Spring Game Defensive Notebook

The spring game is a time for young players to make their mark and several did just that during the Scarlet's 12-0 victory over the Gray on Saturday. Marcus Freeman led all players with 10 tackles. Equally impressive was the play of freshman linebacker Ross Homan, who should be getting ready for high school prom. Freshman safety Anderson Russell is another player receiving rave reviews.

There were several standout defensive players on both sides during the Scarlet's 12-0 victory over the Gray at Ohio State's spring game on Saturday.

Gray sophomore linebacker Marcus Freeman – OSU's projected starter at the Will position – had a game-high 10 tackles.

Also for the Gray, sophomore cornerback Malcolm Jenkins had seven tackles, sophomore linebacker James Laurinaitis recorded six stops and hauled in an interception, senior safety Brandon Mitchell had six tackles, and sophomore defensive end Lawrence Wilson added four tackles and one sack.

For the Scarlet, freshman linebacker Ross Homan was especially impressive with eight tackles, including five solos and a sack. Defensive ends Vernon Gholston and Jay Richardson also turned in solid performances for the Scarlet. Gholston had one sack for minus-8 yards, and Richardson had two sacks for minus-15.

Freshman defensive tackle Todd Denlinger also strutted his stuff for the Scarlet with three tackles, including a safety in which he tossed aside freshman center Jim Cordle and tackled Maurice Wells in the end zone for two points.

The Buckeyes need one of the young defensive tackles to step up this fall and it could be Denlinger.

"Todd Denlinger has been excellent this spring," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "He's strong, quick and smart. He's 290 pounds and he doesn't really show it."

But the talk of the day on the defensive side might have been Homan. He sure didn't look like a kid that should still be in high school. In fact, the early comparisons to A.J. Hawk seem to be spot on. Huge shoes to fill, but Homan very much plays like a young Hawk.

"Ross Homan has been very productive from day one," Tressel said. "That position will have opportunities to make plays, and Ross can make them. Cie Grant made them, A.J. Hawk made them and Marcus Freeman can make them. (Homan's) first 14 weeks on campus have been extraordinary."

It was Homan's debut in Ohio Stadium and he gave the 63,000-plus a pleasant sneak peak at the future.

"I think I did all right today," the humble Homan said. "I went out there and competed and that was my main goal today and I think I accomplished that."

Homan doesn't just play like Hawk, he acts like him off the field as well. But is being compared to one of the best linebackers in school history a little too much for an 18-year-old young man?

"I'm so honored to be in that position and for people to label me as that," Homan said. "But it just makes me work harder when I see that."

Tressel has been impressed with what he has seen out of the 6-6, 280-pound Richardson off the edge. Richardson has always been a talented player, but his motor has been a question mark. But now as a fifth-year senior, it's his time to step up.

"Jay has embraced the leadership role that we ask out of our older guys," Tressel said.

Added Richardson: "I'm trying to be a good example for the younger guys. This is my last year and I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team and make myself a better player. I'm focused on going hard every play."

It's hard to imagine, but Jenkins is already the seasoned veteran among the corners. Yes, Antonio Smith and Mike Roberts are fifth-year seniors, but no one has more game experience than Jenkins, who started four games last year as a true freshman.

"Yeah, it's a little crazy, but I'm just trying to come out here and lead the other guys and just elevate my entire game," Jenkins said. "I felt I played pretty well out there today, I just wish there were more balls thrown my way."

The Buckeyes will be young in the secondary this season, but Jenkins thinks the group is talented and has the desire to be good.

"We're real hungry," he said. "Everybody is competing for the spots and I think that is helping us. Everyone is working hard and is hungry out there. I think we have the talent, we just need to get the mental side down."

Jenkins was asked which young defensive back was the most impressive this spring.

"Anderson Russell," he said without hesitation. "He's explosive. We keep a production chart, and he's been more productive than everybody, even me. So, that's what has really stood out to me. He's an explosive player and makes a lot of plays."

Jenkins is not the only person that has stated that Russell has stood out. If you ask nearly anyone on the team the same question, they would likely say Russell.

"I just think I come out and I put forth 100 percent effort," Russell said. "I redshirted last year and just played on the scout team, so this spring I really wanted to come out and show what I could do."

Russell is from Georgia and doesn't have much experience playing in the secondary.

"I didn't hardly play safety at all in high school," he said. "I was pretty much strictly a running back."

Russell arrived at OSU last fall around 185 pounds. But he has already packed on 20 pounds of muscle, while still keeping all his speed.

"I'm 6-1, 205 and I ran a 4.37 over the winter," Russell said.

Another player that fans should be excited about is Gholston. The Buckeyes should have four capable ends this year: Richardson, Wilson, Alex Barrow and Gholston.

"Well, I have good strength, but my main attribute is my speed," Gholston said. "I just try and get off the edge quickly and basically this is just another practice for us. Today, I was just trying to get up the field quickly and get some sacks."

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