Sometimes, change can be a good thing, even when we're talking about this year's group of linebackers.
No, I'm being serious.
Okay, so maybe all we have of last year's group is just a bunch of distant memories, and chances are, this year's team will never be the same, things may not be all that bad. Maybe we won't have the experience, and I'm sure that these guys will make a few dumb mistakes that last year's team would have never even considered, but the bottom line is these are the guys we're going to move on with, but our team should be okay.
Projected starting Sam linebacker:
James Laurinaitis (6-3, 231 pounds) So.
Okay guys, fess up. When Bobby Carpenter went down with a broken ankle on the first play of the Michigan game, you're exact thoughts were "Oh great, now Michigan is going to attack the strong side all game long and it's going to be a very long day." Okay, maybe those weren't you're exact thoughts (and for the record, they weren't mine, either), but you probably had a feeling we were in a little trouble. Well, as the game wore on, Michigan did exactly that, and Mr. Unknown, James Laurinitis filled the job exceptionally. He may not be the biggest, fastest, strongest, or most agile linebacker that we have, but the bottom line here is that Laurinaitis is a gamer, and when Saturdays roll around, you know he is going to bring it. However, when Larry Grant (2005 JUCO POTY) gets himself settled down in the system, expect him to gain some serious playing time, if not take over the starting job completely. Right now, Laurinaitis is the most experienced member of the linebackers as far as who played last season.
Projected Starting Mike Linebacker:
John Kerr (6-1, 246 pounds) Sr.
Although Kerr may be #1 on the team's current depth chart, his backup, Mike D'Andrea, might as well be listed as 1a, that is, assuming he can maintain his health for an entire season. D'Andrea has all the tools to be a total beast in the middle, but so far, his knees don't necessarily agree. Anyways, due to D'Andrea's concerns, Kerr is the main man in the middle. As most of you know by now, Kerr was a total monster at Indiana, recording 114 tackles as a freshman. Wanting to showcase his talents on a larger scale, Kerr transfered to OSU and walked on, where he has spent the past few seasons backing up AJ Hawk. Now, Kerr finally gets a shot to show that he wasn't a fluke at Indiana, and let's all hope that he's right.
Projected Starting Will Linebacker:
Marcus Freeman (6-2, 232 pounds) So.
Freeman, Ohio's #7 overall prospect and an Army All-American out of high school, got his redshirt torn off of him in the 2004 season when a multitude of injuries occured above him. Freeman made an impact immediately on special teams, and he even saw some time on the defensive end. When 2005 rolled around, however, Freeman had to undergo knee surgery, and further complications to the surgery caused him to take a medical redshirt and miss the entire season. He was expected to be the fourth leg of OSUs stellar linebackers, and now, the fourth leg gets the stage to himself, where he should prosper. Freeman is one of the fastest guys playing linebacker in the country, and when he's at his very best, there isn't an offense in America that can get in his way. His speed should be of great value this season, seeing as how the revolutionary spread offense focuses on spreading out defenses and making them rely on speed to slow down the opposition.
Players to keep an eye on:
Mike D'Andrea (MLB) - Mike was a complete animal in his freshman season, backing up Matt Wilhelm and contributing greatly to our national championship. However, the seasons have passed and the years have rolled, and ever since then Mike has suffered from two shortened seasons, and a third season which he missed entirely. However, recent reports say that his knee is improving. He likely won't start the season at 100%, but we can rest him all we need early on, just as long as he's there in the meat of the Big 10 schedule.
Ross Homan (WLB) - Homan is a true freshman from Division IV Ohio state champion Coldwater HS. He was the leader of the team where he played both RB and LB. After leading his team to a state championship, Homan graduated and enrolled himself at OSU in time for Spring practice. Players who do such a thing usually have an impact off the bat (take AJ Hawk, Maurice Clarett, and Steve Rehring for example). Although he is a tad undersized, he was seen working out with AJ Hawk and Bobby Carpenter during the winter time, which is always a good sign.
That's all for today. Next week: The secondary!