Preseason Big Board: Defensive Line, Linebackers

In the third installment of The Big Board, we look at the personnel and recruiting possibilities for Ohio State at the defensive line and linebacker positions. A.J. Hawk will be back to try and become a two-time All-American at OLB in 2005.

We are back with the third installment of the preseason edition 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 preseason 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 on the newest OSU roster are also listed.

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

Defensive End

* In The Fold (8): Mike Kudla* (Sr.), David Patterson (Jr.), Jay Richardson (Jr.), Vernon Gholston (So.), Alex Barrow (R-Fr.), Ryan Williams (Fr.), Lawrence Wilson (Fr.), Doug Worthington (Fr.).

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

* Apparently Gone (1): Redgie Arden (Sr.).

* Verbals For 2006 (0): None.

* 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, 276) 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.

Patterson (6-3, 285) has played in 23 games (four starts) in his first two years. As a sophomore, he had 19 tackles, 4-1/2 tackles-for-loss and two sacks. He spent the spring competing with Richardson for a starting job at end, but he can also slide inside to defensive tackle as needed.

Gholston (6-4, 260) worked his way into the two-deep as a true freshman and saw action briefly in six games. Gholston, who has added 10 pounds since last year, is also being counted on to step up in 2005.

Barrow (6-4, 255) 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. He enjoyed a fine spring and has also added 10 pounds of bulk.

Worthington (6-7, 250) is considered as one of the nation's top end prospects (No. 3 nationally by Scout.com) 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 last 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.

Arden's departure – he is not listed on the preseason roster – ends his unfulfilling tenure as a Buckeye. The Ironton, Ohio, product was sidetracked by off-the-field problems and injuries and never made his mark as a Buckeye.

* 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 (6-4, 240). He could be the next in that Glenville pipeline to pledge for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes also had offers pending to New York's McKenzie Matthews (6-2, 240) and Florida's Walter Dublin (6-3, 235).

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 (7): Marcus Green* (Sr.), Quinn Pitcock* (Jr.), Joel Penton (Jr.), Tim Schafer (Jr.), Sian Cotton (So.), Nader Abdallah (R-Fr.), Todd Denlinger (Fr.).

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

* Walk-Ons (0): None.

* Verbals For 2006 (0): None.

* Analysis: Both starters and a number of key backups return at the defensive tackle spots.

Green (6-3, 305) 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 could also rep at defensive tackle if needed.

Schafer (6-5, 290) moved over from offensive tackle, where he started half of 2004, in the spring and immediately moved into the two-deep behind Green.

Penton (6-5, 290) has now played in 18 games. He had 13 tackles (2-1/2 for losses) as a sophomore. He has gained 10 pounds in the off-season. He is in the two-deep behind Pitcock.

Cotton (6-4, 315) redshirted in 2003, then saw brief action in four games this past year. He has shown some flashes in practice, but he is still just outside the two-deep.

Abdallah (6-5, 300) 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, 265) was considered as one of Ohio's top five prospects and ranked as the nation's No. 13 defensive tackle by Scout.com. 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.

Maupin (6-6, 290) remains on a suspension from team activities. It is unclear whether he will ever return to the team. He would have been a third-year sophomore this year.

* Still Looking?: OSU wanted another defensive tackle in last year's 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 names are Kentucky's Micah Johnson (6-2, 277) and Georgia's Alex Dekle (6-2, 270). Each have reportedly been offered.

Outside Linebacker

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

* Walk-Ons (2): Trever Robinson (So.), Ryan Lukens (So.).

* Grayshirt For January (1): Freddie Lenix.

* Verbal For 2006 (1): Ross Homan.

* Analysis: Hawk (6-1, 240) 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. He, too, could be an All-Big Ten candidate in 2005.

Freeman (6-2, 230) enrolled early in 2004 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. He showed in the spring he is ready for a regular role. He is lined up behind Carpenter at the SLB spot.

Terry (6-2, 220) was pressed into service on special teams, playing in all 12 games as a true freshman. He has packed on 15 pounds during the off-season. He is lined up behind Hawk at WLB.

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. However, the start of his OSU career has been delayed until at least January due to academic/admissions concerns. He will grayshirt, allowing him to join the team in the spring and be a freshman in 2006.

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 10 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 last year's class, swinging and missing on Rico McCoy, Elijah Hodge and Alex Daniels, among others. Accordingly, the Buckeyes have offered Euclid, Ohio's Thaddeus Gibson (6-3, 205), Maryland's Navorro Bowman (6-1, 218), Florida's A.J. Jones (6-2, 190) and Maryland's Bani Gbadyu (6-1, 210).

Middle Linebacker

* In The Fold (5): Mike D'Andrea (Sr.), Anthony Schlegel* (Sr.), Chad Hoobler (So.), Brandon Smith (R-Fr.), Austin Spitler (Fr.).

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

* Verbals For 2006 (0): None.

* Analysis: This should be an interesting situation this season. D'Andrea started the first three games in 2004 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.

Schlegel (6-1, 251) 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 he could get a medical redshirt for 2004. That would allow him to return – if he desires – in 2006.

Hoobler (6-3, 240) 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. He wowed the coaches with his play in the spring, when Schlegel and D'Andrea were both on the shelf mending injuries. With the two seniors in front of him, Hoobler could be a prime target for a redshirt year.

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. He could also back up at OLB as needed.

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) is an impressive looking signee from Bellbrook, Ohio. With the jump in class from a small-school prep league, he would be a prime redshirt candidate in 2005.

* 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.

OSU has offered California's Mark Johnson (6-3, 230) and Cincinnati Colerain's Cobrani Mixon (6-2, 225). They could project at any of the three LB positions. Mixon was believed to be favoring Michigan.

Tuesday Update: Amazing how this stuff changes day to day. But Mixon verbaled to Michigan on Tuesday and his Colerain teammate Tyler Moeller (6-1, 205) was offered by OSU. He also had offers from Iowa and Virginia Tech, among others.

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

Part 1: QBs, RBs and Receivers

Part 2: Tight Ends and Offensive Line


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