July 25, 2011

Looking at the sleepers: Defense

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - They say Ohio State "reloads" after losing considerable talent and the Buckeyes' defense certainly needs to hope that's the case this season.

Ohio State, which typically has one of the best defenses in the country each year, lost a boatload of talent after 2010, all of which won't be easy to replace.

Having lost stud defensive lineman Cam Heyward, two starting linebackers, and three starters in the secondary, there will be a lot of jobs up for grabs when the team kicks off fall camp in a few weeks.

Most like to think they've figured out who will step up for the Buckeyes this season defensively, and maybe they're right. But we'll take it a little deeper when providing names of players that have been overlooked but could be a big part of the scheme.

  • Christian Bryant, DB - Though Bryant stands a little shorter than most in Ohio State's secondary, he may pack the biggest punch. Right now it looks like he'll be on the outside looking in on the starting lineup, but don't forget about how versatile he is. He came to Ohio State as a cornerback last year and the coaches wanted him on the field immediately before his season ended prematurely with a foot infection. If he isn't in the starting lineup as a cornerback, don't underestimate his ability to compete for time at safety.

  • Ryan Shazier, LB - Though Shazier has only been with Ohio State long enough to partake in a month's worth of practice, he is one of only a few freshmen to take part in spring ball after enrolling in the winter. Though he was slowed during spring at times with injury, he could actually find himself in the position to contribute early at SAM linebacker. Remember, Ohio State won't have Dorian Bell and the status of Jonathan Newsome may still not be stable. Shazier made plays in the spring and could make a case this fall.

  • Darryl Baldwin, DL - Ohio State has always had a ton of talent on the defensive line, but don't underestimate the losses of Heyward and Dexter Larimore. Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock loves to have a large rotation on the defensive line and sources have said that Baldwin has been really impressive. The redshirt freshman out of Solon, Ohio is a big body that moves well. If he continues to impress, it's hard to imagine he will be out of the rotation.

  • Dionte Allen, CB - There's a lot of talent at cornerback for the Buckeyes and Allen is one of those names. Though he'll have a hard time competing for time with Travis Howard, he could have a shot at unseating Dominic Clarke as the expected starter. Allen transferred from Florida State and has one final season with the Buckeyes. Though he's yet to play for Ohio State, he made a name for himself as a scout player last year and could end up being a key playmaker despite not being talked about much.

  • Chad Hagan, LB/DB - Hagan suffered a heart problem in high school that threatened his playing career but he overcame that. However, when he got to Ohio State nagging injuries have kept him out of the fold until this past spring. Entering Ohio State with incredible measurables, Hagan has always been a wildcard for the Buckeyes. When healthy, it is possible he could make an impact and players had great things to say about him this spring when practicing. There's no idea of where the exact fit may be right now, but if he stays healthy and still has the measurables, he may be hard to keep off the field.

    Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.


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