Meyer: He’s the Starting Middle Linebacker
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Last spring, Urban Meyer anointed Curtis Grant as one player who had to make it if the Buckeyes were going to be a good defensive football team.
He didn’t, and they weren’t, at least not for the first half of the 2012 football season. Now it appears Grant, the kid who was once considered a can’t-miss linebacker recruit out of Virginia, might be on the verge of solidifying one of the most significant soft spots on the Ohio State defense.
“He’s the starting middle linebacker,” Meyer said after practice Wednesday.
“I can say that as of right now.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
It’s not something Meyer could have or would have said a few weeks ago. He may not have said it a few days ago, despite the fact Grant has been taking first-team reps with the OSU defense all spring.
He did the same thing last year before a stinger kept him from participating in the spring game. Grant said he became complacent and Luke Fickell attributed some of that to the fact they were basically handing Grant the starting spot in the middle of the defense because they didn’t have any other options.
“That’s where the maturity level comes in,” Fickell said this spring.
“Can he respond? He didn’t. That’s probably what he didn’t do a great job of last year.”
Grant lost his starting job just three weeks into the season. He would hardly see the field the rest of the year, but Meyer and the Buckeyes never gave up hope for the former five-star prospect and Parade All-American.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“You can talk to Luke, but I see, first of all a great kid,” Meyer said Wednesday.
“I’m not saying he wasn’t a great kid last year but he wasn’t fully engaged. He is a fully engaged guy right now.”
The 6-3, 240-pound linebacker has been a mainstay on the first-team defense this spring, along with sophomore David Perkins. The speedy linebacker out of South Bend, Ind. has been filling in for Ryan Shazier this spring as he recovers from offseason hernia surgery, but the coaches are starting to feel a little more comfortable with what they have to work with at linebacker heading into the fall.
“Shazier only does certain drills,” Meyer said, “but we’re starting to create a little something at linebacker.”
Meyer Impressed with Front Seven
Meyer went on to name Curtis Grant as one of the top performers of the spring on defense. Other names on that list, according to Meyer, are defensive backs Doran Grant and Tyvis Powell.
Grant is the top candidate to replace Travis Howard at cornerback across from Bradley Roby, while Powell is a redshirt freshman who has taken most of the reps as Ohio State’s nickel back this spring.
Two other guys who made Meyer’s most improved list are slated to open the 2013 season as the team’s starting defensive ends.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“That front seven is much improved. We’re much more aggressive up front than we were at this time last year,” Meyer said.
“I kind of like the direction we’re heading. Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence are making some strides.”
Spence, a sophomore out of Pennsylvania, has been a standout all spring for Fickell and the OSU defense, but Washington has just recently started to catch the attention of his head football coach.
“The last three practices, I don’t know the first half of spring practice if I’m buying that stock. Now I’m buying that stock,” Meyer said of the sophomore out of Cincinnati.
“Very talented player. Mike Vrabel is coaching the heck out of that kid. He doesn’t take a step and you hear Mike Vrabel right beside him.”
Vrabel was getting a little coaching of his own on Wednesday from former Ohio State assistant Jim Heacock. Vrabel played under Heacock back when he was the defensive line coach in Columbus during the mid 1990s, and the two spent some time talking as they walked off the practice field.
After a year away from the game, Heacock has been to nearly every one of Ohio State’s 13 spring practices this year. He served as the school’s defensive line coach from 1996-2004 and defensive coordinator from 2005-2011.
The 64-yeard old Heacock was not retained as an assistant by Meyer, who had coached under him at Illinois State in the late 1980s, when the new staff took over. He has been asked to make himself at home around the program, though he recently told The-Ozone he isn’t sure exactly what his new role will be.
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