D'Andrea Relishes Chance To Play

OSU junior middle linebacker Mike D'Andrea has been cleared to rejoin the team for Saturday's game against Michigan State (noon, ABC). D'Andrea has missed the last year due to a knee injury. He shares his thoughts on finally getting back out on the field.

One week ago, Ohio State linebacker Mike D'Andrea was cleared to rejoin the football team for practice after a one-year absence due to a knee injury.

D'Andrea did not make the trip to Penn State last weekend. But OSU coach Jim Tressel revealed that D'Andrea will be in uniform and on the field for Saturday's game with Michigan State (noon, ABC).

"He'll be back at (middle linebacker) to start with and I think what we've got to make a decision on is just how quickly will Marcus Freeman be back," Tressel said. "And the other thing I think Mike can do is he can add to those edge guys when you're in your nickel stuff.

"We've played (linebackers) in that Viper position as edge rush guys and that type of thing. I'm excited for him to be out there and I think he's excited to be out and ready to go. We almost took him with us to Penn State but he wasn't quite ready. I'd like to see him slowly get in and be able to help us out."

D'Andrea has been slotted behind starter Anthony Schlegel at middle linebacker. Schlegel replaced D'Andrea after his injury in last year's Northwestern game.

"I'm excited," D'Andrea said. "It feels good to be back out there with the team. I'm working at the Mike linebacker right now. Maybe down the line I'll work at some other positions."

D'Andrea was asked if he had anything to prove in his return to the field.

"I don't really know if there is anything to prove," he said. "I'm just going to go out there and try to have fun. If I get a chance to go out there and run around and hit someone, that would be fun. The biggest thing for me right now is getting back on the field."

When asked what he had to do to prove himself to the trainers and coaches, D'Andrea said, "I had to show them I could run and cut and look good at full speed."

D'Andrea said it has been hard to watch his teammates play without him.

"I missed practice a lot," he said. "You don't think about that when you're out there practicing normally. But when you're not there and you have to sit there and watch your teammates, you miss that."

D'Andrea said he wasn't sure how much he would play Saturday.

"I could go a good amount," he said. "It's up to the coaches. My knee can do whatever right now. I feel a little winded at times, but the weather is changing a little bit and I'm getting a little bit more in shape."

He said it will be fun to go right into battle against Michigan State, one of the nation's top offenses.

"Any week you have to get pressure on the quarterback," he said. "But with (MSU's Drew) Stanton, he's rated maybe No. 2 in the nation, he's a big guy. If we can affect him early, we should be in good shape."

OSU outside linebacker A.J. Hawk said he was glad to see D'Andrea back in the fold.

"I think Mike handled it well," Hawk said. "He's been away from the game for so long. I think it would be hard to be in his shoes. You could tell he was frustrated that he wasn't able to play. He's had a lot of bad luck since he's been here with injuries and everything. It's great to see him back on the field."

Hawk said D'Andrea was valuable as another set of eyes during practices, games and film sessions.

"He tried to throw in his two cents here and there and let us know what he was seeing," Hawk said. "He's a great player and he was trying to help us out. We respect what he has to say and we're glad to see him back."

D'Andrea's return can only make the defense that much better, Hawk said.

"Mike's been rehabbing hard now with a couple of injuries for a couple of years," Hawk said. "He wants to get out there and play and compete. He looked good out there today. I think he can do some things to really contribute to this team."


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