Shazier Put In Work To Have Big Year

One player projected to be a breakout star in 2012 is Ohio State weakside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who turned heads one year ago as a true freshman. Knowing how much he's needed this year, Shazier undertook an impressive workout regime this summer and appears ready to live up to the billing.

The offseason is all about hope in college football. The game is crazy enough that wild year-to-year swings can happen for most teams, and coming off an uncharacteristic 6-7 season, Ohio State fans were all about looking for things that would bring improvement in 2012.

Of course, there were plenty of places to find it. The hiring of two-time national title winning coach and Ohio native Urban Meyer delighted the fanbase, and the talk of Meyer's strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti whipping the Buckeyes into shape continued to pique interest.

If that work can be summed up in one person, it would be linebacker Ryan Shazier.

The Florida native arrived at Ohio State last year a thin but athletic 205-pounder who wasn't sure where he'd end up playing. By the end of the season, he was an athletic 205-pounder who seemed to find a home as a play-making but raw weakside linebacker.

By the end of summer workouts, Shazier is now a 230-pound beast who transformed his body under Marotti into the type of heat-seeking missile that just might strike fear into opposing quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.

"Just eating a lot more," Shazier said when asked about his newfound physique. "I'm a lot more hydrated. I drink a lot of fluids, and I just listen to Coach Mick. He's got me a lot stronger and a lot faster."

News of that transformation hit the internet during the summer months. Pictures of Shazier's chiseled upper body were disseminated, setting off excitement among fans who hope to see more out of the Plantation, Fla., native who earned a starting role by the end of the season and finished with 57 tackles (including 15 vs. Penn State), three sacks, two forced fumbles and a key blocked punt vs. Wisconsin as a true freshman.

Of course, one has to think Shazier is excited as well. He put in the work in order to see his game improve, and he's ready to be a player counted on, especially at a position group short on upperclassmen and experience.

"I want to be in there as many plays as possible to help the team succeed and I just want to make as many plays as the defense calls for me to make," he said. "Every opportunity I want to take advantage of."

He didn't feel like he did that a season ago, and it was easy to see that while Shazier boasted the ability to make big hits and cause turnovers as a first-year player, the aggressiveness that made him such an impactful player also left him burned by big plays a few times. There were moments when he overran some plays, and he let himself get blocked in others.

"Sometimes when the ball was going to me, I would go too fast or I just had to be more patient and read the blockers better," he said. "I can see a lot of the mistakes I made. When I was watching the Florida and the Penn State games, I saw a lot of gaps that I should have filled and a lot of tackles that I missed."

Shazier also had to deal with a knee injury late in the season that clearly limited him, especially during the Michigan game. That performance earned him a stern evaluation from Meyer, who bluntly said a few weeks ago that Shazier didn't play very well.

When reminded that Shazier was fighting injury in that contest, Meyer wasn't inclined to be any more lenient.

"The dog ate my homework," Meyer said. "He didn't play very well. Linebackers have to play dinged up a little bit. The great ones do."

That message was echoed by former head coach Luke Fickell, who has returned to being Ohio State's linebackers coach, Tuesday.

"That's an expectation on my part," Fickell said. "I expected him to do that. You knew after a few weeks here how important football was to him and what kind of kid he was, what kind of team person he was. Those are the things you're always going to continue to evaluate, and to see what he did there, you knew you had a chance to have something special."

With that in mind, Fickell has asked Shazier to take on more of a leadership role in 2012. That shouldn't be a huge stretch, Fickell said.

"He's still the same person," the coach said. "He was a leader from the day he came in. He has that natural ability to do that. He's going to be in a situation where he's asked to do it a lot more. We're going to push him to do that."

One season after not being sure what his role would be, he enters not only as a presumed starter but one viewed by many as a potential star. For his part, Shazier is ready to go.

"I feel a whole lot better," he said. "I feel a lot stronger, a lot bigger. I feel like I know the playbook almost like the back of my hand now. I know the alignment and the defense a lot better."

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