The Big Board: DLs and LBs

In part three of our five-part series, we examine the returning personnel and recruiting possibilities for Ohio State on the defensive line and at linebacker. These are some of the deepest positions on the OSU team, led by All-American OLB A.J. Hawk.

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 post signing day 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 were on the Alamo Bowl roster are also listed.

(All class designations are 2005 eligibility; starters marked with an asterisk.)

Defensive End

* In The Fold (5): Mike Kudla* (Sr.), Redgie Arden (Sr.), Jay Richardson (Jr.), Vernon Gholston (So.), Alex Barrow (R-Fr.).

* Walk-On (1): Brett Daly (So.).

* New This Fall (3): Ryan Williams, Lawrence Wilson, Doug Worthington.

* Analysis: OSU loses one starter here with the departure of senior Simon Fraser.

Kudla (6-3, 265) was a key backup as a sophomore in 2003, then moved into the lineup and started seven of the 12 games in 2004. He ended up with 28 tackles, 6-1/2 tackles for loss and a team-high four sacks on the year. He will be one of the leaders on the defensive line in 2005.

When Kudla battled some early season injuries, Richardson (6-6, 270) stepped into the void. He started six games in 2004. He has great wingspan and athletic ability. He just needs to become a more consistent play maker. He had 15 tackles, two for losses and one sack in 2004.

Gholston (6-4, 250) worked his way into the two-deep as a true freshman and saw action briefly in six games. He is also being counted on to step up in 2005.

Barrow (6-4, 245) drew praise for play in practice as he redshirted this past year. He has a bright future in front of him and is expected to push for playing time quickly in 2005.

Arden (6-4, 260) has had a rough way to go. He has spent time at linebacker, tight end and on the defensive line in his star-crossed career. 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. Hopes were high he would be in camp for spring football and would be able to contribute as a senior.

It is also possible that David Patterson and Joel Penton, who will be listed at defensive tackle, will also get a few reps at end in 2005.

Worthington (6-7, 250) is considered as one of the nation's top end prospects (No. 3 nationally by out of Athol Springs (N.Y.) St. Francis. He picked OSU over Maryland, Penn State, Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

Williams (6-6, 245), from Mission Viejo, Calif., picked the Buckeyes this past summer over the likes of Oklahoma and Colorado. He would likely benefit from a redshirt year where he can continue to grow and develop.

Wilson (6-5, 240) chose the Buckeyes on signing day over Notre Dame and Florida.

Given the depth situation at end, it is entirely possible that Worthington and/or Wilson could push their way into the two-deep (or higher) as true freshmen.

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

On signing day, OSU immediately made an offer to Cleveland Glenville's rangy Robert Rose (6-5, 230). He could be the next in that Glenville pipeline to pledge for the Buckeyes. Cincinnati Withrow's Kallen Wade (6-5, 210) also attended OSU's junior day.

After taking three ends in the 2005 class, if OSU can snag Rose that may be it in this class.

Defensive Tackle

* In The Fold (6): Marcus Green* (Sr.), David Patterson (Jr.), Quinn Pitcock* (Jr.), Joel Penton (Jr.), Sian Cotton (So.), Nader Abdallah (R-Fr.).

* In Limbo (1): Brandon Maupin (So.).

* Walk-Ons (0): None.

* New This Fall (1): Todd Denlinger.

* Analysis: This may be one of the deepest positions on the team as both starters and a number of key backups return.

Green (6-3, 290) has 34 games of experience – including seven starts -- under his belt. He had 32 tackles (three for losses) and two sacks as a junior.

Pitcock (6-3, 295) redshirted in 2002, before becoming a key backup in 2003 and, without a doubt, OSU's top defensive lineman in 2004. He has now played in 25 games with 12 starts. As a sophomore, he had 44 tackles, 7-1/2 tackles-for-loss, two sacks and an interception. This physical player has a high motor and is the perfect guy for OSU's scheme at the point of attack. He really came into his own late in the season and could be a strong awards candidate in 2005.

As noted above, Patterson (6-3, 285) and Penton (6-5, 275) are each capable of playing any of the four defensive line spots. They seem to have settled in at DT most of the time, however. Patterson has played in 23 games (four starts). As a sophomore, he had 19 tackles, 4-1/2 tackles-for-loss and two sacks. Penton has now played in 18 games. He had 13 tackles (2-1/2 for losses) as a sophomore.

Cotton (6-5, 300) redshirted in 2003, then saw brief action in four games this past year. He has shown some flashes in practice and would love to crack the two-deep this spring.

Maupin (6-6, 290) is currently on a suspension from team activities. On signing day, OSU coach Jim Tressel said Maupin had work to do to regain his spot on the team.

Abdallah (6-3, 295) was considered by some as a national top-100 player coming out of Louisiana in 2004. He redshirted this past year and, like Cotton, is biding his time waiting for a chance to show what he can do.

Denlinger (6-3, 280) was considered as one of Ohio's top five prospects and ranked as the nation's No. 13 defensive tackle by He has played linebacker and on the defensive line at Troy. He had 60 tackles and seven sacks in earning All-Ohio honors as a senior. He likely projects as a defensive tackle and, given the depth at the position, seemed likely to redshirt in 2005.

