Shazier working way back.

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Last updated: 03/11/2013 0:53 AM

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Football
Shazier Working His Way Back
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Watching Ryan Shazier walking around the practice field last Thursday, it looked like he could run through a brick wall and come out unscathed on the other side.

Looks can often be deceiving.

While Shazier still looks like the physical freak who led the Big Ten in tackles for loss a year ago – he is 6-2, 225 pounds and runs like a gazelle – his body is still recovering from offseason surgery.

The all-Big Ten linebacker played his best football over the second half of last season, helping the Buckeyes to an undefeated season as a sophomore. Most of that came with a sports hernia that started bothering Shazier all the way back in early October.

Ryan Shazier
Photo by Dan Harker
Ryan Shazier

“I just tried to fight through the season,” said Shazier, who admits he first felt the pain after Ohio State’s 63-38 win over Nebraska in week six of the regular season.

“When I got back here (after going home for Christmas break) it kept hurting, so I talked to the coaches. I got an MRI and I found out.”

What Shazier found out was that his sports hernia – also called athletic pubalgia or hockey groin – would require surgery. It is a rather common groin injury among football and hockey players, but it has kept Shazier from practicing much through the first week of spring ball at Ohio State.

“It’s real frustrating,” said Shazier, Ohio State’s lone returning starter in the front-seven of the defense from last season.

“Sometimes in the back of your head you think it’s a blessing because you’re not practicing. But to be honest, it’s frustrating, because you see all your guys out here grinding, working hard, doing tough workouts, and all you can do is watch.”

It has been more than a month since Shazier had the surgery, so he is no longer feeling any pain or soreness, but he still doesn’t know exactly when he will be allowed to return to live activity in practice.

“To be honest, I don’t really know, but it’s not too bad,” he said.

“I’ve just been doing my rehab with the trainers and everything, and they just tell me take it day-by-day. So I’m seeing how everything goes, and just trying to get back as soon as possible.”

The Buckeyes have only practiced twice so far this spring (Tuesday and Thursday of last week), and now they are off all of this week for spring break. Most of the guys will still be in the weightroom and around the practice facility, but Ohio State will not assemble on the practice field again until March 19.

David Perkins
Photo by Jim Davidson
David Perkins

With Shazier on the sideline, the Buckeyes have been using a combination of Curtis Grant, Joshua Perry and David Perkins to fill the linebacker spots on the first-team defense. Luke Fickell’s crew has been running mostly nickel defense this spring – meaning only two backers on the field – so Grant and Perry have been splitting reps at Mike linebacker while Perkins has handled the bulk of the work at Will backer, which is Shazier’s natural position.

Perkins is a 6-2, 228-pound sophomore out of South Bend, Ind. who just might be the most athletic linebacker on the team – or at least right up there with Shazier. He didn’t play much other than special teams a rookie last fall, however, so Shazier knows his presence is definitely needed in practice.

“I feel it’s my responsibility to be a leader because first of all, I’m a linebacker and I’m supposed to lead by example,” he said after practice on Thursday.

“And then second of all, it’s my junior year and I’m trying to be the best leader I can be. And also, we’re going to have an almost whole-new front seven. I’m the only one with any experience, so I’m going to have to lead.”

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