Grant Eager To Make His Mark This Spring

A player with much to prove this spring, junior Curtis Grant hopes to put a difficult 2012 season in the past. The middle linebacker lost his starting spot last fall and now looks to show the promise he showed as a five-star prospect in high school.

Curtis Grant came to Ohio State as a highly-touted linebacker from Richmond (Va.) Hermitage, a five-star prospect in the class of 2011 who many Buckeye fans thought would come in and contribute quickly.

Things haven't exactly gone according to that plan, however. Grant has not become a go-to guy at linebacker for the Buckeyes. In fact, the junior is coming off a season in which he began as a starter and ended up standing on the sideline questioning himself as Ohio State completed a 12-0 campaign.

Grant looks like a prototypical Ohio State middle linebacker, standing 6-3 and weighing in at 241 pounds this spring. But while he passes the eye test, Grant has not always looked the part during game action. To hear Grant talk about last season, though, his problems were more mental than anything.

"I got too complacent," Grant simply put it.

Grant began the season as a starter, lining up at the Mike position against Miami (Ohio), Central Florida and California before losing his starting spot. He failed to make an impact in any of the first trio of games. Grant recorded three tackles against both the Redhawks and the Knights and struggled especially in a one-tackle performance against the Golden Bears.

"I couldn't handle the glory, I guess, of being a starter," Grant said. "I should have kept working harder."

He appeared in only five more games the rest of the season and finished with eight stops. Grant watched as senior fullback Zach Boren moved from offense to linebacker, taking over in the middle and giving the Buckeyes some stability at the position.

"I was real mad," Grant said of losing his spot. "I didn't know what to do. I would just sit back and watch, and I wasn't used to that.

"This year, that's not my goal. My goal is to come out here and be a leader and help everybody else out."

Grant said time away from football after last season helped. He thought back to players like John Simon and Etienne Sabino, a pair of 2012 seniors who epitomized hard work in Grant's eyes. It helped to give him the motivation he needed heading into winter workouts and spring practice.

"I just made up my mind, after watching people like John Simon and (Sabino) play here," Grant said. "It was like, ‘John Simon never stops, so why should I?' I use that as a big motivation every time I come out here. … You've got to go get what you want."

Grant admitted that transferring did cross his mind, but ultimately that was not a decision he wanted to make.

"Either you man up or get out. It's pretty straightforward," Grant said. "I manned up so I can come out here and help."

Grant wants to win the starting spot he lost last fall. During the first spring practice, which was open to the media, Grant was the No. 1 MLB but also shared first-team reps with Joshua Perry and Camren Williams.

The junior knows Ohio State fans are eager to see how Grant performs. He downplayed the pressure of the moment but also admitted that this spring is "very big."

"I'm very determined," Grant said. "Come your junior year, if you don't do anything there's no guarantee you'll have another year to do it."

As determined as Grant is, linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Luke Fickell wants Grant to succeed just as much.

"He'll make us a 10-times-better football team became of his passion and energy," Fickell said. "But sometimes that doesn't always happen really fast for everybody. As much as we want it to, as much as he wants it to, as much as we push him to do it, sometimes good things come to those who continue to battle through and continue to fight it out.

"It's always about where you end, not where you start."

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