Big Board Post-Spring: DLs, LBs

This is the third installment of the post-spring edition of The Big Board. Today, we look at the current personnel and recruiting possibilities for Ohio State at the defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker positions. Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock is back for his senior year as a leader on the OSU defense. Click here for more.

We are back with the third installment of the post-spring edition of the The Big Board, my position-by-position look at the Ohio State football team.

We opened this five-part series on Monday with a look at the offensive backs and receivers. We continued with the tight ends and offensive linemen on Tuesday.

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-spring 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.)

Defensive End

Departed Senior (1): Mike Kudla.

* In The Fold (6): Jay Richardson (Sr.), Vernon Gholston (So.), Alex Barrow (So.), Lawrence Wilson (So.), Ryan Williams (R-Fr.), Doug Worthington (R-Fr.).

* Walk-Ons (2): Brett Daly (Jr.), Bryan Gray (R-Fr.).

* New This Fall (2): Walter Dublin, Robert Rose.

* Analysis: OSU loses one starter here with the departure of Kudla and will move another, David Patterson, inside to defensive tackle this season.

The plethora of play makers at this position allowed defensive coordinator/line coach Jim Heacock to shift Patterson inside.

Richardson (6-6, 276) served in a reserve role as a junior after starting six games in 2004. He has played in 26 games in his career. 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.

"I'm trying to step up and be a leader for these guys," Richardson said. "I definitely want to start and be a key player for this defense and just help us win. I'm trying to be a harder worker and just take my whole game up a notch. My mindset going into this year is just to play hard every down and be a leader out there. Be someone that the young guys can look to in the huddle when it's third-and-1."

Wilson (6-6, 270) has gained over 40 pounds of bulk and is considered to be one of OSU's stars-in-waiting on this young defense. He was limited in spring practice, but still showed some flashes. As a freshman last year, he ended up tallying two tackles in 10 games as a reserve. Some are comparing him to Will Smith already.

"I'm just trying to fill my role," Wilson said. "Coach Heacock says we have to get after the quarterback and we have to create pressure, so that's all I'm trying to do. A lot of our defenders are young and we're just having a ball playing with each other. We have so much energy and great chemistry right now."

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 was full-go for spring practice and is in the two-deep behind Wilson. In Heacock's system, he figures to play quite a bit.

Barrow (6-5, 275) found himself in the two-deep for much of the season last year. 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. He has gained 20 pounds of muscle in the past year to also boost his chances to play. He will back up Richardson, a fellow Dublin native, to open fall camp.

Worthington (6-7, 266) 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 missed spring practice and were hoping to get back into the flow for fall camp. Worthington has added 15 pounds in the off-season.

"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. He will be in action in the Ohio North-South Classic Saturday night.

* 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 (6-5, 225), who is already regarded as Ohio's top overall junior. Martin consistently lists Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan as his favorites, but he may also peruse Florida and Tennessee. He is a big, rangy athlete who makes plays all over the field.

OSU has also offered Illinois standout Martez Wilson (6-4, 230), who also has offers from Illinois, Michigan, Notre Dame, Tennessee, USC and Wisconsin.

The Buckeyes also wanted New Jersey's Justin Trattou, who verbaled to Notre Dame in early June.

More key names in Ohio are West Chester Lakota West's Solomon Thomas (6-5, 225), Upper Arlington's Joey D'Andrea (6-3, 245), Cleveland Benedictine's Eric Thomas (6-4, 250), Hamilton's Charlie Hatcher (6-4, 275) and Piqua's Jafe Pitcock (6-2, 245), brother of OSU DT Quinn Pitcock.

Defensive Tackle

* Departed Senior (1): Marcus Green.

* In The Fold (5): David Patterson* (Sr.; started at defensive end last year), Quinn Pitcock* (Sr.), Joel Penton (Sr.), Nader Abdallah (So.), Todd Denlinger (R-Fr.).

* Apparently Gone (1): Sian Cotton (Jr.)

* 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.

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. He started nine games at end last year, but will move to DT this year.

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 will again be a key member of the rotation.

Denlinger (6-3, 280) 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 (he has gained 15 pounds since arriving at OSU), could push for playing time in 2006. He registered a sack for a safety in the spring game.

Abdallah (6-5, 310) 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. Abdallah has been biding his time waiting for a chance to show what he can do. He figures to also be in the mix this fall.

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.

Cotton (6-4, 315) was not with the squad for spring football. It seems unlikely he will return in the fall. He redshirted in 2003, then saw brief action in four games in 2004 and five games in 2005.

