D'Andrea, a junior middle linebacker, has not played since logging a few plays in OSU's loss at Northwestern last Oct. 2. The NCAA granted his special request for a medical redshirt for 2004, giving him an extra season of eligibility. He has dealt with a balky knee that has limited his progress so far this season.
He told reporters Tuesday he was back running and on the practice field. His next big step could come as soon as today, when he hopes to be full-go during contact drills and scrimmage situations. He admits he likely has less than a 50 percent chance of making the traveling squad for Saturday's game at Penn State.
"I don't really know about this week," D'Andrea said. "I would say maybe Michigan State (Oct. 15) or a real good chance for Indiana (Oct. 22).
"Today was my first day out there running with the team and running defensive plays. You realize that after a couple of plays, you get real winded. I'll get into shape, though. I did perimeter (drills) and a lot more stuff. Hopefully, I can start hitting (Wednesday)."
It has been a long and arduous process for D'Andrea, but he feels like he is getting close to a return to action.
"That's why I came back this year," D'Andrea said. "Right now, the biggest thing for me is I have to get in shape. My knee is feeling great. Everything is feeling great. I think it's 100 percent. I was running a lot out there today to try and get back into shape."
Senior Anthony Schlegel has taken over as the starter at middle linebacker. D'Andrea could split time with Schlegel. He could also serve as a backup at outside linebacker and, as Bobby Carpenter has done, could also work as a rush defensive end in some schemes.
"I'm just going to go in and whatever they ask of me I'm just going to do," D'Andrea said. "I'm just happy to be running again and full speed again. That means a lot to me.
"They talked a little bit about playing the Sam or the Will because Marcus (Freeman) is hurt right now. (James) Laurinaitis is a good backup, too. But wherever they want me to play, that's where I would be.
"I did a little bit of (defensive end) last year. That's fun to me. I liked doing that."
D'Andrea said watching games from the sideline has been no fun.
"It's hard sitting there watching your teammates go to battle every week," he said. "But it feels real good to be back."
He appeared with an ice pack on the knee, but said things are much better than they've been.
"I might feel a little bit of pain, but nothing like it used to be," he said. "I have confidence in it now."
D'Andrea arrived at OSU amid much fanfare in 2002. But he sat behind Matt Wilhelm as a freshman, then saw a shoulder injury end his 2003 year prematurely. Last year's knee injury just compounded things.
"After not being able to run for a year, it's hard when you're an athlete," D'Andrea said. "I just need to get in shape now. You take it for granted when you're not injured. When you were injured as long as I was, you get down sometimes. But you know what it's worth when you come back and start running again.
"It was pretty hard after I got hurt last year. But you have to get over that and think about the future and concentrate on what you have to do. You can't dwell on the injuries and stuff."
As the weeks have gone by this season, D'Andrea admitted he was concerned about making it back in 2005.
"I've just been trying to get running and get to where I was full speed," he said. "You feel anxious waiting on that. I'm just excited now trying to get into shape."
Some have wondered if D'Andrea sat out the 2005 season whether he would be eligible to play two more years for OSU. But D'Andrea said even he doesn't know the answer to that question and, honestly, he has not been concerned with waiting any longer to get back on the field.
"I don't know how that works," he said. "If I'm ready right now, I want to play right now. I can't sit out another year already."