Hines Becoming A Starter

After two rough outings in his last two games, it appears senior free safety Anderson Russell will be giving way to junior Jermale Hines. Find out what Hines has been doing and how he could change Ohio State's game plan against USC this weekend.

Last week, junior Jermale Hines found himself playing a new position for Ohio State. Dubbed "the overhang," it had the hybrid linebacker/safety attacking the pitch in Navy's triple-option offense.

Now for the second week in a row, the Cleveland Glenville native might find himself at a new spot. After starting free safety Anderson Russell gave up two touchdowns – the latter of which was an 85-yard pass to running back Marcus Curry – in the team's 31-27 victory, Hines was spotted as the starting free safety during the team's Tuesday practice with Russell relegated to the second team.

At the conclusion of Wednesday's practice, defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said Hines will have a bigger role in the defensive game plan this week.

"We just feel like he's a good football player," Heacock said. "He's one of those guys who's a natural football player. Right now he's going to be working in at safety with Anderson Russell splitting time there and when we're in the nickel (one of) those two will be at the ‘star' and the other will be at safety."

Following the Navy game, Hines said he feels he still has plenty of room for improvement. He finished the day with three tackles and one sack.

"The way I feel, I really haven't done anything yet," he said. "I can always get better and I always have something to work at."

After arriving at OSU as a strong-side linebacker, Hines found a niche in the team's defense at the "star" position as an extra defensive back who can also apply run support. He saw action in seven games as a true freshman despite facing an uncertain academic situation that kept him out of practice for nearly a month as the season began.

Last year, Hines saw action in 11 games and finished with 31 tackles and three pass breakups. He started the first two games of the season in place of the injured Kurt Coleman and saw four more starts the rest of the way when the Buckeyes opened up in their nickel defense.

"He had a good year last year," Heacock said of Hines. "He had a good offseason. He's a guy that we feel like when you say, ‘Who are your best 11 football players?' we feel like he's one that needs to be on the field somehow."

Junior Chimdi Chekwa, one of the starters at cornerback, was asked if it is tough to transition from primarily being a pass-rusher to a player who defends against the pass.

"You would think so, but Jermale is a good football player," Chekwa said. "He played quarterback in high school. He played many positions and he's a good athlete. He really can do it all."

Heacock said Hines will still have to prove to the coaches this week that he can be effective against the pass.

"I guess we'll see this week a little bit more," he said. "Last year I thought he played the pass pretty well and was pretty effective. He's a natural player and does things instinctively. You always like that.

"Does he have the speed to go up for the ball and all those things? We'll find out. We didn't really see a whole lot last week."

What they did see last week was a tough performance for Russell. To be a successful defensive back, senior cornerback Andre Amos said defenders have to have short memories. Russell has been on the hot seat for fans after he missed on a tackle in the Fiesta Bowl that led to the game-winning touchdown for Texas.

Through it all, Amos said Russell's approach has remained the same.

"He's a great athlete and he's a senior," Amos said. "He's a leader and he knows that he's going to be that guy that keeps this team going. Anderson will be fine. Whether he's down or up you're going to get the same Anderson Russell."

It just might not be in the same role.

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