The Buckeyes lose two starters at linebacker in 2011, Brian Rolle in the middle and Ross Homan on the weak side.
The situation is remarkably similar to 2009, when Ohio State lost James Laurinaitis in the middle and Marcus Freeman on the weak side. Fortunately, the duo of Rolle and Homan proved more than capable replacements.
Over the years, that has been the pattern at Ohio State. Whenever linebackers leave, others step in with little to no drop off. 2011 should be no different as the linebacker wheel of awesome keeps on turning in Columbus.
There is a plethora of talent for the Buckeyes to work with, and as usual, it will be an exciting spring to see which linebackers separate themselves from the pack and how the coaches tweak the system to take advantage of the new talent.
Read on for a closer look at Ohio State’s linebackers in 2011.
#42 Andrew Sweat
6’2″ 238 lbs.
The only returning starter from 2010, Sweat has the versatility and experience to play any of the three linebacker positions. He manned the strong side most of last season, but also has experience on the weak side, even starting two games there (Purdue, Minnesota) as Ross Homan recovered from an injury.
Sweat won’t overwhelm anyone with off-the-charts athleticism or speed, but he is the kind of tenacious ball hawk that will be a tackling machine if given the oppurtunity.
He is as good as a lock for a starting spot, and with his experience and tenacity, will be the rock that the rest of the group is built around.
#26 Tyler Moeller
6’0″ 210 lbs.
After battling injuries his entire career (both on and off the field), Moeller was granted a medical redshirt allowing him to return for one last go in 2011. He is a strong candidate to be a captain, and if he can stay healthy, will be a difference maker for the silver bullets.
Through only five games last season, Moeller recorded 20 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles. Those are pretty remarkable numbers in such a limited amount of time, particularly when you consider he put them up from the STAR position… which is basically a safety.
He will most likely return to the linebacker/safety hybrid position in 2011, and will add tremendous versatility, leadership, and energy to the defense.
#6 Etienne Sabino
6’3″ 240 lbs.
One of the most exciting linebacker prospects on the roster, Sabino has not been able to make an impact on the field to this point in his career. Fortunately for him and the Buckeyes, 2011 is the perfect opportunity to finally show what he can do, and what a show it could be.
With an outstanding combination of size and athleticism, fans have been expecting big things from Sabino for several years now. By most accounts, he is one of the most gifted defenders on the team with only the mental aspect of the game holding him back.
Last spring, it looked like he might finally get over the hump and earn the starting spot on the strong side, but the emergence of Andrew Sweat in the fall led to a surprise redshirt season for Sabino.
Last year’s loss is this year’s gain. With an extra year in the system, Sabino should be primed to have a break out season in 2011. He is one of the players I am most looking forward to seeing on the field.
#32 Storm Klein
6’2″ 230 lbs.
With prototypical size for a linebacker, Klein is in line to play in the middle or on the strong side in 2011. He was listed as the primary back-up for Rolle last season, and will most likely get his first shot in the middle this spring.
While having Rolle in the middle the past two seasons can only be described as a success overall, his limited size did present some problems against power teams like Wisconsin.
Klein is anything but undersized, so it will be exciting to see what he can do if given the chance as a starter.
#11 Dorian Bell
6’1″ 225 lbs.
Another exciting LB prospect for the Buckeyes, Bell has unfortunately landed in some trouble that will keep him out of at least one game early in the 2011 season.
If Bell can keep his head on straight and work through the punishment (which is for team rule violations, nothing NCAA related), he has a chance to be an extremely special linebacker for the silver bullets. With an elite combination of size and speed, Bell moves like a running back and hits like a mack truck.
With no off the field trouble, Bell would have been one of the favorites to win the weak side spot this spring. Even after missing time at the beginning of the year, it would be surprising if he didn’t work his way back onto the field after returning to the lineup.
#55 Jonathan Newsome
6’3″ 219 lbs.
After receiving playing time on the strong side during mop-up duty last season, Jonathan Newsome is one more option for the Buckeyes to work with as they look to set their starting three.
While Newsome is a dark horse to earn a starting spot, you never know what can happen in the spring. At the very least, he provides excellent depth.
#39 Jordan Whiting
6’1″ 238 lbs.
The sixth and less publicized member of the tatted five, Whiting has a one game suspension at the beginning of the season. He faced an uphill battle to work his way onto the field in the first place, and dealing with a one game suspension certainly doesn’t do him any favors.
Whiting will have an opportunity to make an impact on special teams in 2011, but it seems unlikely that he will crack the starting lineup, particularly after the suspension.
#38 Scott McVey
6’0″ 218 lbs.
A young linebacker who is cast in the mold of Tyler Moeller in more ways than one. His future looks to be at the STAR position and he is battling a shoulder injury that has severely limited his playing time thus far in Columbus.
If you had the opportunity to watch McVey lead Cleveland St. Ignatious through the playoffs and to a state title in 2008, you know that he is a play maker who performs his best in the biggest games.
McVey may get some minutes behind Moeller this season, and will be the heir apparent next year. If he can stay healthy, McVey’s future in Columbus is a bright one.
#41 Tony Jackson
5’10″ 220 lbs.
A former walk-on, Jackson has been a steady presence at linebacker for some time now, but is unlikely to make much of an impact beyond special teams.
And so on…
With this type of talent waiting in the wings, it will be an exciting and competitive spring for the Buckeyes.
I could go on about various scenarios and groups of starters, but waiting for some solid info from practice would be more prudent. Suffice to say, Ohio State will field an outstanding and deep group of linebackers once again in 2011, no matter which combination the coaches end up using on the field.