Terry Doing His Best With Fullback Switch

With Ohio State returning nine starters on each side of the ball, there aren't many position battles to be had during fall camp. But one player who has drawn plenty of intrigue is Curtis Terry, a linebacker who is learning the fullback position. Terry discussed his new spot and how he's handling the change.

Curtis Terry wants you to know he's still a linebacker at heart.

"Most definitely," he said when asked if he still saw himself as a defensive player. "Every day. It's hard because I was over there for so long. I feel such a strong bond with those guys. It's kind of hard to leave them."

But leave them he must. The 6-1, 229-pound fifth-year senior will spend most of Ohio State's 2008 fall camp hitting his former mates as a fullback. Coaches hope moving one of the hardest hitting linebackers on the OSU roster results in a fullback who has no trouble leading the way for Heisman Trophy candidate Chris Wells.

In fact, when running backs coach Dick Tressel was told that Terry said he still feels like a defensive player, he was more than pleased.

"That's good," Tressel said. "I like that idea because those guys usually envision themselves as tough guys, contact guys, and that's a good thing."

Tressel doesn't have to worry about Terry shying away from contact. The Cleveland Glenville graduate developed a reputation as being one of the more physical linebackers Ohio State had while on the defensive side of the ball. After spending 2004 and '05 mostly on special teams, Terry played a versatile role as a linebacker in 2006.

He was often on the field in dime situations as a quarterback spy who was athletic enough to move around in space behind the line of scrimmage, but he put his time at strong-side linebacker to use. During one game at Michigan State, he came off the edge and met Spartan bulldozer Jehuu Caulcrick, who was listed at the time as 260 pounds. Caulcrick immediately was driven yards backwards.

He hopes to bring that thirst for contact to the other side of the ball, saying that the constant hitting is the part he's looking forward to the most.

"You don't have them all trying to run away from you," Terry said. "You know they're going to have to go through me to get to Beanie, so I'm definitely looking forward to that."

Ohio State has not yet released a depth chart with Terry listed at fullback, and neither he nor Tressel would say how exactly the fullback spot would shake out as far as playing time for each member. However, one would expect that Terry would not have been moved to the position from a possible starting linebacking job unless there are plans to get him on the field.

"I'm pretty sure that they didn't move me just to move me," Terry said. "I definitely feel like I want to be the starter, and I'm going to work hard to be the starter. That's where I'm at right now. It's a competition. I don't want anything handed to me. I want to earn it."

One thing Terry, who missed last season thanks to a stubborn ankle injury, will have to get used to is wearing a new number, but that should be something he's used to. He came to Ohio State sporting No. 44 before changing to 55. Now he is in the No. 99, which was retired last season in honor of legendary lineman Bill Willis, who has since passed away.

However, an exception is being made for Terry to wear the jersey number, which he sported as a Tarblooder. A chance was necessary because No. 55 is ineligible to handle the ball as a receiver.

"I actually asked (head coach Jim) Tressel and Coach Bill Willis, and the thing was I had to keep my grades up, have a positive attitude and just be a leader, an all-around good guy," he said. "No. 99 is the number I wore my senior year of high school, and this is the number I wanted."

At the same time, Terry said there is a chance he could still play some defense during his Ohio State career.

"Right now the thing is for me to learn fullback," he said. "I need to learn the offense completely, and then when they feel comfortable with me in the offense, then I'll be able to go to defense and assume a role."

Moving back to the defensive side of the ball would suit Terry best in his mind. In three years on that side of the ball, he made 20 tackles in 37 games. His best season came in 2006 when he finished with 17 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and both forced and recovered a fumble.

"Curtis is a guy that loves to hit, and he's a guy that plays with passion," Marcus Freeman said. "You can only imagine how good he's going to be on the other side of the ball, making holes for Beanie or whoever else is carrying the ball. It's exciting and I'm very happy for him to see him out there."

While Terry said he'd still like to be on that side of the ball, he said he's doing his best to chip in for a team ranked among the top three in most preseason polls.

"It's tough," said Terry, who said he's played only one game at running back and that came at Glenville. "It's definitely tough because at heart I feel like I'm a defensive player and I want to play defense, but the thing right now is doing what's best for the team."

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