The Big Board - Defensive Line, Linebackers

With the next installment of The Big Board, it's time to look at the defensive side of the ball. Today brings a glance at the defensive line and linebacker positions.

We are back with the third installment of The Big Board, my position-by-position look at the Ohio State football team.

We opened this five-part series with a look at the offensive backs and receivers. We continued with the tight ends and offensive line.

Today, we will get inside the huddle on the defensive line and at linebacker.

The series will continue as we will examine the secondary and specialists.

Finally, we will tie all of this data together.

Here is a position-by-position look at OSU's scholarship status and prospects at the defensive line and linebacker positions with returning players listed by seniority. Walk-ons listed if on latest published roster (i.e. if you don't see a particular walk-on, he is not on the most recent roster update).

(All class designations are 2004 eligibility; starters marked with an asterisk.)

Defensive End

* In The Fold (6): Simon Fraser* (Sr.), Mike Kudla (Jr.), Redgie Arden (Jr.), Jay Richardson (Soph.), David Patterson (Soph.), Marcel Frost (R-Fr.).

* Walk-Ons (1): Derek Coker (Soph.).

* New This Fall (2): Vernon Gholston, Alex Barrow.

* Analysis: OSU is starting over, somewhat, at defensive end with the departure of All-American Will Smith, the Big Ten defensive player of the year last season.

Fraser (6-6, 265) returns, but he would like to make more of an impact after registering just two sacks last year. But he is the unquestioned leader of this group and the entire defensive line as its only returning starter.

Kudla (6-3, 255) battled back from a terrible off-season illness to become a regular by season's end. He is probably the first in line to replace Smith.

It appears that Arden (6-4, 240) is back on defense, this time at end to help provide some depth. Patterson (6-3, 285) made some inroads at defensive tackle early last season as a true freshman. Like departing Darrion Scott, he may rep at all four DL spots and will push hard for playing time. Richardson (6-5, 245) and Frost (6-5, 240) are a pair of rangy athletes who could be primed to have breakout seasons.

It is possible that redshirt freshman Reggie Smith (6-2, 225) will also be in this group this spring (he will be listed as a linebacker, though, for the time being).

Gholston (6-4, 245) was quite a find from Detroit Cass Tech, while Barrow (6-4, 245) comes in from nearby Dublin Coffman. Barrow may be a DT down the line.

* Still Looking: There are never enough play makers at the end position.

Maybe the best name in Ohio is Troy's Todd Denlinger (6-4, 265), followed closely by Cleveland Glenville's Curtis Smith (6-2, 235) and Wellston's Lance Phillips (6-2, 240).

Outside the state, Indiana's Jared Zwilling and Wisconsin's Raymond Henderson may be prime targets.

Defensive Tackle

* In The Fold (5): Marcus Green (Jr.), Quinn Pitcock (Soph.), Joel Penton (Soph.), Sian Cotton (R-Fr.), Brandon Maupin (R-Fr.).

* New This Fall (1): Nader Abdallah.

* Analysis: OSU loses a ton with the departure of Scott and Tim Anderson, each three-year starters. But Green (6-3, 290) and Pitcock (6-4, 285) have played extensively as backups and will get the first call here. Penton (6-5, 255) has almost flipped places with Patterson, meaning he may be slotted more at DT but, like Patterson, could still rep at all four DL positions.

DL coach Jim Heacock is itching to get Maupin (6-6, 290) and Cotton (6-5, 300) off red shirt status and on the practice field this spring to see what they can bring.

The signing of Abdallah (6-3, 295) from Louisiana was a coup as Tom Lemming had him rated as a national top-100 player.

There have also been reports that OSU will add Maine prep school DT Louis Holmes this fall if he qualifies academically. He is a native of the Fort Lauderdale area.

* Still Looking: If the Holmes addition pans out, that may take some of the heat off finding more DTs this year. On paper, this entire group would be back in 2005, too. And, other than Canton McKinley‘s Antwon Hight (6-4, 290), who may have academic concerns, there may not be an impact DL in Ohio.

Maryland‘s Joe Akers (6-4, 310) attended junior day at OSU and could be a key target.

Outside Linebacker

* In The Fold (5): Thomas Matthews (Sr.), Bobby Carpenter (Jr.), A.J. Hawk* (Jr.), Curt Lukens (R-Fr.), Reggie Smith (R-Fr.).

* Walk-Ons (1): Joe Bradley (Jr.).

* New This Spring (1): Marcus Freeman.

* New This Fall (2): Brandon Smith, Curtis Terry.

* Analysis: Robert Reynolds' departure leaves the SLB spot wide open, while Hawk (6-2, 230) returns at WLB. Hawk was a first-team All-Big Ten player a year ago and is, arguably, OSU's top returning player. He led the team with 106 tackles.

Carpenter (6-3, 240) figures to slide into the opening at SLB (or maybe he and Hawk will flip). Carpenter had 2-½ tackles for loss in the Fiesta Bowl, setting the stage for his permanent move into the lineup beginning this spring.

Of course, OSU has three more LBs listed below at the MLB spot in Anthony Schlegel, John Kerr and Mike D'Andrea. It is possible one or all of those players may also rotate through these outside spots and, moreover, when OSU plays nickel (which was the case about half the time last year), one of the linebackers will go to the sideline anyway.

Matthews has been a valuable special teams player. Lukens is still cutting his teeth at LB after a move from safety. Reggie Smith, as noted above, could well line up at DE this spring.

Freeman (6-3, 240) is a potential impact player who will get a head start beginning this spring. He was a national top-100 prep prospect from Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne. Brandon Smith (6-3, 240) could be a potential MLB down the line or maybe even a DE. Terry (6-2, 205) played end in high school at Glenville, but may move to OLB here in the fall. They each seem to be strong redshirt candidates with a crowded house at LB.

* Still Looking?: Good question. OSU seems set up through 2005 here and Freeman is clearly the guy of the future once Hawk and Carpenter move on. Cleveland Glenville's Freddie Lenix (6-0, 195) is a dynamite LB at Glenville. But at that size, a move to safety may be in order. There are others in Ohio who could get a look including Shaker Heights' Nick Simon (6-2, 210), Garfield Heights' Sirod Williams (6-4, 225) and Canton GlenOak's Brandon Long (6-3, 215).

Middle Linebacker

* In The Fold (3): Mike D'Andrea (Jr.), Anthony Schlegel (Jr.), John Kerr (Soph.; must pay his own way as a transfer from Indiana).

* New This Fall (0): None, although Brandon Smith could get slotted here.

* Analysis: D'Andrea would be the heir apparent but he is coming off shoulder surgery that cost him the last three games of 2003. He may go slow this spring as a result.

That opens the door wide open for the two transfers, Schlegel (6-2, 245) and Kerr. Schlegel started 1-½ seasons at Air Force, where he was a team captain and All-Mountain West player. Kerr, a Cleveland St. Ignatius grad, went to Indiana for one year and led the Hoosiers in tackles before having a falling out with head coach Gerry DiNardo. This should be a great position battle this spring and, as noted, these guys may be asked to back up at OLB as well.

It is possible that TE signee Chad Hoobler may also get a look here down the line. But, with Kerr just a sophomore, OSU seems set here through 2006.

* Still Looking?: Hard to say. With these three guys at MLB, there isn't much urgency to bring one in unless he is a great one.

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