The Big Board: Defensive Linemen, Linebackers

In part three of our position-by-position look at Ohio State football, we look at the personnel and recruiting possibilities on the defensive line and at linebacker. A.J. Hawk (pictured) returns at outside linebacker after earning All-Big Ten honors a year ago.

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 (8): Simon Fraser* (Sr.), Jason Caldwell (Sr.), Mike Kudla* (Jr.), Redgie Arden (Jr.), Jay Richardson (Soph.), David Patterson (Soph.), Vernon Gholston (Fr.), Alex Barrow (Fr.).

* Walk-On (1): Brett Daly (R-Fr.).

* Verbals For 2005 (2): Ryan Williams, Doug Worthington.

* Analysis: Fraser (6-6, 280) is back for his second season as a starter. He is the elder statesman of the defensive line. But he wants to improve on last year, when he tallied just two sacks. Through three games, he has seven tackles. However, he has provided plenty of quarterback pressure, rushing N.C. State's Jay Davis into a pick this past weekend.

Kudla (6-3, 265) battled back from a terrible off-season illness to become a regular by season's end in 2003. He was first in line to replace Will Smith at the Leo position. But he suffered a neck injury in preseason camp and reinjured it against Marshall, putting him on the shelf.

Richardson (6-6, 270) has stepped into Kudla's place as a starter. He is one of the young rising stars on the defense as a rangy speed rusher. He had a sack against Marshall.

Patterson (6-3, 285) is another young star-in-waiting. He also reps at defensive tackle and started there against N.C. State. 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, 260) returned to defense this past spring. But he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in preseason camp. He was then attacked in a bar fight in Huntington, W.Va. The injuries from that assault – allegedly perpetrated by one or more Marshall football players – have put his football career in doubt. Barring an NCAA medical redshirt year, he would only have one year left.

Caldwell (6-5, 265) is a fifth-year senior who moved over to defense during the summer. He has yet to play any meaningful snaps on defense in the first three games.

Gholston (6-4, 250) was quite a find from Detroit Cass Tech. With Kudla out, he pushed his way into the two-deep and is playing as a freshman.

Barrow (6-4, 245) comes in from nearby Dublin Coffman. Barrow may be a DT down the line. He has not played to date and looks like a strong redshirt candidate.

Worthington (6-7, 257) is considered as one of the nation's top end prospects (No. 4 nationally by out of Athol Springs (N.Y.) St. Francis. He picked OSU over Maryland, Penn State, Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

Williams (6-5, 230, from Mission Viejo, Calif., picked the Buckeyes this past summer over the likes of Oklahoma and Colorado.

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

OSU is in on a number of intriguing end prospects including Maryland's Melvin Alaeze (6-2, 277), Wisconsin's Raymond Henderson (6-5, 250) and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary's Lawrence Wilson (6-6, 230).

Alaeze is rated as one of the nation's top line prospects. He is also looking at Florida, Florida State and Miami (Fla.), among others.

Henderson, ranked as the nation's No. 6 end prospect by, also has LSU, Tennessee and Nebraska on his list.

Wilson is one of Ohio's top uncommitted prospects. He impressed the OSU coaches at the summer camp. He is also looking at Pittsburgh and Notre Dame and also considers himself to be a basketball player as well.

Defensive Tackle

* In The Fold (6): Marcus Green* (Jr.), Quinn Pitcock* (Soph.), Joel Penton (Soph.), Sian Cotton (R-Fr.), Brandon Maupin (R-Fr.), Nader Abdallah (Fr.).

* Walk-Ons (0): None.

* Verbal For 2005 (1): Todd Denlinger.

* Analysis: OSU is young but talented in the interior line spots. The Buckeyes had to replace three-year starters Darrion Scott and Tim Anderson. Pitcock (6-3, 295) has emerged as the leader of the group. Through three games, he has 13 tackles (two for losses) and a sack.

Green (6-3, 290) has 25 games of experience under his belt. He has 10 tackles (three for losses) and two sacks thus far.

As noted above, Patterson also reps some in the middle. Penton (6-5, 275) 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. Maupin also made some nice plays at times and just needs to continue to develop and work on giving a consistent effort.

Abdallah (6-3, 295) was considered by some as a national top-100 player coming out of Louisiana. He will likely redshirt this season.

