Gibson Impressed During Spring

The Ohio State football team's "Silver Bullet" defense is already full of established returning stars, but that doesn't mean there's not room for a breakout player or two in 2008. Perhaps the most likely candidate for seeing his profile rise is defensive end Thaddeus Gibson, who drew praise repeatedly during spring practice.

Learning about the progress of Thaddeus Gibson as defensive end is as easy as mentioning his name to Alex Boone.

At that prompting earlier this spring, the second-team All-Big Ten member who faced Gibson each day in practice put his head in his hands.

"Oh my god, Thaddeus Gibson," Boone muttered before turning serious.

"I think Thaddeus is by far one of the best pass rushers that I've blocked against, and I've blocked against some of the best. I think that kid has it all. He's strong, he's quick and he just has that mentality that he's going to run you over."

With Ohio State missing the school-record 14 sacks from a year ago of defensive end Vernon Gholston, the emergence of Gibson, who might expect to see time in pass-rushing situations while battling for more time with Lawrence Wilson and Cameron Heyward, would come as a tremendous treat to defensive line coach Jim Heacock.

Gibson has already earned the respect of his teammates. The sophomore from Euclid, Ohio, was the first player selected in the spring game draft, with the Scarlet squad taking the player who lines up at the "Leo" position, a defensive end/linebacker that can line up in a down position or up and then either rush the passer or drop into coverage.

Gholston, expected be a top-10 pick in the upcoming NFL draft Sunday, excelled at that same spot during his time at Ohio State, in particular during his senior campaign. Gibson has shown flashes this spring of the ability that made Gholston so valuable during his time at Ohio State, as he made a sack in the April 12 jersey scrimmage and has used his speed to drop into coverage during the times practices have been open to the media.

"He's become comfortable with the position he's playing," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "He's moved into that ‘Leo' position kind of where Will Smith and Vernon Gholston and Alex Barrow and some of those guys have played, that hybrid or whatever it is. Sometimes you're rushing, sometimes you're dropping. It's that in between of defensive end and linebacker kind of thing, and it's a good fit for him."

Gibson had a star-crossed 2007 season. After redshirting his freshman season of '06, Gibson made an immediate impact, playing in 27 minutes over the first five games and making seven tackles. Later in the year, he made forced a fumble while recording his first career sack on Wisconsin's Tyler Donovan.

While he was listed as a linebacker in 2007, Gibson occasionally played a similar role as the one to which he moved full-time after the season. As a result, he had a front row seat to watch Gholston put together his record-setting campaign.

"He studied under Vern last year because he wants to play like him," lineman Doug Worthington said. "He has that potential."

The 6-3, 240-pounder is known amongst the team as a player with a fair amount of swagger in his game. Perhaps that confidence and emotion was what got the best of him in practice before Ohio State's sixth game of the season last year against Purdue, as Gibson got into a dispute with linebackers coach Luke Fickell and found himself left home from that trip to beat the Boilermakers.

In New Orleans before the BCS National Championship Game, Gibson told BSB he regretted the situation every day of his life. The goal is to direct that fire constructively at opposing teams.

"He has that attitude, I want to say that swagger when he steps on the field," Worthington said. "He feels that nobody can block him. I love his attitude and his swagger."

Wilson, a fellow defensive end, was more direct.

"We call him ‘Killer,'" Wilson said. "He comes in and gets us all hyped up."

The intensity with which Wilson plays completes his total package. He's fast enough to play in space and drop into coverage when necessary and, according to Boone, has the strength and know-how to get the job done in the trenches.

"He knows what he's doing," Boone said. "He knows how to move around. He's so thin but he's so strong. He moves you out of the way and you're like, ‘Oh my god.' I think he's doing a good job."

Such a good job, in fact, that Boone said he couldn't compare the skill set possessed by Gibson to any opposing player he's faced during his three years at Ohio State.

"He's on an island all by himself," Boone said, "and I'll go chill with him because he's a great player and he's a great person."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories