Spring Football Outlook: Who to Watch For (Defense)
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Spring practice is right around the corner, and it promises to be one of the most interesting in recent history.
Ohio State announced that coach Jim Tressel will meet with the media Wednesday to preview spring football, but we are already one step ahead.
In our first Spring Outlook piece, we picked some key offensive players to watch this spring, especially with Terrelle Pryor likely being out because of the foot injury.
Here is a look at some defensive players to keep an eye on as the Buckeyes try to replace seven key seniors on defense, including Cam Heyward, Brian Rolle, Ross Homan and Jermale Hines.
51 DL Joe Hale (6-4, 290, Fr.) – This isn’t a guy we knew much about when he committed to Ohio State, but after seeing him in morning workouts, Joe Hale is definitely someone to keep an eye on this spring. We don’t know exactly where the Indiana native will play down the line, but something about him says he might be in the mix for Jim Heacock this season. Hale has a strong lower body and spent most of his time in the weight room with John Simon. That’s not a bad thing for anyone trying to get stronger. If he’s willing to play inside, Hale could have an immediate impact.
Photo by Jim Davidson
6 LB Etienne Sabino (6-3, 240, rJr.) – One of the most intriguing players to watch this spring will be Etienne Sabino. The last time we saw him was last fall practice, because Sabino willingly took a redshirt last year in order mature enough to compete for a starting spot this season. The Buckeyes have two openings in their linebacking corps after the departures of Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, and Sabino could play either Mike (middle) or Sam (strongside) in 2011. He was a big-time prospect and is a physical specimen, but it will interesting to see how much he grew mentally during last season.
11 LB Dorian Bell (6-1, 230, rSo.) – Another linebacker to keep an eye on this spring is Dorian Bell. We really haven’t seen much of the former five-star prospect since he got to Ohio State, except on special teams last year. He battled some concussion issues, but was arguably their best kick coverage guy in 2010. That is usually what Luke Fickell likes to see from his guys before they step into a starting role. Bell would likely play the Sam linebacker spot if Sabino can settle in at the middle spot. If that doesn’t work, then Storm Klein becomes a guy to keep your eye on at middle linebacker.
5 LB Ryan Shazier (6-2, 210, Fr.) – He probably isn’t going to compete for any major playing time this season, but Ryan Shazier is a talented young football player who could easily be the future at Sam or even Leo (defensive end/linebacker hybrid). He has speed and he comes off the edge well as a pass rusher. Like Hale, Shazier enrolled at Ohio State in January, and should be quick to pick things up this spring. He could factor in on special teams, but more likely just a young freshman to watch for the future.
8 CB Dionte Allen (5-11, 185, Sr.) – Nobody, including the Ohio State coaching staff, can possibly know what to expect from Allen this season. Originally recruited by the Buckeyes out of high school, Allen spent three years at Florida State before transferring to OSU prior to last season. He was a highly-touted recruit, but never played much for the Seminoles, in large part because of injury. Travis Howard would appear to be one of the guys to step in at corner, but Allen should be competing for the other spot.
25 CB Bradley Roby (5-11, 176, rFr.) – Another guy who will be right there in the mix now that Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence are gone is Bradley Roby. A redshirt freshman out Georgia, Roby showed a lot of promise last fall despite the fact he wasn’t considered a defensive prospect until his senior year of high school. He is still a bit raw for the position, but has great natural instincts that you look for in a good corner.
Photo by Dan Harker
2 DB Christian Bryant (5-9, 175, So.) – Bryant is a name we already know and a player we have already seen on the field. He took over for Tyler Moeller at the Star position last season before battling an infected foot, but returned to play big minutes in the Sugar Bowl. The reason to keep an on Bryant this spring is because we don’t know exactly where he’s going to play. Star would appear to be his best position, but there are two openings at corner, which is what Bryant played in high school. If Moeller isn’t out there, then Bryant might be the first-team Star this spring, unless he’s competing for the starting corner spot. It’s hard to think he won’t be one of the 11 guys on the field this fall.
4 DB C.J. Barnett (6-0, 190, rSo.) – The only returning starter on our list, Barnett hasn’t started a game since the win over Miami, when he was lost with a season-ending knee injury. With Jermale Hines gone, Barnett should assume his starting role on the back end of Ohio State’s defense, but it will be important to watch how he looks coming off the knee injury.
21 DB Jamie Wood (6-1, 198, rSo.) – Although the Buckeyes have good depth at safety, there aren’t a lot of guys who will challenge Barnett and Orhian Johnson for one of the starting spots. Jamie Wood is one of the few. A highly-rated prospect out of Pickerington, Wood has the tools to be a good safety at the collegiate level. We haven’t seen a lot of him at the safety spot, but this could the off-season where he makes his move, much like Barnett did last year.
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