Denlinger (6-3, 280) is considered as one of Ohio's top five prospects. He has played linebacker and on the defensive line at Troy. He likely projects as a defensive tackle.

* Still Looking: OSU reportedly has made offers to Minnesota's Walker Ashley (6-5, 285), Kentucky's James McKinney (6-3, 275) and Florida's Jeff Owens (6-3, 265).

McKinney, the nation's No. 9 DT prospect, verbaled to Michigan previously but is considering other options.

Ashley, ranked 14th at the position nationally, currently lists OSU as his favorite choice. But Minnesota, Miami (Fla.), USC and others are also after him.

Outside Linebacker

* In The Fold (6): Thomas Matthews (Sr.), Bobby Carpenter* (Jr.), A.J. Hawk* (Jr.), Curt Lukens (R-Fr.), Marcus Freeman (Fr.), Curtis Terry (Fr.).

* Walk-Ons (4): Trever Robinson (R-Fr.), Chibindhu Nnake (Jr.), Matt Drummelsmith (Fr.), Ryan Lukens (Fr.).

* Analysis: Hawk (6-1, 238) returns at WLB for his second season as a starter. Hawk was a first-team All-Big Ten player a year ago and was voted as the preseason Big Ten defensive player of the year. He led the team with 106 tackles last year and is already out in front with 30 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups on the young season.

Carpenter (6-3, 255) moved into the SLB spot vacated by Robert Reynolds' departure. 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. He is also off to a fast start with 25 tackles in the first three games.

Matthews (6-2, 220) has been a valuable special teams player, but he was 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.

Freeman (6-2, 230) enrolled early and was extremely impressive in spring drills. This national top-100 prep prospect from Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne is involved as a special teams player and backs up Carpenter.

Lukens (6-3, 228) redshirted this past year and piled on 28 pounds. He has a bright future in front of him, but he may be slowed this season with a shoulder injury.

Terry (6-2, 205) has been pressed into service on special teams as a true freshman.

* 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. Within Ohio, OSU has an offer pending to Columbus Brookhaven's Alex Daniels (6-3, 225). He is also looking at Oklahoma and LSU.

Outside the state, OSU reportedly has offers pending to Wisconsin's Travis Beckum (6-5, 220), Florida's Spencer Adkins (6-0, 228), Washington's Anthony Felder (6-3, 225), Pennsylvania's Andre Mathis (6-1, 224), Florida's Neefy Moffett (6-1, 215) and Rico McCoy (6-2, 212) of Washington, D.C.

McCoy, ranked 13th nationally at LB by, is also looking at Maryland, Miami (Fla.) and Michigan, among others.

Moffett, ranked 15th nationally, also lists LSU, Miami (Fla.) and Florida State.

Felder, ranked 20th nationally, also is looking at Arizona State, LSU, Duke and Penn State.

Middle Linebacker

* In The Fold (4): Mike D'Andrea* (Jr.), Anthony Schlegel (Jr.), Brandon Smith (Fr.), Chad Hoobler (Fr.).

* Walk-On (1): John Kerr (Soph.; must pay his own way as a transfer from Indiana).

* Verbals For 2005 (0): None.

* Analysis: D'Andrea (6-3, 248) has stepped into the void in the middle after recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. In three games, he has 12 tackles (team-high 3-1/2 for losses) and one sack. He is beginning to live up to some of the promise expected of him when he was a prep All-American in 2001.

Schlegel (6-2, 245) stands as the backup, but he has played quite a bit in four-linebacker sets. He had a big sack against N.C. State, one of 10 tackles on the season. 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. But, for reasons unclear, he was not invited to OSU's preseason camp. He has rejoined the team, although his status remains a mystery.

Hoobler (6-3, 215) was recruited primarily as a tight end. But after two fine showings in all-star games as a linebacker this Carrollton, Ohio, product was moved to LB. He has not played and figures to redshirt. The same fate is likely for Smith (6-3, 240), who could also move to OLB or DE someday.

* Still Looking?: Hard to say. With all of these guys at MLB, there isn't much urgency to bring one in unless he is a great one. OSU has offered New Jersey's Brian Cushing (6-3, 227), who is ranked sixth nationally among LBs. He also has Miami (Fla.), Boston College, Notre Dame and others on his list.

Here are the archives from the previous installments of the midseason edition of The Big Board:

Part 1: QBs, RBs and Receivers

Part 2: Tight Ends and Offensive Line

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