Ohio State Football: Who Will Emerge as the Players to Watch on the Defense?

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst IMarch 30, 2012

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 02:  Ryan Shazier #10 of Ohio State Buckeyes is seen on the field during the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl against the Florida Gators at EverBank Field on January 2, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Spring practice for Ohio State is finally underway, and if the first day of practice is any indication, the middle of the OSU defense is in some pretty intriguing hands.

Two linebackers that Urban Meyer recruited during his time in Florida for the class of 2011—which signed just after his resignation—practiced with the first team on Wednesday: Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant.

Shazier already made his presence felt in the minds of Buckeye fans, as he burst onto the scene as a true freshman last year and made an immediate impact.

His aggressive play and amazing athleticism made him a fan favorite.

Grant saw very little playing time last season, as he was behind several more experienced linebackers.

With a new coach comes a new mentality, as Meyer has already followed through on his promise that experience is almost irrelevant when it comes to starting roles.

Curtis Grant will be the immediate representation of that philosophy, as Meyer told reporters following Wednesday's practice (from the Columbus Dispatch):

“He had an excellent offseason,” Meyer said. “He’s a guy that has to develop. Obviously it was his first day. He did fine. In a week—we have no choice—he has to be a player for us. If not, we’ve got problems.”

For a player that hasn't seen much action despite being a blue-chip recruit out of high school, Meyer's statement about Grant speaks volumes not only about how Meyer feels about Grant's ability, but about Meyer's opinion on the talent at the position.

It's no secret that the linebackers were not very good last season, looking nothing like the groups OSU has had in the past.

Shazier's emergence last year is a step in the right direction along with freshmen from Josh Perry, Camren Williams and David Perkins, all of whom are very athletic linebackers that could see some action this year.

But Meyer has put the pressure on Grant, a player he recruited and knows very well, to be the guy running the defense—at least right now.

Should Grant be the guy to start in the middle with Shazier and Etienne Sabino flanking him, he will have a very experienced group of defensive linemen in front of him, including John Simon and Johnathan Hankins.

Having dominant linemen like those two makes life for a young LB a lot easier.

Things can change very quickly as the spring wears on, especially if Meyer suddenly feels that someone else deserves the job more than Grant.

But if any young linebacker is worthy of the starting gig this season, it's Grant, especially given his track record in high school.

The spring is very young, with all sorts of battles just about to begin.

If this first telling statement from Meyer is any indication, be prepared for a fun few weeks Buckeye fans.

This ride is very different from ones fans have been on in recent years.

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