Robert Landers has been a key piece of Ohio State’s defensive line puzzle the last two years. He has played in 26 games over that time, displaying quickness and burst that is rare for a nose tackle.
As a redshirt freshman in 2016, Landers tallied 7.5 tackles for loss. Last year, he added five more tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
He is not the biggest guy, checking in at 6-foot-1 and 283 pounds, but he uses it to his advantage in terms of leverage and explosion. Landers has yet to start a game for the Buckeyes, but that will change this season. He will need to show that he won’t wear down over the course of a game or the course of a season due to his size, however.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson doesn’t share those concerns. And based on what he saw from Landers off the field this spring, he can’t wait to see what he does on the field.
“His leadership skills are going off the roof,” Johnson said. “I think that is the biggest area I want him to grow, is as a leader. He has done that. He is leading by example too, which is really cool for the young players to watch a guy with a challenging skill set go as hard as he can. I think that is really special.”
Playing time is nothing new for Landers, but now with five veteran defensive linemen departing from the 2016 team, the Buckeyes are in need of leaders. Teams win or lose up the middle, and that’s where the leadership needs to be as well. Landers is doing everything his coaches could ask him to do when it comes to leading.
“He is very vocal,” Johnson said. “He is on your back, patting you on the shoulder and showing you the right way to do it. Young players need to see that and hear that. And he will take time with them, two hours of video tape just watching with them. Or come out early on a Saturday when you’ve got nothing to do and work on technique, which is cool.”
Landers has emerged behind the scenes as a team leader, but those on the outside may be surprised by what they see from him this year. Johnson won’t be surprised, however. In fact, he is looking forward to seeing what Robert Landers can do with more opportunities.
“I don’t see him as underrated,” he said. “He played really well for us last year. He gave us some really great time – 25 snaps per game – when you really needed it. I think now he has a chance to be a starter. We will see how he grows from here.”