Ross Homan was primed for a breakout season in 2007. He split time at weakside linebacker with returning starter Marcus Freeman at the beginning of the season and received glowing reviews from teammates and coaches.
Then an injury suffered at Washington in Ohio State's third game ended Homan's year. He struggled with a turf toe ailment and never returned to the field, taking a medical redshirt.
"It was a tough year," Homan said. "It was depressing, but everything happens for a reason. I just tried to get back on the field as soon as I could."
Homan is finally healthy and back on the field. He will also not have to split time with Freeman anymore. Homan will take over on the weakside, Freeman will move to the strong side and potential strongside candidate Curtis Terry will move to fullback. Linebackers coach Luke Fickell said the switch gives him a chance to put the best players on the field.
"Ross is a very instinctual guy, and he gives us the ability to put the three guys on the field that we think need to be on the field and play," Fickell said. "As long as the guys keep progressing, we'll have a good mix."
Homan had an impressive freshman season in 2006 backing up then-senior weakside linebacker John Kerr. Homan played in all 13 games and recorded 28 tackles, ranking ninth on the team and third among OSU's linebackers. His best game came at Northwestern when he recorded five tackles and collected his first collegiate interception.
The turf toe injury halted his sophomore campaign, but his teammates know this could be a big year for the native of Coldwater, Ohio.
"Ross has great instincts and he could have played a lot last year if he hadn't gotten hurt," Freeman said. "We're all excited to see what he does and see how he can help the defense."
Added senior middle linebacker James Laurinaitis: "He has great potential to be a star here. He does the little things right and can hopefully stay healthy for a full season so he can show his skill set."
Homan gave Freeman much of the credit in his progression. Freeman will be entering his third season as a starter and has been a leader for younger players like Homan.
"Marcus is an unbelievable player and person," Homan said. "He's a great senior leader. Anytime I have a question I know I can go to him. He'll always be there to help me out."
Freeman was Ohio State's second-leading tackler in 2007, behind only fellow linebacker Laurinaitis. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selections and recorded 109 stops, 9.5 for a loss. Freeman was also OSU's defensive player of the week vs. Minnesota and Penn State.
"Marcus is being really unselfish in making the move," Fickell said. "He's played that position (on the weakside) for two years, and he can do it all. It's a great tribute to him that he's doing this for the team. He played (on the strongside) for the first two years, so he knows what's going on and what to do."
Freeman said he had no problems making the move.
"It's just another part of the field," he said. "It's a part of the defense that I've played before, and it's something that's in the best interest of the team. I'm willing to do it."