NEWS. Ohio State Jersey Scrimmage Insider - Linebackers Shine Throughout

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Last updated: 08/20/2011 8:45 PM
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Ohio State Jersey Scrimmage Insider - Linebackers Shine Throughout
By Tony Gerdeman

During the course of summer practices there hasn't been much talk about the linebackers simply because there just isn't a lot of tackling permitted while the media is watching. So Saturday's jersey scrimmage was the first chance to see a full-scale scrimmage setting, and we finally got a good look at what these linebackers can do.

Andrew Sweat
Photo by Dan Harker
Andrew Sweat

The first to stand out was Andrew Sweat. According to Ohio State's stat keepers, Sweat finished with nine tackles and four tackles for loss. He looked fast and came crashing down on ball carriers time and again. He wasn't just arm tackling, he was running through people. We've been saying this for a while now, but the weakside linebacker spot is in good hands with "Sweaty" (that's what Mike Vrabel called him).

Storm Klein also looked very comfortable in the middle. He is still coming out when the Buckeyes go with five defensive backs, but did stay out there a time or two as he has throughout camp.

Etienne Sabino had some nice blitzes, but there just aren't a lot of plays to be made for a strongside linebacker if he's not blitzing. He does come down the line extremely fast though. And he seems to be a sure tackler at this point, as do all of the starting linebackers.

Ryan Shazier
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ryan Shazier
Freshman Ryan Shazier looks to be firmly in the two-deep as Sabino's backup. In fact, he actually sacked Braxton Miller while working with the first team. He had at least eight tackles today and showed the same pursuit that had people buzzing in the spring. On one play he stood Boom Herron up at the line of scrimmage and actually drove him back two yards. He will play this year, and don't be surprised when he's picking up multiple sacks in the fourth quarter of blowouts.

And since everybody has been asking, freshman Curtis Grant is still with the third team at middle linebacker. He is still behind Jordan Whiting at this point, and there hasn't been any sign that that will change in the near future.

Another name that needs to be mentioned is walk-on Stewart Smith. He's working with the second-team linebackers and has been in the backfield quite a bit. He may not actually see playing time other than special teams this season, but his play to this point needs to be mentioned.

Injury Updates

Tyler Moeller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Tyler Moeller
Tyler Moeller is still out. He was suited up for the scrimmage but never saw the field. When asked how serious Moeller was injured, safety Orhian Johnson said that he didn't know and directed any further questions about Moeller's health to the trainers.

Others on defense who did not participate were Scott McVey, who was not dressed, Jeremy Cash, Julian Vann, Solomon Thomas and Melvin Fellows. Incoming freshman linebacker Connor Crowell was on hand, supported by crutches following surgery to continue to repair an ankle injury from his high school playoffs. Crowell will miss the season and is expected to start running again in January.

Freshman cornerback DerJuan Gambrell was working with the third team after missing some of Thursday's practice with a slight injury.

Rising Star

Christian Bryant
Photo by Jim Davidson
Christian Bryant
With Moeller out this past week, Christian Bryant has stepped in and played very well at the nickel back position. Bryant has no fear in attacking ball carriers and always gets low enough to bring people down.

He did, however, give up a 58-yard touchdown reception to Chris Fields. It was an underthrown ball from Braxton Miller, and Fields came back to get it and caught it in traffic. He bounced off of Bryant and ran the final 30 yards or so into the endzone.

"Great catch. Lucky throw," said Orhian Johnson afterwards.

After the scrimmage head coach Luke Fickell said of Bryant, "We expect big things out of him." He mentioned that last year the coaches were more nervous about Bryant playing than Bryant was. He said it reminded him of James Laurinaitis stepping in for Bobby Carpenter against Michigan in 2005. Sometimes players just have no fear.

Safety First

Orhian Johnson
Photo by Jim Davidson
Orhian Johnson
Orhian Johnson and C.J. Barnett, based on every snap we've seen of practice, are the starting safeties for the Buckeyes in the opener.

They've been together from the get go, and Orhian Johnson said that it's been a great help in building their chemistry. They communicate constantly, and it will only make them better as a tandem.

However, Johnson did say that nobody considers themselves a starter in the secondary. He said that everybody has to be ready to step in at any moment, which is a lesson learned from last season's injuries.

Johnson said that some players may have had a sense of comfort last year knowing that they weren't going to play. That's not allowed this year.

Depth Chart Changes?

Steve Miller
Photo by Jim Davidson
Steve Miller
Not really. Though Steve Miller continued to work with the second team even though both Nathan Williams and J.T. Moore rotated with the first team. Miller responded with a couple of sacks. One around walk-on Eric Kramer, and the other around freshman Chris Carter, which ended up in a de-cleating of Kenny Guiton.

With Williams back, Michael Bennett didn't really get any work with the first team. He was still impressive, however, and is often too quick, strong and low for the guys on the second offensive line.

Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Darryl Baldwin had his best day as a Buckeye--at least with the media observing. He was in the backfield a few times, and also pushed through the line to disrupt a couple of plays. He also had a sack when he got around Chris Carter once.

Defensive linemen Adam Bellamy and J.T. Moore worked mostly with the first unit, and just rotated in and out.

Miller, Bennett and Hale all held their own, and Fickell said he expects all three to play "a lot" this season.

Corey Brown continued to work with the second team at safety. Johnson said that Brown is improving every day, which is evidenced by the fact that he was with the twos so quickly.

Odds and Ends

Don Matheney
Photo by Jim Davidson
Don Matheney
A player who doesn't ever get mentioned but is seemingly the anchor of the third-team defensive line is Don Matheney. Nobody expects him to play--he may not even expect him to play--but on a line at times with freshmen Chase Farris, Steve Miller and Kenny Hayes, it's not unusual for Matheney to be the guy making the play.

Travis Howard not only showed off his cover skills today, but more impressively he showed his tackling ability. On a pass out to 230-pound Carlos Hyde in the flats, Howard dropped him for a loss of a yard and never looked concerned about the fact that he was about to attack a 230-pound running back.

Perhaps Howard's worst moment, however, came on his interception. He was beaten by Philly Brown at the goal line, but the throw from Joe Bauserman was behind Brown and right into Howard's hands. So even when Howard's been bad this summer, he's still been pretty good.

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