Moeller A Man Of Many Talents

Technically, Tyler Moeller is a linebacker. He goes through drills at that position and sits in on their meetings, but there is more to Moeller than that position. Find out how he fits into the Ohio State defense and how his role has evolved during his career in this update.

It does not matter if you think Tyler Moeller is a safety or a linebacker. The odds are that if you are wondering what role he is playing on the field for Ohio State, opposing offenses must be thinking the same thing.

The hope for the Buckeyes is that such confusion will result in their defense being able to apply plenty of pressure on opponents this season.

"I'm just a football player," Moeller said. "I don't really fit into anything. I just go out there and play."

Listed at 6-0, 216 pounds in the OSU spring media guide, Moeller essentially plays two positions for the Buckeyes. In addition to being in the running as the starting strong-side linebacker in OSU's base defense, Moeller works in the nickel package essentially as the extra defensive back.

As a freshman, Moeller redshirted while playing at the weak-side linebacker spot. He then shifted to strong safety but was eventually sent back to the linebacker corps during fall camp. With his size and speed, he then became a candidate to play OSU's hybrid spot in its nickel defense.

Last season, that role primarily went to Jermale Hines, who was utilized as the "star" in the OSU defense. But when Hines went down with an injury in the second half of the season, Moeller stepped into action and had seven tackles, two for loss, and forced a fumble against Illinois while earning attack force player of the week honors for his efforts.

The question with Moeller has not been whether or not he knows how to get to the ball. The question with Moeller has been whether or not he is physically capable of lining up as a linebacker in the Big Ten.

"He plays with a reckless abandon," senior linebacker Austin Spitler said. "If someone comes up to him, he's hitting them. Sometimes that can be damn good, sometimes he can be a little bit out of control. The majority of the time he's making things happen at the point of attack, which makes it easier for the linebackers, which is a great thing."

As last year's strong-side linebacker, Ross Homan saw 166 minutes of action. The other two starters in James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman saw 336 and 250 minutes, respectively, as the Buckeyes spent plenty of time in their nickel defense. As a further testament to that, Hines finished the year with 176 minutes of action under his belt despite missing two entire games due to injury.

Like Moeller, Hines has a linebacker background. Unlike Moeller, Hines is now classified as a strong safety. The two are seldom on the field at the same time, but they can be, Moeller said.

"It's like another linebacker out there so it's no different," Spitler said of the two. "They're both special players that provide a physical presence out there, which is a good thing. They can play the pass and the run and if they need to go hit a guard, they can do that."

Moeller said he feels like a linebacker some days but like a safety on others. Regardless of where he is playing on a given play, Moeller said his responsibilities do not change much.

"We actually sometimes run the same plays out of nickel as we do out of base, so the responsibilities don't change up too much," he said. "It depends on if it's a base call or a nickel call."

The fact that Moeller ended up playing for the Buckeyes is largely a credit to head coach Jim Tressel. Linebackers coach Luke Fickell told Tressel that he wanted to bring in some smaller, faster linebackers, and Tressel popped in a highlight tape featuring Moeller.

Fickell liked what he saw, but he had one criticism.

"He threw his film on and said, ‘I like this guy,' " Fickell said. "I said, ‘Well, I wasn't saying 190 pounds, but I like him if you do.' "

The 2005 Division I defensive player of the year, Moeller was listed at 205 pounds in his freshman media guide. Fickell said Moeller can not hold up as well playing inside the tackles as Brian Rolle, a similar-sized linebacker (5-11, 221 pounds) who has primarily run with the first-team defense this spring with Homan sidelined due to injury.

However, that does not stop Moeller's presence on the field from confusing opposing offenses.

"It aids our defense," Homan said. "We can put in different packages and move him around. We can put him in coverage and if the offense comes in they can't say, ‘Oh, they're in passing coverage.' He can be a blitzing linebacker or a safety in coverage."

So if Moeller is in the game, does that mean the Buckeyes are in their base defense or the nickel?

"You have to guess," Moeller said with a laugh.

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