Grant Adjusting To D-I; Hopes To Start at SLB

Larry Grant was the No. 1 JUCO linebacker in the country last season and Ohio State was able to land him as part of the 2006 recruiting class. Grant is playing strongside linebacker and is battling to earn a starting spot. Even if he doesn't start, he is sure to play a lot this season. New writer Glenn Forbes caught up with him for more.

Junior college transfer Larry Grant had a predictable answer when asked why he chose to come to Ohio State.

"This is Linebacker U.," Grant said, invoking a name that formerly was reserved for Big Ten rival Penn State. "A.J. Hawk, Anthony Schlegel, Bobby Carpenter. Those are six big shoes to fill."

Grant (6-3, 228, Jr.) is one of many challengers competing for the opportunity to become a starting linebacker in 2006. John Kerr, Marcus Freeman and James Laurinaitis are currently running with the first team. Grant, Curtis Terry, Ross Homan, Chad Hoobler, Austin Spitler and the recuperating Mike D'Andrea are all pushing for playing time.

"I'm expecting to start, of course I am," Grant said with a slight grin. "We all want to start. I want to come in, work hard and earn it."

Despite the crowded and heated competition among the linebackers, Grant said it is not discussed.

"It just seems like a big family here," he said. "We don't really talk about competition."

Coach Jim Tressel and his staff have played Grant exclusively at strongside linebacker, the position he was accustomed to at City College of San Francisco. The national junior college player of the year is still adjusting to life in Columbus and Big Ten football.

"The game is faster and everybody's bigger," Grant said. "But also the team chemistry is better. Junior college is more of an individual game. It's more intense up here and your knowledge has to be better."

Grant is adjusting to a different practice style at Ohio State. Individual drills and emphasis on technique is the focus of linebackers coach Luke Fickell.

"Larry is doing a good job," Fickell said. "If there is one thing that is difficult about our defense, it is what we expect our linebackers to know and adjust to. But he's picking it up just fine. As he gets more and more comfortable, I think we'll see more and more out of him."

Added Grant: "At City, it was just about being an athlete. There's more individualized time here. I feel like I'm getting better. Coach Fickell tells us to keep thinking about finishing the play."

According to his position coach, Grant has the tools to become an impact player.

"The ability is there," Fickell said. "Finding the ball, hitting. Then it's about learning different schemes and he's doing a wonderful job. I have no doubt he'll grasp it and be ready for fall."

Fickell said six or seven players are pushing at different positions. He was not sure if he liked the idea of a linebacker rotation, but does not see the Buckeyes dropping a defensive lineman to play four linebackers.

"One thing is for sure," Fickell said. "It will make the special teams a lot better."

Grant must also adapt to life off the field on a large campus and as a member of a team under national spotlight. Although Grant said he sometimes feels like an outsider, the team has taken him in as family.

"My roommates take care of me," Grant said of defensive end Vernon Gholston and tight end Brandon Smith. "They've shown me around and I'm getting used to the campus and the city."

Grant is majoring in African-American studies and has noticed the adjustment academically as well.

"There's more studying in class, more studying of film," he said. "The coaches hand us the notebooks to study too," Grant said. "There's a lot of people around here. I see a new face everyday. And one building is like as big as my whole junior college."

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