The Ohio State Buckeyes are less than 3 weeks from opening the 2013 campaign at the Horseshoe with the Bulls from Buffalo on the menu. This season has lofty expectations, last year saw the undefeated team have no chance to culminate it’s fortunate run with a trip to a BCS Bowl Game. As it is every year the Buckeyes will showcase blue chip talent and elite players throughout the roster. One interesting aspect of this current squad is the absence of at least one single Senior in the front seven. When coach Urban Meyer sees his defense take the field on August 31st he will do so putting his trust and the leadership role on Ryan Shazier.
The 6’2, 222 lb, Junior Linebacker out of Plantation, Florida will be asked to patrol the middle and lead the defense this year. To this point Shazier has had two outstanding seasons for Ohio State, last year saw Shazier lead the Big 10 with an outstanding 17 tackles for loss and finish second in the Conference in total tackles with 115. Which means Ryan has a great nose for the ball, he uses his great speed and athleticism to his advantage and diagnosis the play well. Providing he has an injury free Junior season Shazier should once again be at the top of the leader board in the Big 10 for any category that distinguishes those with a knack for creating opportunity.
With last April’s NFL Draft the Buckeyes saw the departure of John Simon and Johnathan Hankins from the middle of the defensive line, the key to Shaziers speed game and his dominant play will be dependent on the front lines ability to keep him clean of offensive line man and pulling guards. No matter how great a player Ryan is, the key for him and the Buckeyes will be his freedom to roam the field without 300 pound lineman impeding his progress. Shazier has that “Tampa 2” NFL prototype body that can wreak havoc and compete with any tight ends, slot receiver or back leaking out into the flats looking for space to work traditional linebackers.
So, as long as the new defensive front does their part and keeps Ryan and the linebackers clean. I can definitely see this Buckeyes defense once again being somewhere near the top of not only the Big 10 Conference but the National rankings as well. With starts against Buffalo and San Diego State at home to open the season these Buckeyes have a few games to work out the kinks before they make a trip to Berkley California to take on the Bears from Cal. That test should be the first indication where this new look front seven stands and whether or not these great expectations have BCS merit.