The 6-3, 248-pound D'Andrea told reporters late last week that his right knee is not where he hoped it would be as the Buckeyes opened preseason practice.
"Right now, I'm having problems bursting and sprinting 100 percent," D'Andrea said. "I'm just focusing on getting back to 100 percent."
Some had hoped that D'Andrea would get back into the mix at middle linebacker after missing the last eight games last year with the knee injury. Classmate Anthony Schlegel took over and ended up third on the team in tackles behind outside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter.
D'Andrea, who started the first four games last season before the injury, figured to split time with Schlegel and also play alongside those three linebackers in some 3-4 sets. But all of those plans are on hold until D'Andrea can get back on the field and participate in contact drills.
"I can't worry about anything," D'Andrea said. "I just have to go in there and play my hardest. I'd say I am 80 or 85 percent right now. I will take it day by day and see what happens."
D'Andrea was considered one of the key recruits in OSU's 2002 class. He was the reigning Associated Press Division II state defensive player of the year and a USA Today first-team All-USA pick. He chose Ohio State over the likes of Nebraska and Michigan.
But the road has been anything but easy for D'Andrea at Ohio State. He sat behind All-American Matt Wilhelm as a freshman in 2002. He then shared time with Fred Pagac Jr. in 2003 before a separated shoulder ended his season with three games remaining.
He then became the starter last year, only to strain ligaments in his knee during practice for the fourth game at Northwestern. He played in that, but only went a series or two before limping to the sideline. His season was cut short once again.
"Yeah, anybody would be disappointed by what's happened," D'Andrea said. "It's been a little bit stressful at times, but I just have to keep working through it and stay positive. Last year, I started those first four games and it felt pretty good. That's probably what has helped me to stay positive."
With some feeling Ohio State has a chance to win the Big Ten and contend for a national championship, D'Andrea just wants to be a part of the fun.
"It is exciting," he said. "We have some unbelievable weapons on offense. We have everyone coming back on defense and we should be pretty good, too.
"Obviously, the seniors have been here four or five years. The seniors try to embrace those younger guys. That is a big key in being successful."
D'Andrea was asked about the potential of this linebacker corps.
"It is very impressive," he said. "A.J. was an All-American last year. Bobby has unbelievable ability. Anthony is also a pretty good football player. I think we have a pretty good linebacker corps, one of the best in the country."
But D'Andrea made it clear that he does not want to use up his senior year without a chance to be full-go. He said if the knee does not improve enough for him to make an impact he would consider a redshirt.
"That is a possibility because I'm not going to go out my last year at less than 100 percent or 90 percent or something," he said.
All of this leaves D'Andrea's future somewhat in doubt. He and the university are already appealing his status for 2004, hoping for a medical redshirt. By rule, players can not play in more than three games and receive the medical redshirt. But D'Andrea is hoping some extenuating circumstances – a misdiagnosis of his injury – and the climate of a kinder, gentler NCAA allow him to have the option to come back next year – regardless of whether he plays at all this year or not.
"We're still working for that," he said. "The NCAA hasn't come back to us on that. Hopefully, that will be pretty soon. What we're going for is trying to get a little lucky. I wasn't totally positive the ligament was torn before (the NU game)."
Stay tuned as this situation continues to play itself out. D'Andrea could play this year and, if granted the redshirt for 2004, could come back in 2006. But getting that decision in his favor before the start of the season on Sept. 3 would give him more options, certainly.