March 8, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Two spring practices are now behind the Ohio State Buckeyes and ahead is a week off as team members, as well as all Ohio State students, enjoy a respite from spring semester studies for spring break.

Coach Urban Meyer and staff worked the team through an approximate two-hour, 25-period practice Thursday in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The drills were similar to what the team experienced Monday, with players wearing shorts, jerseys and helmets with no contact permitted. The pads will come out for the next practice, though, which is scheduled for after the break on Tuesday, March 19.

Ohio State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell, in his 13th season coaching at his alma mater and his ninth season as defensive coordinator or co-coordinator, met with the media after practice along with junior linebackers Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant and sophomore linebackers Joshua Perry and Camren Williams.

Linebacker Notes
Shazier started all 12 games last year and led the Big Ten in tackles-for-loss (17), plus was second in tackles (115), fourth in forced fumbles (three), and eighth in sacks (five) and passes defended (12). He was named all-Big Ten by the media. … Grant started three times at middle linebacker last season and has played in 18 games the past two seasons. … Perry and Williams each played in 10 games last year as true freshmen and lettered. Perry was in on 48 defensive snaps, the most of any linebacker outside of Shazier. … A third linebacker who will be a sophomore in the fall – David Perkins – played in 11 games last season on special teams. … Fickell’s charges this spring also include Joe Burger, Craig Fada, Luke Roberts and recent fullback-turned-linebacker Craig Cataline, all second-year players.

Some thoughts from the interview sessions include the following.

Luke Fickell on Curtis Grant: “The will and the want-to has never been a question. It’s just the ability to continue to mature. All these players have different things going on in their lives that help them mature. I’ve seen some of the things he’s gone through and I think this has really been a positive.”

Fickell on team leaders: “Energy is contagious. Effort is contagious. I can honestly say that’s what I’m excited about. We have some guys in leadership positions with a lot of confidence and when they have confidence, it exudes confidence to others.”

Ryan Shazier on improving his game: “I’m taking my game to the next level. Coach Fickell and I have been talking about plays and what offenses can do. I need to work on staying behind the ball and watching film will help me do that more out on the field.”

Curtis Grant on improving his game: “My goal is to not get complacent. I just want to keep working hard and do everything the coaches ask me to.”

Grant on what motivates him: “My biggest motivation is my family. My dad always told me to carry my last name well and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”

Joshua Perry on his improvement: “My biggest improvement is in my understanding of the game. We’ve all been in the film room a lot, and the more you watch tape, the better you understand the game.”

Camren Williams on entering spring practice: “I feel good. I’m feeling faster. My leg strength has improved and I’ve gained 10 pounds so I’m up to about 232. I feel like a linebacker now.”

Williams on the competition at linebacker: “With [Etienne] Sabino and Zach [Boren] leaving, everyone is going to have an opportunity to show what they can do. There’s a lot of competition at the mike position, and that’s a position I’m interested in. I’ve been working hard to learn the playbook and improve at the position because as the mike you need to know where everyone is and what’s going on at all times.”

The Chase…
In case you missed it…Tuesday after practice Urban Meyer described the meaning of “The Chase…” banner that is hanging in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. What it means to each player is essentially personal, but Meyer said it means a lot of things.

“We’re all chasing something,” Meyer said. “We’re 15 practices behind a lot of teams — as a matter of fact every team that played in a bowl game last year. So the chase is on. Some guys are chasing starting positions. Some guys are chasing bowl games. Some guys are chasing NFL contracts. … They’re chasing their dream.

“Everybody’s got big dreams, and we as a football team have some dreams.”

The Fragel Award
Another nugget from Tuesday…Meyer said that he is looking for that next person who comes out of nowhere to become a key, contributing player for the Buckeyes, like RT Reid Fragel did last year after making the switch from tight end to the offensive line. Meyer half joked that whoever that person is should get the “Fragel Award.” Fragel started every game at right tackle last season, earned honorable mention all-Big Ten Conference honors and then was invited to the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.

Making the Great State Proud
Ohio State’s 87-man spring roster includes 61 players from the state of Ohio; 26 from outside Ohio. This fall Ohio State will be represented by at least 70 high school graduates when all 11 of the 2013 recruits from Ohio arrive. Two of the 11 are already in school: Cam Burrows from Trotwood and Tracy Sprinkle from Elyria. Meyer and staff have signed 27 student-athletes from Ohio to national letters of intent in two years.