The Ohio State defensive lineman is sporting a black jersey during spring practice, signifying his return to offense. The senior-to-be has been working with the tight ends in short-yardage blocking situations. It is the first time Denlinger has played on the offensive side of the ball since high school.
"It's been going well," Denlinger said. "It's something new for me. It's going to take a little time and a lot of reps before I get used to it, but it's working well. It's exciting for me to try something new, and whatever I can do to help the team I'm happy to do."
Denlinger played both offense and defense at Troy High School in suburban Dayton. In addition to his play on the defensive line, Denlinger spent small amounts of time at center, tight end and fullback. Even so, his return to offense has been an adjustment.
"I'm used to it, but at this level it's like a whole new position," he said.
Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel told Denlinger about the possible move during the offseason. Tressel informed the press of the move during his first press conference of the spring.
"We just thought he'd be a natural guy at tight end because he has an eligible number," Tressel said of No. 92 Denlinger. "Whenever you're working with your seniors you're looking for more roles for them to do. You lose Rory Nicol and he and Jake (Ballard) were our two best blocking guys. I think guys like Jake Stoneburner and Nic DiLillo are going to come along but maybe not as quickly as a Todd Denlinger."
"I'm just needed for more meat out there and because I have an eligible number," Denlinger said of the move. "It's just another option for them to do what they need to do. … Jake Ballard helps me out a lot, and so does (tight ends coach John Peterson). It's not like I'm out there every day working with the tight ends, but they try to tell me what I need to do and I do it to the best of my ability."
The move has put Denlinger into some interesting matchups during practice. Instead of lining up alongside pass rushers like Thaddeus Gibson, during certain situations he has to try to stop his linemates.
"I tried to lineup against (Gibson) in pass blocking a few times today," Denlinger said. "It didn't go very well. He's a phenomenal athlete. I'm glad I'm usually on his side of the ball."
Gibson gave his linemate a passing grade, however.
"He's good for only his fifth day playing," Gibson said. "He's going to get better. That's the thing about Todd. He's a hard worker. Anything he sets out to do he'll get done."
The defensive line is still Denlinger's home once the season begins in the fall. He is a part of a veteran group that includes seniors-to-be Robert Rose, Doug Worthington and Lawrence Wilson. A trio of juniors in Dexter Larimore, Cameron Heyward and Gibson add to the veteran unit.
"We definitely want to leave a mark," Denlinger said. "We want to be one of the best D-lines to ever leave here. We have the chance to do that. We've got a ton of guys who can step up and make plays … We've got a lot of senior leadership and some juniors behind us that help push the young guys. With everyone growing at the rate we are now, we'll be where we need to be at the beginning of the season."