Pro Speak 6-17: AFC East and MLB Draft Update

As Professionally Speaking slides into its regular weekly spot of Tuesday on BuckeyeSports.com, we begin with a look at the former Buckeyes who suit up for NFL teams in the AFC East, and we catch up with two recently drafted OSU baseball players.

Seven one-time wearers of the scarlet and gray ply their trade in that division, and for the most part it is a young bunch: Only 12-year veteran linebacker Mike Vrabel, who was a first-team All-Pro selection for the AFC champion New England Patriots last season, has been in the league for more than two seasons.

Vrabel, who has had a fantastic career that includes three Super Bowl rings since he left Ohio State with a school-record 36 sacks, could certainly provide an excellent role model for the division's newest former Buckeye, Vernon Gholston.

It was Gholston, in fact, who broke Vrabel's Ohio State single-season record for sacks when he hauled down opposing quarterbacks 14 times last season, and now he will attempt to resemble Vrabel as he breaks in with the New York Jets. Gholston, as was Vrabel more than a decade ago, is charged with the task of converting from a 4-3, hand-on-the-ground college defensive end into a stand-up 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

Gholston was occasionally seen dropping into coverage as a Buckeye, so playing in space is not a totally foreign concept to him, but his development has been hindered early on by an NFL rule that limits how much rookies can participate in offseason activities until classes at their school let out for summer.

With Ohio State's spring quarter coming to a close June 5, Gholston finally could work out unfettered with the Jets the following weekend.

He was in New York June 6 and told reporters, "I have a lot of catching up to do. The first time I walked in there I barely knew any guys and I had to name them all. I am just trying to get adjusted to the guys and know what is going on. It's a big learning curve, but that is what comes with the job."

Jets head coach Eric Mangini said he was sure Gholston's head was spinning.

"He looked a couple times like he needed directions out there on the practice field, but that's what you have," he said. "It's just a situation that he was in, but he's back in the building and he's working with the coaches, the players and the other rookies and we'll work to get him up to speed as quickly as we can."

When he signs his first contract, Gholston will officially join two other former Buckeyes on the Jet roster: center Nick Mangold and kicker Mike Nugent


Meanwhile to the south, Ted Ginn Jr. is hoping to blossom into a star receiver this year for the Miami Dolphins in his second season with the club. He should have every opportunity to earn a full-time role in the Dolphin offense after the club shed veterans Chris Chambers and Marty Booker in the offseason.

Don't look for Ginn to relinquish his punt- or kick-returning roles, though.

"No, we need to win games," new Dolphins coach Tony Sparano told reporters June 4 when asked if Ginn might see his special teams roles reduced this year. "Special teams is an area where we think we can win games so the best people are going to go back there. They are going to return kicks. The best guy returning punts. The best guy returning kicks will be the guy that goes back there. If that ends up being Ted, so be it. Ted knows, no different than anybody else, the more jobs you can do here, the better off that we are going to be."…


Finally, our look at the AFC East ends in Buffalo, where a couple of players are competing for the opportunity to stop folks like Ginn as members of the Bills' secondary.

Such a role seems a given for Donte Whitner, who in two seasons has latched onto a starting safety role in Buffalo and by all accounts played quite well.

This offseason he is showing he has some chops as a leader, too, by taking under his wing Leodis McKelvin, a 2008 first-round draft pick from Troy who plays cornerback.

Not only is Whitner giving the youngster tips on playing defensive back in the pros, the former Cleveland Glenville Tarblooder even opened his home to McKelvin until he finds a place of his own.

That is good news in general for the Bills and their fans, but it does not figure to help out Ashton Youboty.

Including McKelvin, the Bills brought in four corners this season to compete for playing time, leaving Youboty's status as a member of the team to be in jeopardy when training camp commences next month.

The Bills selected Youboty in the same 2006 draft that brought them Whitner, but the native Texan has endured quite a struggle since that time.

The same rule that held back Gholston this year kept Youboty from getting acclimated early to the Bills' defense during the offseason prior to his rookie season. Then the death of his mother understandably derailed any chance Youboty had to concentrate on honing his craft.

He started three games last season and in 11 games total had 23 tackles and an interception.

Now BuffaloFootballReport.com on the Scout Network reports that Youboty has a battle on his hands for a roster spot, and BFR goes to bat for him as well...


TALKIN' BASEBALL

A pair of Buckeye baseball players signed professional contracts last week.

J.B. Shuck, a lefty who pitched and played the outfield for head coach Bob Todd's Buckeyes last season, was picked in the sixth round of the 2008 MLB draft by the Houston Astros, while left-handed pitcher Dan DeLucia heard his name called by Detroit in the 35th round.

Shuck was a junior last season and will skip his final season of eligibility to become an outfielder in the Astro system.

Of getting drafted, he told BuckeyeSports.com's Jeff Svoboda, "It was a great feeling, sort of a relief because I was getting pretty nervous. It was a great feeling to finally see my name up there and realize I'm at the next step in my career."

Shuck, a native of Galion, Ohio, hit .356 with 23 RBI and a team-high 22 stolen bases in 48 games last season and was told before the draft he could expect to be picked anywhere from the fourth to eighth round.

DeLucia, a Columbus Bishop Watterson product, had no such guarantee after he went 3-3 with a 4.70 ERA in 51 2/3 innings last season as a senior while he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

"I knew I was still on a lot of teams' boards and I knew it was going to come down to 10 or 15 teams that would think about picking me up," he said. "In the back of my mind I was ready to sign as a free agent if the draft didn't go well, but obviously the Tigers are feeling confident with me."


Buckeye Sports Top Stories