Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
Coming off three starts as a true freshman, sophomore outside linebacker Ryan Shazier enters his second season firmly entrenched as a starter on the Ohio State football team’s defense.
Shazier is one of many young linebackers who will play for the Buckeyes this season. Along with middle linebacker Curtis Grant, Shazier is one of two starting sophomore linebackers, while four of the seven linebackers listed on Monday’s depth chart are freshmen.
First-year coach Urban Meyer admitted that Shazier is “real young,” but he has high expectations for him.
“I’m biased because I love the guy,” Meyer said. “His God-given skill level is really high, so our expectation level is an all-Big Ten type player, at some point. He has that skill level.”
Shazier’s own expectations are even higher.
“One of my goals since I was little was to be an All-American,” Shazier said. “I’m just going to work my butt off to be an All-American or one of the top linebackers in the nation, so I’m just going to keep working hard, being a leader and just try to do the best I can.”
Shazier made an immediate impact last season once he cracked the starting lineup. He finished the year with 57 total tackles, five tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a blocked punt. Meyer said his work ethic is a major factor in his success.
“He gives everything he’s got,” Meyer said. “He’s so sincere about what he does.”
Shazier said he recognizes that his team will be relying on him more than it did last year, and is ready for the added responsibility.
“This year’s a lot different than last year,” Shazier said. “I have to be a leader a lot more than last year. I’m just working on my ability to try and be a lot better than I was, and work on my footwork, my technique and helping the young guys out a lot.”
In addition to being a starting outside linebacker in the 4-3 defensive scheme, the Buckeyes’ base alignment, defensive coordinator Everett Withers said Shazier will also start in the team’s nickel defensive package, along with senior linebacker Etienne Sabino.
Withers said the nickel package will be a very important aspect of the team’s defense this year.
“I think we’ll be in (the nickel defense) a fair amount,” Withers said. “The offense, at times, dictates how much nickel you play.”
In the base defense, Withers said Grant will be the “quarterback” and lead play-caller of the defense, but with Grant off the field in the nickel package, some of that responsibility might shift to Shazier.
Shazier addressed the possibility of having to assume that leadership responsibility.
“It’s going to be important for me to make a lot of play calls in the nickel and everything, but we also have Sabino, so he’s going to help me out,” Shazier said. “I feel that my role is going to be about the same (in the nickel) as it is in (the base defense). I’m just going to have (to) come in, help make tackles, help lead the defense and just stop the offense from scoring and stop them from gaining yards and getting the offense in great field position.”
While Meyer inherited Shazier as a player on the roster when he was hired at OSU, Shazier had been on Meyer’s radar long before either became a Buckeye. Meyer recruited Shazier, a native of Plantation, Fla., while he was still the head coach at the University of Florida.
“I’ve known him for several years now, because I recruited him when I was at Florida,” Meyer said. “You can’t help but like Ryan Shazier.”
Shazier said that Meyer’s name was “legendary” while he was still a high school recruit in Florida, but playing for Meyer has opened up his eyes to a different side of the famous coach.
“He’s intense when he’s recruiting you, but when it’s on the field, he’s another level, He doesn’t play around,” Shazier said. “He’s really serious, and I really like it about him, but he’s really intense and he’s really going to push us to the next level.”