* 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.

The Buckeyes have an offer on the table to Illinois' Josh Brent (6-3, 295), who is also looking at Arizona State, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota.

OSU has also offered Michigan's Joseph Barksdale (6-5, 315), who is also looking at LSU, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas and USC.

Ohio names to remember include Hilliard Darby's Antonio Jeremiah (6-5, 270), Cincinnati Withrow's Daryle Ballew (6-3, 285) and Bedford Chanel's Cameron Wade (6-3, 260).

Outside Linebacker

* Departed Seniors (2): Bobby Carpenter, A.J. Hawk.

* In The Fold (5): Curtis Terry (Jr.), Larry Grant (Jr.), Marcus Freeman (So.), James Laurinaitis (So.), Ross Homan (Fr.).

* Walk-Ons (2): Ryan Lukens (So.), Kyle Libby (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 moved ahead during spring practice and the coaches seemed happy with what they found.

When the dust settled, it seemed that Freeman and Laurinaitis had emerged as the starters with Terry and the early enrolling Homan also in the two-deep.

"These young guys can see the light at the end of the tunnel," said linebackers coach Luke Fickell. "You always preach to them that they've got to get better and better and they're only one play away, but it's kind of hard when you've got proven starters in front of you. Not that they didn't work hard, but now there's a lot of competition and I think that's what is going to make this group good."

Freeman (6-2, 242) 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 and also a stellar student who is just waiting for a chance to start. The good news is he has three years remaining. And he has gained 10 pounds this off-season as well. He is the starter at the Will (weakside) spot.

"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, 244) 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. Laurinaitis, a strong student and the son of pro wrestling icon Road Warrior Animal, has also added 10 pounds since the end of last year. He is the starter at the Sam (strongside) spot.

For the second year in a row, Terry (6-2, 234) did most of his work on special teams. He played in all 12 games last season. He, too, had an impressive spring and will push for time – perhaps as a speed rusher in pass situations -- in 2006. He backs up Laurinaitis at the Sam.

Homan (6-1, 237) from Coldwater, Ohio, enrolled early and wowed everybody during spring football. He tallied a team-high eight tackles with a sack in the spring game. He is already evoking comparisons to Hawk, if not Chris Spielman, for the impact he could have as a true freshman. He backs up Freeman at the Will. Homan 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.

"I think I did all right this spring," Homan said. "I went out there and competed and that was my main goal, so I thought I accomplished that."

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 enrolled in time for spring football. He is also slotted in at the Sam and could factor heavily on special teams this fall.

Lukens (6-0, 230) had another strong spring. He is listed as a backup at the Will spot.

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. He will be in the Big 33 Football Classic Saturday.

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. He will be in the Ohio North-South Classic Saturday.

* 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).

Middle Linebacker

* Departed Senior (1): Anthony Schlegel.

* In The Fold (3): Mike D'Andrea (Sr.), Chad Hoobler (Jr.), Austin Spitler (R-Fr.).

* Walk-On (1): John Kerr (Sr.).

* 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.

It has been a long, strange trip for Kerr (6-1, 233), who ended the spring as the starter in the middle. Kerr, a Cleveland St. Ignatius grad, went to Indiana in 2002 and led the Hoosiers in tackles as a freshman before having a falling out with head coach Gerry DiNardo. He transferred to OSU in 2003 and missed 2004 before seeing action as a backup and special teams player in 2005. He backed up Hawk in 2005, tallying 14 tackles.

"John Kerr is instinctive and makes plays," Fickell said. "At the beginning of spring we moved him to the middle from Will, and at first he had to think about things for a split second. But he picked it up great and he's a battler. He's going to be around the ball and will make plays."

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 three midseason games before missing the last three games again due to the knee injury. He then sat out this past spring as a precaution.

"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."

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. He is just looking for a spot at this point.

Spitler (6-3, 242) 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. The hard working Spitler has added 15 pounds of bulk this off-season.

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.

The Buckeyes did offer Michigan's 235-pound Chris Colasanti, but he verbaled to Penn State. OSU has an offer on the table to Pennsylvania's Brandon Lindsey (6-2, 220). In Ohio, some possibilities could be Fairfield's Dewey Elliot (6-1, 240) and Canton Central Catholic's George Tabron (6-3, 220).

Here are the archives from the previous installments of the post-spring edition of The Big Board:

Part 1: QBs, RBs and Receivers

Part 2: Tight Ends and Offensive Line


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