Buckeye Linebacking Getting Better
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State was once known for producing some of the best linebackers in the country, but the last few years have seen the well become a little dry.
When Urban Meyer arrived in Columbus he made no bones about it. The linebacker play was not up to snuff.
Eventually Meyer took the unusual step of moving fullback Zach Boren to middle linebacker. It was that desperate.
The Buckeye linebacking unit has improved, but is still working to live up to standards set by the legends of the past.
“When you think of the great linebackers that have [been] arguably the last decade as good as a linebacker as ever in the country played at Ohio State, and we need to get back to that,” Meyer said.
The Buckeyes are plugging in two new starters – Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry – next to Ryan Shazier and it has been a bit of a struggle.
“Early in the year I think we were a team of talented guys but not necessarily technicians,” Perry said. “We weren’t great at fundamentals and didn’t necessarily have as good of a grasp on the scheme as we do right now.”
“Then when you turn on the film, you see guys running to the ball, definitely a better effort and I think that comes from confidence and knowing what we’re doing.”
The defense allowed perceived inferior opponents to move the ball. It was a knock that caused OSU to fall from the nation’s number-two team to number four.
Then came a primetime game against Wisconsin, where the talk focused on the defense stopping the Badgers’ explosive run. The linebackers were the question mark heading into the game and the group responded.
“I think the week before Wisconsin I took a different type of preparation towards my game,” Perry said.
“I started taking things more seriously on and off the field, so in the film room making sure I knew what I was doing.”
Ohio State held the Badgers – one of the nation’s best rushing attacks – to just 104 rushing yards.
The defensive now ranks third nationally against the rush, has not allowed a run of 20 or more yards this season, and is one of four FBS schools to hold all rushers under 100 yards.
“I think just being able to carry momentum is the biggest thing right now because once you’ve got it, you don’t want to lose it,” Perry said.
The Buckeyes done just that since the Wisconsin game, holding their opponents to 92.75 rushing yards per game.
“Penn State, we played really well defensively and then against Purdue it was a shutout, so that said a lot about how our defense played.”
What have the linebackers done to get better? Perry said it comes from working together when they aren’t on the field.
“We watch a lot of film on ourselves and we watch everybody,” he said.
“I’ll look at Curtis to see what he does what and what he needs to work on as well as Ryan. They’ll look at stuff I do. We’ll watch the young guys and try and coach them up.”
This helps make each player better, but also makes the three on the field a more cohesive unit because they understand each other.
The current Buckeyes also have those that came before them to study.
“You’ll go in and you’ll throw on some film of James Laurinaitis,” Perry said.
“Watch his point of attacks and his effort plays and see what he did because he was a great linebacker here so you’ve got a lot of resources to learn from.
“I think we’ve been playing a lot better these last two weeks, but it’s never good enough so we’ve just got to keep hitting our stride.”