Playing primarily special teams as a true freshman linebacker last season, Pete Werner endeared himself to Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Even during fall camp a year ago, Meyer spoke glowingly of Werner and how they wanted to get him playing time in 2017.
That playing time saw Werner become an integral part of OSU’s kickoff coverage unit last season, and all he did to get on the field was exactly what Meyer and his coaching staff preach every single day.
“Personally, I think Coach Meyer mentions going hard a lot and accelerating, but going hard at your full potential,” Werner said. “I feel like that’s the one thing I’ve been taught at an early age, from my high school and my parents, is always go hard. I think he recognizes that and likes that, as well as intelligence.
“So just going hard, because mistakes can be changed, and you can learn from that. But going hard takes a little bit longer. I think going hard is something that he really likes.”
Werner tallied nine tackles last season, primarily on special teams, playing in the Buckeyes’ final 11 games. This past spring, he was competing for a starting linebacker spot. The experience he gained last season made him more comfortable this spring. The competition will continue this summer, and he will enter fall camp fighting for a starting spot.
Regardless of how the position battle shakes out, Pete Werner still expects to be involved with special teams.
“It was a good start,” he said of last season. “Special teams definitely helps me out. It’s a good start to something bigger. I’ll still play a lot of special teams. I’ll still excel in that, is the plan. Then get reps at linebacker.
“But it helped me a bunch. It’s crazy how special teams and working with that can help you excel in the linebacker position too. So not only is doing special teams good for special teams, but using special teams is good for linebacker too.”
Werner spent last season at the Sam linebacker spot, but midway through spring ball he made the move to Will. The Will defends the short side of the field in Ohio State’s defense and is more involved in stopping the run game, whereas the Sam is involved in pass defense a little more. It isn’t a huge difference, but for somebody going at full speed, each bump can be jarring.
Linebacker coach Bill Davis wants the positions to be interchangeable, but there are still differences between the two. Werner had to learn the new position quickly, and it wasn’t easy.
He was able to get through it, however, by relying on the very first thing he was ever taught as a Buckeye — go full speed and we’ll figure out the rest.
It has served him very well to this point.
“Right now, all I’ve been taught is going hard,” he said. “So I’m trying to exceed and push to my full potential. I’m trying to progress and learn everything.”