Most Important: No. 4

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Last updated: 01/23/2013 4:34 AM

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Football
Most Important Buckeyes: No. 4
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Anyone who watched the last few games of Ohio State’s 2011 season could see the Buckeyes had found something special with Ryan Shazier.

Ryan Shazier houses a pick-six against Penn State
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ryan Shazier

He was only a freshman back then, but the linebacker out of Florida burst onto the scene with his 14-tackle performance against Penn State last season. A one-time Urban Meyer commit at Florida, Shazier brought a new element of speed to the Buckeyes’ defense and he would come to epitomize Meyer’s philosophy of going from Point A to Point B as fast as possible.

For that, Shazier comes in all the way up at No. 4 on our postseason countdown of the 20 Most Important Buckeyes for an undefeated season.

What Made Him Important?

Shazier wasn’t always 100 percent sure what he was doing out there as a freshman, but that certainly started to change as a sophomore. He was still over-pursuing and playing a little too out of control early in the year, but that seemed to change dramatically as his sophomore year progressed.

He put on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason to absorb more of the pounding a linebacker takes in the Big Ten, but it certainly didn’t seem to have an effect on his speed. By the time Big Ten play rolled around, Shazier had quickly become one of the best players on Ohio State’s defense, and one of the most important pieces to the team’s success in 2012.

The Plantation, Fla. product finished with 57 tackles last season, despite the fact he started only three games as a freshman. He followed that up with 115 stops as a sophomore in 2012. He finished third in the Big Ten in tackles and led the conference with 17 tackles for loss this season.

No one else on Ohio State’s defense came within 40 tackles of Shazier, who established himself as one of the best defensive players in the conference. He had five sacks, 11 breakups and three forced fumbles, but the thing that really makes him important is how he was always around the football.  

What Would the Buckeyes Have Done Without Him?

They would have been in a world of hurt, for starters. Keep in mind this team didn’t really have a middle linebacker until halfway through the season. That’s when Zach Boren moved over from fullback to fill a huge void on the defense.

This team only had one Zach Boren. There was no one else coming over to fill the Will linebacker spot if Shazier wasn’t around, or wasn’t healthy. The position demands a player who can fly around and make tackles, often coming in from the backside to clean up a play.

There simply wasn’t another player on the entire roster who was able or ready to fill that role in 2012 other than Shazier. The Buckeyes probably would have tried to get what they could out of someone like Conner Crowell before eventually going with a freshman like David Perkins late in the year.

Perkins, a 4-star linebacker out of South Bend, Ind., might turn out to be a good one for the Buckeyes. He’s probably the only linebacker on their current roster with speed comparable to Shazier, but that doesn’t mean he was anywhere near being ready to play this year.

It could be argued that no player was more critical to Ohio State’s success this season than Shazier, if for no other reason than the lack of a capable backup. Even Braxton Miller had Kenny Guiton.

How Does It Compare to Preseason Expectations?

We had Shazier at No. 7 on our preseason countdown of the Most Important Buckeyes, and we thought that was pretty high for the sophomore linebacker. He looked really good as a freshman a year ago, but it was hard to imagine he would become one of the four or five most important players on this entire roster.

We also didn’t realize he was going to come out with 115 tackles and more tackles for loss than guys like John Simon, Johnathan Hankins and Nathan Williams.

Most Important Countdown:

No. 5 Carlos Hyde
No. 6 Johnathan Hankins
No. 7 Bradley Roby
No. 8 Reid Fragel
No. 9 Philly Brown
No. 10 Jack Mewhort
No. 11 Devin Smith 
No. 12 Corey Linsley
No. 13 Nathan Williams
No. 14 Christian Bryant
No. 15 Etienne Sabino
No. 16 Andrew Norwell
No. 17 Travis Howard 
No. 18 C.J. Barnett
No. 19 Garrett Goebel
No. 20 Kenny Guiton

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