Lets get to the defensive side of the ball, now. This Ohio State defense runs thin after losing 7 of its starters including last year’s standouts Boren, Sabino and Howard. If these guys are serious about a national championship run, the defense is surely going to have to step up.
There are a lot of wildcards on the D this year, and no position group is more intriguing than the linebackers. The Bucks are bringing back preseason all-american candidate Ryan Shazier, but are looking for others to step up along side him and fill the holes.
So what happens?
1) Ryan Shazier will be a top LB in the country, and will lead the Bucks on D
I know that I am not alone on this one, but I might be the biggest Ryan Shazier fan out there. This guy is an absolute monster and has the ability to tear up any ball carrier. You don’t realize how big Shazier is until you encounter him in person, and this dude is a beast. After becoming a legitimate NFL prospect last season, he is looking to improve on his sophomore breakout season this year and elevate his draft stock.
He might be the most interesting player on the Buckeyes team after coming onto the scene at the end of last season. He had double-digit tackles in 6 of the 12 games last year and had a total of 5 sacks, 1 INT, and a season-changing forced fumble against Bucky (Suck it, Wisco). Either way, Shazier will presumably lead the linebacker crew this season for the Bucks and will be a force in the middle of a young defense.
2) Will Curtis Grant show up this year?
While Shazier looks to be the solid rock of this D, the opposite might be true of Curtis Grant. Another junior, Grant has yet to show up for this Buckeye team. Coming out of high school as a top recruit, Grant simply hasn’t adjusted to the college game and has never been able to get going. Last season he had 8 total tackles following 2 the previous year. The word coming out of camp on him is that he is showing some greater upside than he has in the past. He had 8 tackles alone in the spring game and I would expect Grant to create an impact alongside Shazier this season.
3) Which underclassmen will prevail?
All of the signs point to Josh Perry getting the nod at strong-side linebacker with Shazier. Perry, also a physical specimen, has the potential become a nice addition to the defense but his play will determine how many minutes he gets.
Other freshman Mike Mitchell, Camren Williams and Trey Johnson have all gotten looks in practice but don’t appear to be making a big time move up the depth charts too soon.
Look for Shazier and Grant to lead the linebackers this year, but don’t expect for this group to be the heart of the defense during the season. Urban has not been very high on this group (minus Shazier), saying that they don’t look like “Ohio State Football players” right now. Of course things can change with time, but don’t set the bar high for these guys right now.