Spring Game Notebook: Worthington Moves On

Spring football might be over, but that does not mean our coverage is. In this notebook, read up on Doug Worthington, Todd Denlinger and a few candidates for the vacated captain spots on the 2009 Ohio State football team.

Doug Worthington can talk about it now.

Last year, the Ohio State defensive lineman was pulled over for speeding near Ohio Stadium on July 26, shortly before the Buckeyes were set to start fall camp. A breath test revealed that he was over the legal limit, and April 20 he was fined $350 and ordered to attend an alcohol intervention class. He was also sentenced to 180 days in jail, all but three of which were suspended.

Five days later, Worthington had one tackle and a fumble recovery during OSU's spring game. Afterward, he said he was glad to have put the incident behind him.

"I'm glad that's about over with," said Worthington, who has already attended the intervention class. "I've got a couple fines and a couple things to do, but it's all behind me. I just want to play football."

Last season, Worthington finished eighth on the team with 34 tackles and started the final 10 games of the year at defensive tackle. Describing him as a good-character player who had never run afoul of the law before, defensive line coach and defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said that he felt the incident had affected his play for most of the season.

Worthington agreed with that point and said he now feels he has finally moved past his mistake.

"I feel that last year I let a lot of people down," he said. "That week I didn't eat and I lost about seven to 10 pounds. It was very hard for me. I wanted to be a leader last year and I feel like I let a lot of people down.

"This year, I'm glad I can talk about it and tell other people and a lot of people can learn from my mistake and not do what I did. It's a blessing."

The Busiest Buckeye: If it seemed like Todd Denlinger was all over the field during the first half of the spring game, there is a good reason.

He was.

In addition to his time on the Gray defense – where he recorded one sack for a loss of three yards – Denlinger was suiting up for the Scarlet offense, where he was moonlighting as a tight end.

According to Denlinger, the coaches set out a plan for how he would be used. Denlinger would see first-down action with the Scarlet offense before flipping sides and playing on the Gray defensive line for second and third downs during the first half. The move was deemed necessary based upon the rosters: the Gray team had scholarship athletes Jake Ballard and Jacob Stoneburner, while the Scarlet had walk-on Spencer Smith and the injured Nic DiLillo.

"I wouldn't say I played more plays, (but) it sure did feel like it," Denlinger said. "We had some tight end shortages, so they had to put me on the other side of the ball on the other team for a few plays but I like it. I like having the live reps and I think I needed it to be a better football player."

Because he has an eligible jersey number (92), Denlinger has been working as a blocking tight end during the spring for short-yardage situations.

Last season, Denlinger started the first two games at defensive tackle but played no more than seven minutes in a game the rest of the season after suffering first a high-ankle sprain and then a broken thumb. In all, he missed one game but saw a career-low 39 minutes of action.

Now, Denlinger said he is nearly fully healthy for the first time in a long time.

"It was a difficult year but I did what I could to help my teammates out," he said. "It felt real good being healthy. I'm finally close to 100 percent and this offseason is going to help me get to where I need to be and get my speed back and my strength back. I'm looking forward to next year."

The Captains? Head coach Jim Tressel had too many candidates for the job of team captain last season, and the four players who held down that title all exhausted their eligibility when the year came to a close.

This year, there are not quite as many candidates for the position, one typically held by seniors during Tressel's tenure. However, the interviews following the spring game might have tipped the coach's hand a bit.

Seated to Tressel's left at the dais were Denlinger and classmate Jake Ballard. To Tressel's right were Worthington and, perhaps not surprisingly, sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

"You've got to respect the seniors, but as a quarterback I need to take the lead with this offense and make it my offense," Pryor said. "It's not my team on the defensive side, but on the offensive side, where we go is up to me and it's up to the linemen. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying it's my team, but as a leader I have to make sure everybody's right. If you don't have the quarterback as a leader, you can't be a success."

That sentiment was backed up by Worthington.

"He's very, very mature," he said of Pryor. "He knows what's expected of him, and he goes out there and plays. He's a lot more confident, and he knows the guys around him. He's a leader. TP is growing up before my eyes and I like to see how the progress is going. The sky's the limit for the kid."

That does not mean that the other three bring nothing to the leadership table, however. Last season, Ballard said he paid close attention to how then-senior tight end Rory Nicol emerged as essentially a team captain as the season went on.

"I definitely have to step it up as one of the leaders," Ballard said. "I'm one of the older guys and I've played in big games before. I know what it's like to be in big games. I know it's not going to be easy but it's something we can do."

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