a big-time Buckeye linebacker. Everyone is excited to see Ryan Shazier, with a year of experience under his belt. I think he will be a star this season, with more size and a better understanding of the defense. But what I think will really be different in 2012 is the additional athletic ability brought to the table by Curtis Grant and Connor Crowell. This may be the most improved position group on the team.
Ken: I think the most different aspect of LB play in 2012, compared to last year, will be improved speed and aggressiveness of their play. Uncertainty begets indecision, which begets slowness in reaction time. The 2011 season was marked by uncertainty as new players and new coaches, for the most part, tried to stabilize the season. This year brings certainty to the team in terms of purpose and somewhat in experience. The two LB’s returning with most game experience are Etienne Sabino (6’3” 237) and Ryan Shazier (6‘2“ 226). While penciled-in starter Storm Klein (6’3” 242) is recovering from assorted afflictions, Curtis Grant (6’3” 235) is ably filling in and making plays this Spring.
Dave: I am very excited to see the new, improved Curtis Grant, who has a ton of pontential but struggled to grasp the college game. I think he will wind up being special. Along with Shazier and Sabino, I believe Curtis will bring an amazing amount of athleticism to the field. But I am also excited to see the potential for more depth this season, as the team could have a legitimate two deep at linebacker.
My biggest concern is the youth at linebacker, and I wonder who will step up and be the kind of leader we are used to, that most recently was filled by Ross Homan in 2010.
Ken: I am truly excited about the athleticism of this group of players, ranging from 5th year man Sabino to the players of this years class just stepping onto campus. This group is loaded with playmakers. I am excited to see how the young LB’s develop. Coach Fickell is “back home” with his linebackers and he has very good talent. This will be fun
My concerns are twofold; is this the year that Etienne Sabino finally “gets it” and plays up to his talent and OSU’s needs? My other concern is who emerges from the young understudies to push for a starting position/provide game depth?
3) Who will stand out? Who's a "rookie" you are keeping your eyes on?
Dave: As mentioned already, I believe this is the year of Shazier! He will be a beast in 2012 if he stays healthy. As for the rookie, it seems that Luke Roberts has made a lot of fans on the coaching staff in spite of the fact that he was looked at as a reach in last season's class. Roberts is very smart, and seems to be in the right place at the right time. He is cut out of the same mold as a lot of former Ohio State 'backers, and could be one to watch for the future.
Here is my projected depth chart for 2012:
WILL: Ryan Shazier; Luke Roberts or Connor Crowell
MLB: Curtis Grant, Storm Klein
SAM: Etienne Sabino, Joshua Perry
Ken: I hesitate to name names in mid-April, but I guess that I have to. Ryan Shazier will emerge as the Next Great Linebacker at Ohio State. After getting substantial playing time in 2011, a winter in improved conditioning and Luke returning as position coach, Shazier’s play will be something to behold this year.
I’m going to watch development of two newcomers this year; Conner Crowell and Cam Williams.
Be sure to check out the rest of the Buckeye Bloggers Network for complete coverage of the Ohio State Spring Game, and join us on Saturday for Livechat.
Offensive Line- The Buckeye Battle Cry
Running Backs and Quarterbacks- The Buckeye Blog
Receivers and Tight Ends- Our Honor Defend
Defensive line- Men of the Scarlet and Gray
Defensive Backs- Buckeye House Call