Freeman Set For Opportunity To Start At OLB

Sophomore linebacker Marcus Freeman got on the field as a backup and special teams player in 2004, but then had to cool his heels last year when he was sidelined due to a knee injury and a Staph infection. But Freeman has rehabbed and is ready to go. He could be leader on what figures to be a young OSU defense. Click here for more.

Big things have been predicted for Marcus Freeman since he signed with Ohio State and enrolled early at the school in 2004.

But Freeman spent his first season working behind a talented trio of linebackers and endured last year after suffering a knee injury that resulted in a Staph infection. Fully healed, the 6-2, 242-pound sophomore is being counted on to be a leader on the defense.

"We are replacing three great linebackers," Freeman said. "I just hope to go in and fill in and be a part of a great defense."

Freeman was considered one of the nation's top high school linebackers as he toiled at Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne. But he spent his freshman year working behind the likes of A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter at OSU.

After a big spring in 2005, Freeman hoped he would get a chance to play a larger role on defense. But he suffered the knee injury in the season opening win over Miami (Ohio). The infection set in after that and Freeman was shelved for the year.

Missing the year seems to be a blessing for Freeman, who retained three more years of eligibility where he could be the starter. But that didn't make it any easier to sit out the year.

When asked if he learned anything from that ordeal, he said, "Not to take anything for granted. You have to play every play like it's your last."

Freeman was granted a medical redshirt for last season. He worked hard to get back on the field this year.

"It was a long rehab session and a lot of tough obstacles to climb," he said. "But I feel like I am completely healthy. I'm ready to go."

With Hawk and Carpenter out of the mix this year, Freeman is expected to nail down a starting job outside. He tallied six tackles, including two tackles-for-loss and a sack in OSU's jersey scrimmage last Friday.

"You know no matter if you're penciled in as a one or a three that there is going to be competition," he said. "You have to go out there every day and make sure you are doing your best. You have to help the other guys as well, so they can be the best.

"Even last year, I was excited. I thought I was going to still get a lot of playing time. But this year, knowing I have a chance to be a starter, that's a dream come true. You don't want to take that for granted."

Freeman is one of nine new starters on the OSU defense. But he thinks the Buckeyes will be able to carry on with their lofty standards on that side of the ball.

"I think the sky is the limit," Freeman said. "I see a lot of talent. We have a great coach in (defensive coordinator Jim) Heacock. He's going to have us in the right place to try and make plays.

"Any time you play for the Ohio State defense, there is going to be a challenge. There is a lot of hype and tradition to live up to. We just look forward to that challenge. Hopefully, everybody is doing what they're supposed to do to make it a great defense."

Heacock told reporters during fall camp that if one linebacker spot was nailed down it was Freeman's.

"We're just kind of identifying who the other two guys are going to be playing along with him and where everybody fits in the puzzle," Heacock said. "But the neat thing about him is he can play -- and has played -- all three positions. He's the whole package. He's smart. He's big, strong, fast. He just does it all."

Freeman figures to open the year alongside James Laurinaitis in the middle and John Kerr on the other side. Freeman talked about some of the others in the mix.

"Right now, it has been a lot of me and John and James," he said. "But they have tried to rotate Larry (Grant) and Curtis (Terry) in there. We just want to see who will be the best three to get on the field.

"They are playing great in practice right now. Ross Homan, who we saw in the spring, has a lot of talent. Tyler Moeller is looking pretty good. He is a freshman, but he is learning the defense pretty good. Thaddeus Gibson is also coming. I think we're making progress as a whole.

"We're inexperienced but (linebackers coach Luke) Fickell is doing a good job of preparing us for what we need to do."

Freeman discussed how the early portion of preseason camp transpired.

"I see a lot of progress after the first two weeks," he said. "I think we're starting to jell a lot more on defense. We saw the offense is a lot more competitive. We want to be competitive, ourselves.

"I just come out every day and try to get a little better. I'm just studying the playbook and continuing to do the things I need to do.

"We miss some of the leadership. But with John Kerr and Mike D'Andrea being seniors, they have stepped up a lot. They are stepping up, as are a lot of the juniors and sophomores."

If the Buckeyes are going to live up to their preseason ranking as the No. 1 team in the country, Freeman knows the defense must deliver.

"I know we have a lot of hype," he said. "We are the preseason No. 1. But we just have to come out and play to the best of our ability. If we do that, we can keep that No. 1."

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