We opened this five-part series on Tuesday with a look at the offensive backs and receivers. We continued with the tight ends and offensive linemen on Wednesday.
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 on the OSU bowl roster are also listed.
(All class designations are 2006 eligibility; returning starters marked with an asterisk.)
Departed Senior (1): Mike Kudla.
* In The Fold (7): David Patterson* (Sr.), Jay Richardson (Sr.), Vernon Gholston (So.), Alex Barrow (So.), Lawrence Wilson (So.), Ryan Williams (R-Fr.), Doug Worthington (R-Fr.).
* Walk-On (1): Brett Daly (Jr.).
* New This Fall (2): Walter Dublin, Robert Rose.
* Analysis: OSU loses one starter here with the departure of Kudla.
Patterson (6-3, 285) has played in 35 games (12 starts) in his first three years. As a junior, he enjoyed his best year with 24 tackles, 7-1/2 tackles-for-loss and four sacks. He has the ability to play end or tackle and, if some of the other ends on the roster come through, defensive line coach Jim Heacock may be inclined to move Patterson inside.
Patterson appeared to move past Richardson (6-6, 276), who served in a reserve role as a junior after starting six games in 2004. In 2005, Richardson had 11 tackles and two sacks. He has great wingspan and athletic ability. He just needs to become a more consistent play maker.
Gholston (6-4, 260) worked his way into the two-deep as a true freshman in 2004 and saw action briefly in six games. Gholston figured to be in the two-deep in 2005, but a preseason wrist injury put him on the shelf and he was redshirted. He should be full-go for spring practice.
Barrow (6-4, 255) found himself in the two-deep for much of the season. But with OSU pulling one of its ends in favor of linebacker Bobby Carpenter on most passing downs, Barrow found opportunities to play few and far between. He ended up with three tackles in six games as a redshirt freshman.
Wilson (6-6, 225) was renowned for his play making ability during preseason practice. He, too, spent some time in the two-deep. He ended up tallying two tackles in 10 games as a reserve. Wilson could be one to keep an eye on in spring practice.
"Lawrence has shown us he's a heck of a football player since he's been here," Heacock said. "The nice thing about bowl practice, for young guys, is it gives them a chance to have a little bit more attention. They get more reps and they can learn a little bit more. True freshmen, when they come in, you're getting ready to play Miami (Ohio) and Texas. They don't get a lot of attention. The bowl practice is a chance for them to showcase what they are and what they can do.
"He's had an opportunity to get a few more reps and, obviously, he has some more confidence in himself and understands the scheme a little bit better. He's going to be a great football player. He is an outstanding young man who does a nice job in the classroom. He's a special football player. He's had an opportunity to get into the system a little bit more and will get some more playing time."
Worthington (6-7, 250) was considered one of the nation's top end prospects when he arrived in the fall. But he and fellow freshman Williams (6-6, 245) were each redshirted and then each suffered serious knee injuries during bowl practice. They would be considered questionable for spring practice.
"It really is unfortunate," Heacock said. "That is the worst part about it for me to see two young guys get hurt. But there is a fine line. You have go out and scrimmage and you have to go out and play football. It's football. They had some bad luck. But, shoot, it's not the end of the world. They're both young. They're only freshmen and they'll have to get back and do their rehab.
"A lot of great football players have had their injury and come back from it. They just have to take a positive approach. We didn't like it and we wish it didn't happen. But you can't play football unless you play football."
Dublin (6-3, 235) is considered a strong speed rusher from Sarasota, Fla. He had 60 tackles and eight sacks as a senior there. That followed a junior year, when he had 14 sacks.
Rose (6-5, 260) ended up becoming one of the nation's top end prospects from Cleveland Glenville. There, he tallied 17 sacks as a senior and went on to shine in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. He could shake things up upon his arrival in the fall. Rose has gained 20 pounds since OSU offered him on signing day a year ago.
* Still Looking: There are never enough play makers at the end position. The Buckeyes could again be in the market to take two defensive end prospects
The biggest name here is Cincinnati LaSalle's Ben Martin (6-4, 215), who is already regarded as Ohio's top overall junior. Martin reportedly has offers from Ohio State and Notre Dame. He is a big, rangy athlete who makes plays all over the field.
