Through the first three games of the season, the Buckeyes have recorded four sacks – a figure that puts them on pace for 16 sacks this season. Last year, defensive end Vernon Gholston had 14 himself.
The line found itself under greater scrutiny following the team's lopsided loss to USC on Sept. 13. Against the Trojans, OSU managed just one sack and allowed the home team to control the line of scrimmage. One of the culprits along the line is junior Doug Worthington, who is yet to record a sack this season so far.
Worthington has found himself in a different situation than his linemates, however. In the early morning hours of July 26, Worthington was arrested and charged with OVI. A little more than one week later, the Buckeyes reported to campus and kicked off fall camp.
According to Worthington, it would be some time until he began to feel comfortable in his own skin.
"It was just a feeling that you let the team down and throughout camp you were labeled," he said. "There was so much stuff it hit me pretty hard. Then I realized what happened was in the past and let's get on with this 2008 ‘silver bullet' defense and this football team."
That awkward feeling was noticeable to Jim Heacock, OSU's defensive coordinator who also oversees the defensive line. According to Worthington, both Heacock and head coach Jim Tressel spoke with him in order to try and help him return to his normal self.
It was not an immediate process.
"I don't think there's any question that he was hurt by that," Heacock said. "Then for that to happen, I think, really did affect him."
After a few weeks, Worthington said, he started to get past the incident even though he still faced further legal proceedings. He made one appearance in front of a judge – "It was pretty hard for me," he said – and has one more still on the docket. One factor working on his side, Worthington said, is the fact that his record was clean prior to this summer's arrest.
Although he was not suspended from the team, Worthington had to work to earn his privileges back. Although specific details have not been revealed, he has seen his playing time slowly increase as the season has progressed. Tressel has said that his situation was resolved from the standpoint of both the team and the university although it had not been wrapped up from a legal one.
A 6-6, 275-pound athlete who can play either end or tackle, Worthington started 12 of the team's 13 games at tackle last season and finished with 24 tackles – two for loss – and one sack. He has not started any of the team's three games this year and has recorded four sacks – two for loss.
The OSU defensive line has not produced to its preseason expectations despite the fact that coaches view the situation as one of particular depth on the defense. Worthington's situation has certainly not helped the cause.
"I just think over a period of time that in his mind he felt to himself, ‘That's not the way I want to live my life,' " Heacock said. "I think he decided that he needed to make a change."
That change has paid dividends in Worthington's personal life since the arrest, Heacock said, describing Worthington as a player who is "locked in and focused right now.
"In the end, I think it was real humbling and a good wakeup call for him," Heacock said. "The good thing is he's corrected it."
Now, if he can start consistently producing on the field for the Buckeyes he might have reclaimed the self-admitted ground lost due to his arrest.
"I had to prove myself again and show these guys that I'm not that type of guy," Worthington said. "Coach Heacock … kept telling me that I didn't seem like myself yet because I wasn't myself. Then as more practices came, the last week of camp I felt great."