`Lockdown' Chris Gamble Eyes Chance On Offense

Junior standout considers himself a full-time defensive player now. But he still hopes for at least a few opportunities on offense, perhaps as soon as Saturday's game at Wisconsin.

OSU's Chris Gamble will return to the scene of one of his largest triumphs Saturday as the Buckeyes visit Wisconsin (9 p.m., ESPN).

Gamble was inserted as an emergency cornerback for the second time last season and notched a key interception against Wisconsin backup quarterback Jim Sorgi, who will start for the Badgers this Saturday. A week later, Gamble was a full-time player on offense and defense as the Buckeyes took on Penn State. He has remained as a starter on defense ever since, seeing only a handful of plays at flanker.

"Basically, I'm a full-time defensive guy right now," Gamble said late last week. "But I want to play offense, too. I am bored. It is boring just playing on defense. But it's all right. It's kind of hard when we get a three-and-out and I just have to sit and watch the offense."

OSU coach Jim Tressel said early in the season he would use Gamble only sparingly on offense early in the season while the temperatures were warm. But with the recent cold wave to hit the Midwest -- not to mention the sputtering OSU offense (ranked 105th nationally at 298.4 yards per game) -- Gamble's return to flanker could happen soon.

But, keep in mind, that Gamble is one of OSU's key defensive players. And his backup, sophomore E.J. Underwood, may be out a while after suffering a hand injury. An injury to Gamble -- particularly if it's due to an extra work load on offense -- would be devastating.

When asked when he expects to play on offense, Gamble said, "I'm not sure. It's up to Coach Tressel. I want to go (against Wisconsin). With this week off, I should be fresh. I am missing it, not being on offense. I'm going to try and talk to him and see if I can play on offense this week. If I can get on offense, I would like to make some big plays.

"I guess I need to go to the offensive meetings and see if they will give me some plays."

Senior Drew Carter has filled in ably for Gamble at flanker this season. But Gamble would almost certainly be an upgrade if he is able to join Carter and split end Michael Jenkins in three- or four-wide receiver sets.

"Drew is a senior and he's having his best year as a senior," Gamble said. "I just want to get a couple plays in. I don't want to be too greedy."

Carter, third on the team in receptions behind Jenkins and tight end Ben Hartsock, said he would welcome Gamble's help on offense.

"We would be potent if we had Chris over here helping us. It is exciting to see him run reverses and the deep routes. I think he just wants an opportunity. Offenses aren't throwing to his side. I'm sure he gets bored. I know he is going to light it up sooner or later."

Gamble knows Wisconsin, 5-1 after winning at Penn State on Saturday, will be up to face the Buckeyes, who edged them 19-14 in Madison a year ago.

"They're a good team," Gamble said. "Last year, that was a close game. It's a night game and we're back there at Camp Randall. They're going to be hungry and ready to play us.

"They're crowd just gets so amped and so pumped. They play `Jump Around' and just get crazy."

Speaking last week, Gamble said he was looking forward to see UW star receiver Lee Evans go against Penn State.

"I just want to watch Lee Evans and see everything he does," he said. "I will study him a lot. I just watch for little things, like his alignment and the way he comes off the ball. It's great to against big time receivers like him and (Washington's) Reggie Williams. When we play them, I know I have to play my A game."

While Gamble still views himself as a wide receiver, the winning feeling of being part of the nation's 10th-ranked defense (273.0 yards per game) is contagious.

"Defensively, we're trying to make a statement," he said. "We want to be the best defense in the nation. Every day in practice, we run to the ball."

OSU senior safety Will Allen says Gamble has worked hard to improve his skills on defense. He isn't just living off athletic ability any more.

"I think he knows his role on defense a lot better this year," Allen said. "He is seeing things quicker and reacting. He knows what's going on. I know he got fired up going against Reggie Williams. He locked him down. He is a competitive guy and he's ready to compete. We get each other up."

Allen had one of the season's signature plays, a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown against San Diego State. But he credited Gamble for making the play possible by tipping the pass up for Allen to collect it.

"The D-line got great pressure and made the quarterback throw it quicker," Allen said. "Chris had excellent coverage and he broke on the ball perfectly and tipped it up. That was a total team effort. He doesn't always need to get an interception or a big play to be an integral part of our team.

"He's `Lockdown' Chris Gamble.' "

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