Two more key names in Ohio are West Chester Lakota West's Solomon Thomas (6-4, 215) and West Virginia's Joey D'Andrea (6-3, 245). Also in the mix could be Cleveland Benedictine's Eric Thomas (6-4, 250) and Batavia, Ill., standout Mike Garrity (6-6, 270).
* Departed Senior (1): Marcus Green.
* In The Fold (5): Quinn Pitcock* (Sr.), Joel Penton (Sr.), Sian Cotton (Jr.), Nader Abdallah (So.), Todd Denlinger (R-Fr.).
* Walk-Ons (1): Juan Garnier (Jr.).
* New This Fall (1): Dexter Larimore.
* Analysis: OSU loses Green, who started two seasons at defensive tackle.
Pitcock (6-3, 295) is OSU's top returning defensive player. He will be back for his third season as a starter with 37 games and 23 starts under his belt. He tallied 28 tackles, three tackles-for-loss and one sack up front in 2005. This fifth-year player said he is ready to accept a leadership role.
"I have felt the last couple of years I needed to be that kind of role model," Pitcock said. "This past year, I stepped back and let them fill that role as seniors. I'm ready to fulfill that role. Whatever they ask me to do, the young guys, I'll do anything in my power to make them better and make me better."
As noted above, Heacock could opt to put Patterson inside and allow the depth at end to handle those two spots. But there are also some options at tackle.
Penton (6-5, 290) has now played in 30 games. He had 12 tackles (1-1/2 for losses) as a junior. He spent 2005 as Pitcock's backup and could be the prime candidate to replace Green.
Cotton (6-4, 315) redshirted in 2003, then saw brief action in four games in 2004 and five games in 2005. He has shown some flashes in practice, but he still hasn't been able to crack the two-deep. Heacock would love nothing more than to see Cotton fulfill his potential in 2006.
Abdallah (6-5, 300) was considered by some as a national top-100 player coming out of Louisiana in 2004. He redshirted that fall and played in four games this past year. Like Cotton, Abdallah has been 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 coming out of Troy, Ohio, last year. He redshirted in 2005 and, with added bulk (the 265-pound figure has to be an old one), could push for playing time in 2006.
Larimore (6-3, 275) had 17 TFLs and five sacks as a high school senior at Merrillville, Ind., in 2005. He is also an outstanding wrestler. With the depth situation at tackle, Larimore could get a long look when he arrives in the fall.
Garnier (6-4, 330) is an intriguing walk-on with great size. He walked on previously at Auburn before transferring to OSU a year ago. Perhaps he will factor in the mix this spring.
* Definitely Looking: OSU wanted another defensive tackle in the 2006 class as it went down to the wire with Kentucky's Corey Peters, who signed with Kentucky.
Some names to file away include Bedford (Ohio) Chanel's Cameron Wade (6-3, 260), Cincinnati Sycamore's Caleb Lipsey (6-3, 285) and Dayton Meadowdale's Mike Page (6-5, 265).
* Departed Seniors (2): Bobby Carpenter, A.J. Hawk.
* In The Fold (3): Curtis Terry (Jr.), Marcus Freeman (So.), James Laurinaitis (So.).
* Walk-Ons (3): John Kerr (Sr.), Trever Robinson (So.), Ryan Lukens (So.).
* New This Spring (2): Larry Grant (Jr.), Ross Homan (Fr.).
* New This Fall (2): Thaddeus Gibson, Tyler Moeller.
* Analysis: It is hard to even discuss replacing All-Americans like Carpenter and Lombardi Award winner Hawk. But the Buckeyes will press ahead in spring practice.
"Who is going to step up?" asked OSU head coach Jim Tressel. "Is it Curtis Terry or James Laurinaitis or Ross Homan or Larry Grant? Who's going to step up there? I like the makings of it."
Linebackers coach Luke Fickell promises a lot of experimentation and evaluation during spring practice.
"I told those guys I'm going to move them all around," Fickell said. "I don't care if they're a middle linebacker or a Sam ‘backer. We're going to find the guys who can play. We're going to create competition there."
Freeman (6-2, 230) enrolled early in 2004 and was extremely impressive in spring drills last year. But a preseason leg injury required surgery. He then was sidelined with a Staph infection and missed the rest of the year. This national top-100 prep prospect from Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne got involved as a special teams player and backed up Carpenter in 2004. He is a promising linebacker who is just waiting for a chance to start. The good news is he has three years remaining.
