Most Important Buckeyes: No. 8

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Last updated: 08/15/2012 11:59 PM
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Football
Most Important Buckeyes: No. 8
By Tony Gerdeman

When you talk about important football players, you can't get too far from talking about a team's most important player without taking a look at their middle linebacker.

Curtis Grant
Photo by Jim Davidson
Curtis Grant

For decades at Ohio State, the middle linebacker has been almost an ambassador to Buckeye fans. When they look back at defenses of the past, they think back to the middle linebackers that patrolled those defenses.

Gradishar, Cousineau, Marek, Spielman, Tovar, Katzenmoyer, Wilhelm, Laurinaitis, Rolle. The names span a bridge of generations, but last year provided a gap in that bridge, and it's a gap that Curtis Grant will be looking to fill in 2012.

Just a true sophomore, a lot will be asked of Grant this season, and with his athleticism and physical ability, it's time for him to begin producing.

As Urban Meyer has said, they don't have any other choice.

What Makes Him Important

Grant is important because he's the quarterback of the front seven. He makes the reads and the calls. If he is thinking too much, then he can't play as fast as the defense needs him to. If he's thinking incorrectly, then it won't even matter how fast he's moving.

The other part of his importance comes in stopping the run. If he's late to a gap, or easily blocked, then running backs will get to the second level at will and the Buckeye defense won't face the necessary amount of third-and-longs that it will need to succeed.

If, however, Grant is everything that is hoped for, then the middle of the Ohio State defense could be the best in college football.

What Can Be Expected Of Him

Curtis Grant
Photo by Jim Davidson
Curtis Grant

It's hard to say. A lot of pressure has been put on him because of his abilities and the Buckeyes' lack of experienced depth.

"He has to be a player for us," Urban Meyer said back in the spring. "If he's not, we've got problems."

Due simply to his size and physicality, he will find himself making plays at the line of scrimmage in practice, but the real question surrounding Grant is consistency and whether or not he has it.

So far, the coaches haven't exactly gushed about him, but they haven't been overly critical either. They almost seem guarded and simply respond that they need him to continue to do what he's doing and continue to improve.

The one major thing going for Grant is that he has a ridiculously talented defensive line playing in front of him, as well as experienced linebackers playing alongside him.

Expectations? How about 70-80 tackles, and depending on how often he blitzes, 7-10 tackles for loss.

What Would the Buckeyes Do Without Him

Connor Crowell
Photo by Jim Davidson
Connor Crowell

If Curtis Grant didn't win the middle linebacker job, it would either go to redshirt freshman Conner Crowell or a true freshman like Camren Williams.

Crowell played very well in the spring, and remains Grant's current backup. Williams has earned kudos from his fellow freshman linebackers, and should see the field this year. However, Grant is still the guy the coaches want to see perform.

It's hard to say how well the defense would perform without Grant because we don't yet know how the defense will perform with him. However, if he is an All-Conference type of player, then this will be the best defense in the Big Ten.

If he isn't an All-Conference player, there is still enough around him to pick up the slack. But the difference between a good team and a great team could be the difference between a good Curtis Grant and a great one.

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