Former Buckeyes Abound In NFL Camps

With nearly 50 former Ohio State football players already in or about to report to NFL training camps this weekend, felt it was time to stop to set the scene with a division-by-division look at their situations.

Beginning in the AFC East, we find a pair of Buckeyes hoping to be big contributors for a New York Jets team that hopes to make a resurgence under new coach Rex Ryan.

Success seems likely for center Nick Mangold after he made his first Pro Bowl last season, but Vernon Gholston has been the subject of much attention this offseason after a disappointing rookie campaign for the No. 6 pick of the 2008 draft.

His new coach has stated publicly more than once Gholston's importance to the team, and the Detroit native figures to get plenty of early shots to prove himself as he starts in place of the suspended Calvin Pace.

Elsewhere in the division, three defensive backs with Buckeye blood will vie for three different roles. While safety Donte Whitner figures to do his best to keep the starting role he has held down since shortly after entering the league in 2006, Ashton Youboty is expected to compete for a job as the team's nickel back and Dustin Fox will look to add depth if he can win a roster spot, but he began the preseason sitting out with an undisclosed injury.

The New England Patriots traded away one former Buckeye, star linebacker Mike Vrabel, then acquired two more veterans. Shawn Springs is expected to compete for one cornerback spot while the team hopes Joey Galloway can be a viable third threat in the passing game after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

To the south, the Miami Dolphins doubled their allotment of OSU receivers by drafting Brian Hartline. He figures to be among those trying to win a spot backing up former Ohio State teammate Ted Ginn Jr.

The AFC North continues to be light on former Buckeyes. Troy Smith remains in Baltimore, where he is the No. 2 quarterback and there are reports he could continue to play an expanded role as a wide receiver and "Wildcat" player, while former favorite target Santonio Holmes is still a Steeler but now known far beyond the borders of Pittsburgh after his Super Bowl MVP performance in February. Joining them to make a trio of former Buckeyes in the division is Brian Robiskie. The wide receiver who did his prep work in the Cleveland area was a second-round pick in the April draft, and after signing his rookie contract Thursday is expected to contend for a starting role with the Browns, where the receiving corps is in flux.

In the AFC South, the Indianapolis Colts need a third receiver after the retirement of Marvin Harrison, and Roy Hall is among those expected to compete for the role. Meanwhile, Anthony Gonzalez is expected to move up to become the team's No. 2 receiver opposite Reggie Wayne.

The team with the best record in the league last year, the Tennessee Titans, has three Buckeyes on its preseason roster, although whether any of them stick is debatable. Doug Datish is among a plethora of linemen looking for a roster spot, while Donnie Nickey will look to retain his role as a backup safety and special teamer. Then there is A.J. Trapasso, an undrafted rookie who signed as a free agent. Could he challenge 16-year veteran Craig Hentrick for the punting job?

The AFC West has four former Buckeyes. In Denver, Kenny Peterson is in the running to start on the Broncos' revamped three-man defensive line, while Jay Richardson may be going the opposite direction on the depth chart in Oakland. After starting last season at end for the Raiders, Richardson has opened camp working with the second unit, according to on the Scout network.

Finally, there is Kansas City, where rookie Donald Washingtonhopes to make an impact in the secondary and veteran newcomer Mike Vrabel is being counted on to bring leadership to the Chiefs.

We keep our gaze westward as we switch to the NFC. The conference champion Arizona Cardinals fell short in the Super Bowl after Holmes' catch, but they added a Buckeye of their own to aid their offense in the form of running back Chris Wells, a first-round draft pick the team hopes will add some rushing punch to a prolific attack. Unfortunately, Wells' first practice was cut short by an ankle injury the severity of which was not known as of this writing.

In Seattle, Rob Sims begins camp back in the starting lineup at one guard position for the Seahawks, while Kevin Houser hopes to latch on as the team's new long snapper.

San Francisco Alex Boone hopes to snag a spot on the 49ers roster after the offensive lineman went undrafted. Such a struggle should not be necessary for another 49er, Nate Clements, who is set to begin his third season with the team after signing a lucrative contract in 2007.

St. Louis said goodbye to one long-time Ram Orlando Pace but brought in another big-name former Buckeye with second-round draft pick James Laurinaitis. The three-time All-American has signed a contract and is expected to win the starting middle linebacker position in St. Louis. That just might mean the linebacking corps is two thirds Ohio State if Larry Grant can pin down the starting spot at strongside linebacker. On the other side of the ball, Antonio Pittman is expected to compete to backup star running back Stephen Jackson.

The biggest offseason newsmaker among the former Buckeyes in the AFC North was Antoine Winfield, but there was a happy ending after a sometimes bitter contract dispute ended with him getting the extension he desired after earning his first Pro Bowl invitation.

The Green Bay Packers are in the midst of a switch from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense, meaning returning starters A.J. Hawk and Ryan Pickett both are in for role changes. Pickett is expected to move inside to hold down the all-important nose tackle spot, meaning he will be somewhat of a bodyguard for Hawk, who shifts inside after a 2008 season at weakside linebacker that drew criticism from some fans and observers.

Last season, the Chicago Bears had a pair of coaches with Ohio State ties on their staff last year but no former Buckeye players. That changes for head coach Lovie Smith (a John Cooper assistant in 1995) this year after the drafting of linebacker Marcus Freeman and the signing of Pace, who the team hopes can protect new quarterback Jay Cutler and make holes for the running backs coached by Tim Spencer, a one-time star running back at Ohio State and former coach at his alma mater.

In Detroit, offensive tackle Kirk Barton hopes to stick with the Lions after spending time with five different teams during his rookie campaign last season.

Shifting to the NFC South, the biggest names arguably belong to the New Orleans Saints. Already on starring on the Bayou in recent seasons was defensive end Will Smith, who remains on the roster but will miss the first four games of the season while suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. Hoping to snag a starting spot of his own before Smith returns is Malcolm Jenkins, but the cornerback's chances of doing so are on hold as camp begins because as of this writing his agents had yet to come to terms with the team for a contract.

In Tampa Bay, Mike Nugent hopes to restart his NFL career after signing with the Buccaneers in the offseason, and fellow key cog in the 2002 Ohio State national championship run Will Allen figures to continue to provide depth in the defensive secondary.

The Atlanta Falcons enjoyed an unexpected renaissance last season, and they hope to continue to do so with Michael Jenkins providing one weapon at wide receiver while Ben Hartsock helps clear the way on the for the running game and perhaps pitch in the occasional catch here and there while backing up newly acquired star tight end Tony Gonzalez.

The Carolina Panthers defense figures to again start a pair of former Buckeyes with Chris Gamble at cornerback and Na'il Diggs at linebacker, and Nate Salley is back as a safety as well.

Finally, we round out this look at Buckeyes in NFL training camps with a check of the NFC East, where Dallas has the only two. Tim Anderson hopes to help along the defensive line, but he begins camp on the physically unable to perform list while nursing a bad toe.

Then there is Bobby Carpenter, a linebacker written about much throughout the offseason as he hopes to wipe away the label of ‘bust' attached to him after three nondescript years in Dallas. He begins camp still a reserve in the base 3-4 defense but expected to be one of the team's No. 1 linebackers in nickel situations.

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