Wilson Talks Defense

Ever since showing tremendous promise as a high school player, many observers have expected big things out of defensive end Lawrence Wilson. Some feel this could be the season he explodes onto the scene. Such a season would be a big boost to a young Buckeye defense, which Wilson discussed at last week's media day.

If ever there were a preseason No. 1-ranked team with so much uncertainty, the 2006 Ohio State Buckeye defense might be it.

With just two returning starters back from the team a year ago that split a Big Ten Title and won a Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame, Ohio State looks to replace a lot of household names when the season gets underway on September 2 against Northern Illinois.

All-World linebacker core A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel are gone to the NFL, leaving three very inexperienced players to take their places regardless of how the depth chart shakes out. So the attention turns to the defensive line with two starters and several players back with some experience.

"Our coach always tells us that it's up to the front four to get pressure on the quarterback and control the game," said sophomore defensive end Lawrence Wilson last Thursday at Media Day, "but I think we've got a lot of good guys in our linebackers and defensive backs and I feel if we can execute, it will be real hard to beat us."

Wilson, most notably, is one of the younger guys on a defense filled with potential emerging stars. He's drawn some comparisons to former Ohio State All-American Will Smith.

Of course, Ohio State fans would be tickled pink of Wilson can live up even halfway to Smith.

The 6-5 defensive end from Akron St. Vincent St. Mary is enjoying the second year in the program. Although many people believe he will wind up starting for the Buckeyes, Wilson takes comfort in simply knowing he may be in the process of earning a spot in the rotation.

This past spring, in the annual Ohio State Spring Game, Wilson had four tackles and a sack. He also had a pass breakup in coverage – shades of Smith when dropping into zone.

He talked about the possibility he may be penciled in as a potential starter on the end.

"It feels good obviously because you get to start for the Ohio State Buckeyes," he said of his thoughts on the scenario. "I'm not really looking at it though, I just want to contribute to our defense and help us be the No. 1 defense in the country and help us win games."

If Ohio State is going to come anywhere near being the best defense nationally, it's going to start with having several younger players step up immediately.

Wilson said he believes this year's defense will be just as talented, but only inexperienced.

"I definitely think it's true – Ohio State recruits talent every year," he explained. "A.J. (Hawk), Bobby (Carpenter) and Mike Kudla – those guys had experience. It will be hard to replace them, but they had experience. I think we can get to that level if we focus and execute."

The question remains – what players will step up?

It's early and an impossible question to answer with any certainty. But Wilson gave his opinion on players that have impressed him this spring and summer on the practice field and in the weight room.

"I've got to say Malcolm Jenkins and Jamario O'Neal is playing really well," he said. "Anderson (Russell) is doing well. Some of the linebackers like James Laurinaitis is doing well…Marcus Freeman, Curtis Terry. When I watch film, I see how excited some guys are to pursue this and play football."

Despite all the uncertainty with filling the open spots on defense, there's one thing that's obvious – Ohio State will be marked.

"We have a target on our backs and we know it," Wilson concluded.

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