Dexter Larimore: Man in the Middle

Dexter Larimore came to Ohio State from Merrillville, Indiana hoping to earn his way into the mix at defensive tackle. After redshirting as a freshman, Larimore broke into the rotation in 2007 and had a fine year in his first stint of extended playing time. In 2008, Larimore is hoping to build off his fine start and be even better. Bill Greene caught up with Larimore and filed this report.

Dexter Larimore came to Ohio State from Merrillville, Indiana as both a great football player and a great wrestler. He puts his wrestling skills to good use as a defensive tackle for the Buckeyes. Larimore knows the interior of the defensive line isn't the most glamorous spot on the football team, but it's one of the most important.

Larimore sat out his first year in Columbus as a redshirt freshman, but quickly found his way into the rotation at defensive tackle in 2008. Larimore, 6-foot-2 and 300-pounds, uses a combination of power and quickness to make his mark in the center of the Ohio State defensive front.

He is also learning to be a contributor off the field as well. Recently, Larimore worked as a youth instructor at the Lexington, Ohio football camp.

"I decided to work at the camp when James Laurinaitis asked me," Larimore said of his experience at the camp. "He told me it was for some younger kids and we would be teaching them the game and hanging out with them all day. It sounded great to me, so I gladly said I would do it, plus how do you tell James you aren't coming? It was fun putting the kids through some drills and it's a great cause. I figured I could help out in the community and show Ohio State football in a positive light. Anytime I have a chance to work with young kids I'm going to do it. I want to encourage them to get involved in football and to stay active to build their bodies. When I was a youngster growing up, there were some older players in my area that did the same thing. I know how much it meant to me and I'm glad to be a part of this."

Larimore was raised in Indiana but it hasn't taken him long to learn the "Buckeye" way of doing things. He credits the team's involvement in the community to Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel.

"Absolutely, this is what Jim Tressel expects of us," he said of the Ohio State head coach. "Coach is always pushing different opportunities for us to volunteer and get involved. He puts it out there all the time and it's expected that all of us will participate in some way. Coach Tressel is just a great person and a great coach. Being a defensive guy, he's not always poking his head in our huddle and working with us much of the time. He doesn't personally coach me, but I've learned so much from him. It's great to have a head coach like that because he stresses more than just being a good football player. I know he cares about me and wants me to succeed in life. He encourages all of us to be better people. For me personally, I've grown so much in the two years I've been around him. I'm a better person because of being around coach Tressel. He instills a sense of what's right and what's wrong and you're expected to follow those guidelines."

Larimore is aware that the defensive tackles came under fire last year and he realizes that the group is viewed as a weakness by some. It is a perception he hopes to see changed in 2008.

"I expect us to keep getting better," he explained. "We are all working hard and our strength numbers are way up over last year. We expect to be very good this year and we hope to build on the game experience we gained last year. We have a lot of great players around us and we want to be considered a strength for this defense. People are going to try to exploit us because they might perceive us as a weak spot, but that gives all of us a chance to show that we are better than we were last year. We are veterans now and all of us gained experience last year. In 2006 it was mostly a three man rotation of David Patterson, Quinn Pitcock and Joel Penton. We were very young last year and we made mistakes out of being inexperienced."

Larimore pointed out that the breakdowns in the defensive line were more mental errors, rather than being physically overpowered at the point of attack.

"I know people only think skill players make mental mistakes but that's not always true," he continued to explain. "It's not always the man across from you whipping your tail, although that can happen. We should start knowing mentally what we need to do this year, so we can physically excel. Most of our mistakes were mental mistakes, where we didn't react and adjust immediately like we need to do. Now we know those situations and I know we're going to do a lot better job of being where we're supposed to be and moving into the correct spot just before the ball is snapped. We have to play a mental game, just as much as the wide receivers or the defensive backs. We have to be in the right position all the time. Our defense is so complex that if we do something wrong, it messes up the entire defense. I see a difference already this year. We've grown so much mentally and we're very confident that we will get the job done this year."

Larimore said that fellow defensive tackle teammates Nader Abdallah, Todd Denlinger and Doug Worthington will be playing in 2008 with a lot to prove.

"We know what people say about us and that's out of our control," Larimore stated. "We weren't the worst defensive line in the country last year, but people talk like we were. We didn't play at a level we wanted to last year and we're going to use that talk as motivation this year. We know that we have the absolute best linebackers in the country and we have one of the best defensive backfields in the country. We want to prove that we are right there with those guys. We don't want to be the weak link in the chain. We want to be the number one team in the nation and we know to do that we need every core group playing as the best group in the nation. We're all competitors and we want to start from the first day of fall camp proving that we're a strength on this football team."

Larimore will be entering his third year at Ohio State and he feels that the older players are providing great leadership for this team. He explained what he looks for in a leader.

"I think there's a time and a place where you have to get in people's faces and be very vocal," Larimore stressed. "But for the most part true leadership is a way of life. It's being the guy that's early to practice or to the weight room. It's being the guy that's in the film room all the time. When you get ready to head for home and you see James and Marcus Freeman still in there working, it makes you get back in there and give more of yourself. They don't have to say a word and you know you need to match their commitment to the program. That's leadership. When we watch film and we see an All-American like James Laurinaitis busting his tail on every play and every single rep, that has an effect on the entire team. He's the best practice player, because he's the one giving 100% on every play. When you watch him in practice you see why he's so successful. He loves our team so much and he wants our team to excel so badly. That's why he does the things he does. It's all for the good of the team. That's leadership in my book. That's why he is the player he is and the person he is. We all follow his lead and hopefully we'll get back in the championship game again this year. As a group, we want to win a national championship so badly and that drives all of us every single day."

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