Ohio State has produced its fair share of superstar linebackers in its history, from Chris Spielman to Andy Katzenmoyer, and most recently, A.J. Hawk to James Laurinaitis.
Heading into his third season at Ohio State, Ryan Shazier has already made himself into one of the country's best linebackers with his relentless motor, unbelievable athleticism and playmaking ability.
He burst onto the scene as a freshman making a series of big plays, either on special teams or on defense. As a sophomore and a full-time starter, he made his presence felt every single time he was on the field.
In 2012, Shazier recorded 70 solo tackles, 19 tackles for loss, five sacks and forced three fumbles—including when he jarred the ball loose from Wisconsin's Montee Ball on a 4th-and-1 late in the fourth quarter in OSU's 21-14 overtime win over the Badgers.
He will come into this season with a tremendous amount of pressure on him because he is the only returning starter in the front seven this season for the Buckeyes.
Shazier will clearly be the guy to do pretty much everything, especially from a leadership role. That's where he has a chance to cement himself as one of the great linebackers in Ohio State history, which puts him in a very elite group.
The best of the 21st century like Hawk and Laurinaitis weren't great just because they were playmakers. They were the leaders on the field and brought the energy for the entire defense to feed off of.
Shazier has already done that to some extent, but he is the guy everybody will be looking at this season. He's going to have to be the same playmaker when the offensive coaches try to game-plan exclusively around him and fellow junior Bradley Roby.
His athletic skills are undeniable and his football IQ has only gotten better the more he has played.
Where Shazier shines and why he can be the next legendary OSU linebacker is that he can take the football away, which he has done six times in two years with five forced fumbles and an interception. He also defended 11 passes as a sophomore, proving he is not just a pass-rushing linebacker, but that he can drop back in coverage as well.
There are a lot of pure athletes that try to make it in college football. Ryan Shazier has proven in two years that he is not just a pure athlete, but a football player, and a star.
He can validate himself even more in his junior season by not only proving he is one of the best defensive players in the country, but the latest superstar linebacker to don the scarlet and gray.
All he has to do is continue to do what he has done so well for two years: disrupt and dominate. He just has to continue to do it while all the spotlights are on him.
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