Eight interceptions and 117 tackles are gone from the 2009 Ohio State safety positions, and Jermale Hines is expected to pick up most of the slack in 2010.
Hines entered last season uncertain of his role on a team with two multiple-year starters at safety, Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell.
Despite the veterans in the backfield, Hines proved to be too good to keep off the field as he started 11 games, eight at strong safety and three at the linebacker-defensive back hybrid position the team calls the “star” position.
This year, the senior enters as one of the veterans and is looking to improve on his successful 2009 campaign which he finished with 57 tackles and two interceptions, good for fourth and third on the team respectively.
Hines has shown that he is a flexible player with the ability to make an impact in a multitude of ways.
Against Wisconsin last season he showcased his playmaking ability with a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown.
He also demonstrated that he is a workhorse, registering a career-high 11 tackles.
Defensive back coach Paul Haynes expects more of the same from the safety in the upcoming season, emphasizing his ability to know when to take a risk and make the big play.
“I don’t think you can coach that,” Haynes said. “Some guys have it and some guys don’t.”
Hines said that it can’t be explained either, acknowledging that making a big play is “instinctive … like second nature.”
With Coleman and Russell gone, there should be plenty of opportunities for Hines to use that instinct.
Just as important is his ability to make up for the loss in leadership. All three captains last year were on defense, and all have exhausted their eligibility.
“I learned a lot [from Coleman and Russell],” Hines said. “Those guys are real film junkies, work hard in everything they do, real leaders … whatever happens they take the blame for it.”
The loss of key leaders has not diminished Hines’ outlook. He expects the team “to be as good as we can be, go out there and work hard and don’t settle for nothing but greatness, [and] get to the Promised Land.”
The “Promised Land” is a trip to Glendale, Ariz. on Jan. 10 for the National Championship game.
Despite the magnitude of his goals, Hines isn’t feeling the pressure because “like coach Tressel would say, ‘You can’t go out there and win the National Championship today, but you can damn sure lose it.'”
Although the majority of his starts will more than likely be at strong safety in 2010, Hines will need to again be a “star” if the Buckeyes are going to accomplish his goals.