* Still Looking?: OSU wanted another defensive tackle in this class after courting Minnesota's Walker Ashley through signing day. With Green departing, OSU will be on the lookout for a good one. Perhaps the top name in Ohio is Warren Harding's Antonio Reed (6-1, 265).

Outside Linebacker

* In The Fold (5): Bobby Carpenter* (Sr.), A.J. Hawk* (Sr.), Curt Lukens (So.), Marcus Freeman (So.), Curtis Terry (So.).

* Walk-Ons (4): Trever Robinson (So.), Chibindhu Nnake (Sr.), Matt Drummelsmith (So.), Ryan Lukens (So.).

* New This Fall (2): James Laurinaitis, Freddie Lenix.

* Verbal For 2006 (1): Ross Homan.

* Analysis: Hawk (6-1, 238) returns at WLB for his third season as a starter. Hawk was a consensus All-American as a junior and was named first-team All-Big Ten for the second year in a row. He will likely again be a candidate for the Butkus Award, among other national honors. His coaches and teammates believe he is the best linebacker in college football, and who could argue after he posted 141 tackles, eight tackles-for-loss, one sack and two interceptions as a junior. He has played in 39 games, starting 26.

Carpenter (6-3, 255) moved into the SLB spot vacated by Robert Reynolds' departure. He also had quite a year with 93 tackles, 6-1/2 tackles-for-loss, two sacks and three interceptions. He has played in 39 games, starting 14.

Freeman (6-2, 230) enrolled early and was extremely impressive in spring drills. This national top-100 prep prospect from Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne got involved as a special teams player and backed up Carpenter. He is a promising linebacker who is just waiting for a chance to start.

Lukens (6-3, 228) redshirted in 2003, piling on 28 pounds. He then suffered a shoulder injury and was lost for the year. There has been talk that he may rep some at safety this year as well.

Terry (6-2, 205) was pressed into service on special teams, playing in all 12 games as a true freshman.

Laurinaitis (6-3, 231) was named Minnesota's Mr. Football award winner after tallying nearly 200 tackles as a prep senior. He could project as an SLB in the mold of Carpenter down the line.

Lenix (6-0, 193) was also a tackling machine at Cleveland Glenville. He may make his first impact on special teams a la Sirjo Welch from a year ago. There has been talk that he could eventually rep at running back or safety as well at OSU.

Homan (6-1, 225) from Coldwater, Ohio, gives OSU a head start on its 2006 class. He is considered one of the state's top five seniors-to-be. He had over 140 tackles and helped his team go 13-1 and reach the Division IV state semifinals. He may project as a WLB in the Hawk mold or, possibly, as a middle linebacker.

* Definitely Looking: OSU desperately wanted an athletic OLB in this class, swinging and missing on Rico McCoy, Elijah Hodge and Alex Daniels, among others. Accordingly, the Buckeyes have already offered Euclid, Ohio's Thaddeus Gibson (6-3, 205) for next year. They have also offered Pennsylvania's Jeremiha Hunter (6-2, 210). Other prospects include Youngstown Ursuline's Joe Underwood (6-2, 220), Illinois' Dustin Jefferson (6-1, 205) and Georgia's Marcus Ball (6-0, 205).

Middle Linebacker

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

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

* New This Fall (1): Austin Spitler.

* Analysis: This should be an interesting situation this spring. D'Andrea started the first three games before going down with a season-ending knee injury. Schlegel stepped in the rest of the way and did a fine job. They will likely split work in the middle this year and the Buckeyes could also explore using some four-linebacker sets to get all of these talented linebackers on the field.

"Honestly, I think we're going to be great," Schlegel said. "But, as always, we have to play hard and execute. That's the only difference this past year in being great and being good. We're all excited about having so many people back."

Schlegel (6-2, 245) got his first taste of action at OSU after transferring in from Air Force, where he was a team captain and All-Mountain West player as a sophomore. He ended up third on the team in tackles with 84 and was first in tackles-for-loss (10-1/2) and second in sacks (3-1/2).

D'Andrea (6-3, 248) was starting to live up to some of the hype generated when he was a prep All-American at Avon Lake, Ohio, in 2001. He had 13 tackles and 3-1/2 tackles-for-loss when he went down. The prognosis is good for him to be full-go in 2005. It is possible, though, that he could redshirt in 2005 or get a medical redshirt for 2004. Either of those scenarios would allow him to return – if he desires – in 2006.

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 last spring. But, for reasons that were never made clear, he was not invited to OSU's preseason camp. He rejoined the team after the first game, but never saw the field. Theoretically, he will be available as a backup and key special teams player in 2005.

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 ended up playing the last six games, primarily as a special teams player.

Smith (6-3, 240) is a versatile athlete who could play tight end, defensive end or linebacker for the Buckeyes. He redshirted in 2004.

Spitler (6-3, 228) tallied 135 tackles and had two interceptions as a prep senior at Bellbrook, Ohio.

* 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. And, again, Laurinaitis or Homan could also end up here down the line.

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

Buckeye Sports Top Stories