Post Spring Big Board: DL, LB

Despite the heavy losses Ohio State must deal with as a result of players moving on to the NFL, the defense still looks strong, particularly in the front seven. In the third installment of the Post Spring Big Board, we look today 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 linebackers.

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 who completed spring football are also listed.

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

Defensive End

* In The Fold (7): Simon Fraser* (Sr.), Mike Kudla (Jr.), Redgie Arden (Jr.), Jay Richardson (Soph.), David Patterson (Soph.), Marcel Frost (R-Fr.), Reggie Smith (R-Fr.).

* Walk-On (1): Chris Schlichter (Fr.).

* 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. He looked solid during the spring.

Kudla (6-3, 255) battled back from a terrible off-season illness to become a regular by season's end in 2003. He is first in line to replace Smith at the Leo position. He was also solid during the spring.

The two rising stars in this group are Richardson (6-5, 245) and Frost (6-5, 240). Both excel with a speed rushing game off the edge. Learning the nuances of this defense will come in time, but for now these two awesome athletes will be charged with getting after the passer in obvious passing situations. Richardson had three sacks in the Scarlet and Gray Game and Frost notched two.

Patterson (6-3, 285) would also be in this category as an up-and-comer. He made some inroads at DT early last season as a true freshman, but he missed spring practice due to an injury. Like departing Darrion Scott, he may rep at all four DL spots and will push hard for playing time.

Arden (6-4, 240) returned to defense this spring, although he could go back to tight end in the fall to replace Louis Irizarry.

Smith (6-3, 225) moved from LB to end this spring and could be a factor as well as a Leo. He looked good dropping into coverage during the spring.

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). Denlinger, who could also project as a DT, was just recently offered by Ohio State and could choose the Buckeyes soon. Others of note in Ohio include Cleveland Glenville's Curtis Smith (6-2, 235), Wellston's Lance Phillips (6-2, 240) and Maple Heights‘ Terrico Marshall (6-3, 230).

Outside the state, the Buckeyes have offered New York standout Doug Worthington (6-7, 256). Penn State and Tennessee may be among his favorites, although he plans an unofficial visit to OSU. Others of note outside Ohio include Indiana's Jared Zwilling and Wisconsin's Raymond Henderson.

Defensive Tackle

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

* Walk-On (1): Derek Coker (So.).

* 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. Green missed spring practice due to injury, but is expected back in the fall. Pitcock was strong at the point of attack during the spring and could be a special player.

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. He also missed spring practice due to injuries.

Maupin (6-6, 290) and Cotton (6-5, 300) came off redshirt status and, with so many players out, they got a ton of reps this spring. Cotton showed great quickness during the spring and figures to be in the tackle rotation this fall. Maupin also made some nice plays at times and just needs to continue to develop and work on giving a consistent effort.

The signing of Abdullah (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.

OSU reportedly has made an offer to Pennsylvania's Callahan Bright (6-2, 315). Florida, Florida State, LSU and Miami (Fla.) have also offered. OSU has also reportedly offered Minnesota's Walker Ashley (6-5, 285). Penn State and Minnesota have also offered him.

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

Outside Linebacker

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

* Walk-Ons (2): Joe Bradley (Jr.), Chibindhu Nnake (eligibility unknown).

* 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. He was slowed somewhat with a knee injury in the spring, but rehabbed and actually played a half of the Scarlet and Gray Game.

Carpenter (6-3, 240) locked up his spot at the SLB spot with a fine spring. He is a rangy LB who can make plays from sideline to sideline. Carpenter had 2-½ tackles for loss as a starter 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 (6-2, 210) has been a valuable special teams player, but he is hoping to get on the field at WLB as well after an outstanding spring. He could be used as a designated blitzer and is also strong in coverage as a former safety. Lukens (6-3, 200) redshirted this past year, but showed he, too, could develop into a player at OLB.

Freeman (6-3, 240) enrolled early and was extremely impressive in spring drills. It is hard to imagine this national top-100 prep prospect from Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne redshirting this year.

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. Some in Ohio who could get a look include Shaker Heights' Nick Simon (6-2, 210), Garfield Heights' Sirod Williams (6-4, 225) and Canton GlenOak's Brandon Long (6-3, 215).

Outside the state, OSU reportedly has offers pending to Wisconsin's Travis Beckum (6-5, 220), Louisiana's Nick Harris (6-3, 200) and Rico McCoy (6-2, 212) of Washington, D.C.

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 did not practice during contact drills in the spring.

Schlegel (6-2, 245) was listed as the starter coming out of spring practice. He performed well as a physical MLB in both of the public scrimmages. Schlegel started 1-½ seasons at Air Force, where he was a team captain and All-Mountain West player.

Kerr (6-1, 246), 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. He also showed above average ability this spring and figures to see some action in the fall.

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. In Ohio, the best of the bunch may be Westlake‘s B.J. Travers (6-1, 238), Wellston‘s Phillips (listed with ends above) or Cleveland St. Ignatius‘ Jim Ramella (6-3, 235).

Buckeye Sports Top Stories