D'Andrea Mending, Waiting For His Chance

Linebacker Mike D'Andrea was one of the nation's most coveted high school recruits two years ago. He picked Ohio State in a great recruiting battle with Michigan and Nebraska. But he is sidelined this spring due to shoulder surgery, the latest break that has gone against this one-time can't-miss prospect. Click here for more.

There have been few players who arrived at Ohio State with more fanfare than linebacker Mike D'Andrea.

But D'Andrea has found it hard to break into the limelight with the Buckeyes. The Avon Lake, Ohio, native sat behind All-American middle linebacker Matt Wilhelm in 2002. Then, as a sophomore, he split time at the middle linebacker spot with senior Fred Pagac Jr. until he suffered a late-season shoulder injury.

It was a major coup for OSU in January 2002 when D'Andrea verbaled to the Buckeyes over the likes of Michigan, Nebraska and many others.

But two years in and the 6-3, 240-pound D'Andrea still has not started a game for Ohio State -- an impossibility, it seems, for a guy who was a can't-miss, USA Today All-USA first team pick and rated, by some, as Ohio's top overall prospect ahead of some guy named Maurice Clarett.

"Sometimes you hear people talk about it, but I just play it off," D‘Andrea said of his bad fortune. "I have to keep my mind focused on what I have to improve on this year, really. I'd like to improve in the passing game with my footwork and with my overall knowledge of the defense."

D'Andrea is again in a vulnerable spot. He is being held out of contact drills this spring to allow his surgically repaired right shoulder a chance to fully heal. Meanwhile, a pair of transfers, Anthony Schlegel from Air Force and John Kerr from Indiana, have made a serious run at the middle linebacker position.

"I'm not doing any contact at all," he said. "It's weird, but there is still a lot of stuff I can do individually with the footwork drills. I can come in and watch extra film. I can still work during perimeter in the passing game with my drops and things like that.

"I'm not too worried because my shoulder has come along far enough. I know even if I get a little nudge it won't be too bad."

D'Andrea was credited with 24 tackles last year before he suffered the shoulder dislocation during the Nov. 8 game against Michigan State.

"That Michigan State game, I felt pretty good going into it," he said. "I was pretty frustrated when I got injured during that game. I originally hurt it in the Northwestern game. I couldn't really improve on my strength because I couldn't lift with it. So I kept on getting weaker and weaker. Then, in the Michigan State game, it was the second or third kickoff and I dove to try and make a tackle and just hit the ground and dislocated it."

His arm was in a sling following the surgery and kept him out of the Fiesta Bowl.

"I had surgeries in one -- a dislocation, my AC joint and my labrum ligament," he said. "There was some frustration for a while when I got hurt. It's not bothering me too much right now. I think I've gotten over it. I can't think about it too much. I just have to think about improving with what I have now and get ready for the fall. I would like to be out there, too, but I'm not jealous. Whatever happens happens.

"My goal right now is to always improve mentally, watch tons of film and improve in the areas I need to improve physically with footwork and strength. Then I just need to be conditioned mentally and physically before I get into fall camp."

D'Andrea was asked to size up the competition at middle linebacker.

"They are both really good players," he said. "Schlegel did real good at Air Force and Kerr did real good at Indiana. They were both at Division I schools. They are both strong with real good movement.

"During fall quarter, Kerr and I had a class together. We'd talk. We're good friends and we'd go out to eat all the time. He's a cool kid. I get along with him pretty well."

D'Andrea said he is getting good progress reports from OSU's medical personnel. He doesn‘t think he should be counted out of the race just yet.

"I met with Dr. (Chris) Kaeding, the team doctor, and he said he was real happy with everything I got done on my shoulder," D‘Andrea said. "He said I was ahead of schedule, actually. He said my strength and flexibility were real good in the shoulder and I should definitely be 100 percent by the fall.

"You have to be optimistic when you think about things. I'm pretty confident in my ability to improve. Hopefully by the start of fall camp, I'll be 100 percent with everything."

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