"He's got to be a guy who steps up and takes a leadership role," Fickell said. "He's a guy we expect to step up and do a lot of good things for us. Marcus is very intelligent and he knows what's going on."
Laurinaitis (6-3, 231) came in last fall after earning Mr. Football honors in his home state of Minnesota in 2004. When Carpenter suffered a broken leg on the first play of the Michigan game, Laurinaitis filled in ably for him in that win. He also played in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. He ended up tallying nine tackles and played in all 12 games in 2005.
"James has done everything we've ever asked," Fickell said. "He didn't bat an eye when we put him in the Michigan game. We had no other choice, but he was less nervous than we were. He's a confident kid."
For the second year in a row, Terry (6-2, 220) did most of his work on special teams. He played in all 12 games last season. He, too, had an impressive spring in 2005 and could push for time in 2006.
Kerr (6-1, 246), a Cleveland St. Ignatius grad, went to Indiana in 2002 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 in 2004. He rejoined the team after the first game, but never saw the field. Kerr backed up Hawk in 2005, tallying 14 tackles. He could be in line for playing time in 2006.
Homan (6-1, 237) from Coldwater, Ohio, has already enrolled as a true freshman and will participate in spring drills. He was the ONN/Ohio High state player of the year with 204 tackles (17 TFLs) on defense and 1,412 yards and 26 TDs on offense for Coldwater's 15-0 state championship team.
Grant (6-3, 225) was a first-team JUCO All-American at City College of San Francisco. He had 80 tackles in his second year at CCSF. A native of Norcross, Ga., Grant will also enroll in time for spring practice and could push for playing time in 2006.
Gibson (6-3, 220) was rated as Ohio's No. 2 prospect by Ohio High and was also a national top-100 prospect. He has great speed and excelled coming off the edge at Euclid (Ohio) High School. He had 10 sacks as a senior after notching 17 as a junior.
Moeller (6-1, 205) had 123 tackles, 29 TFLs and 15-1/2 sacks as a senior for Cincinnati Colerain. He is just a play maker. Could be a redshirt candidate as he adds bulk. May eventually move to safety depending on how he develops and OSU's depth at both positions.
* Still Looking?: Ohio State found some plums this past year with Grant, Gibson, Moeller and Homan. That allows the Buckeyes to be selective at the linebacker position in 2007.
Some key Ohio names who could either be OLBs or safeties at the college level included Massillon Washington's Andrew Dailey (6-3, 215), Cleveland Glenville's Jermale Hines (6-2, 200) and Trotwood-Madison's Carlton Peake (6-2, 210).
* Departed Senior (1): Anthony Schlegel.
* In The Fold (3): Mike D'Andrea (Sr.), Chad Hoobler (Jr.), Austin Spitler (Fr.).
* New This Fall (1): Mark Johnson.
* Analysis: Schlegel was a two-year starter and a godsend for the Buckeyes, who have had to live without the ailing D'Andrea for much of the last two years.
D'Andrea (6-3, 248) was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA after playing just four games in 2004 before going on the shelf with a knee injury. He sat out until midway through the 2005 season. He played sparingly in five midseason games before missing the last three games again due to the knee injury.
"The knee kept swelling up on me," D'Andrea said. "It's been two major injuries, really. It's just been bad luck, I guess. Anyone would think that way in my position. You've gotta look at it that way. Obviously, the big thing I want to do is stay healthy next year."
Provided D'Andrea is healthy, the spring is sizing up as a battle between him and Hoobler for the starting spot.
Hoobler (6-3, 240) had a fine spring in 2005, but found precious little playing time behind Schlegel. He played in all 12 games, mostly on special teams, and tallied four tackles.
Spitler (6-3, 228) was an impressive looking signee a year ago from Bellbrook, Ohio. With the jump in class from a small-school prep league, he redshirted in 2005. As Fickell promised, he could also see some time at OLB in the spring.
Johnson (6-4, 230) had 138 tackles and eight sacks after transferring to Los Angeles Dorsey for his senior year. He was considered a national top-100 prospect. He has the best size of any of the new linebackers and, truly, could play either the middle or strongside linebacker positions. If D'Andrea and Hoobler check out fine, Johnson could be a redshirt candidate. Then again, he could make some inroads on special teams as a true freshman.
* 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 post signing day edition of The Big Board: