** Linebackers Talented, Lack Depth … Mike Vrabel’s coaching skills will be put to the test right away because Ohio State lacks depth at the linebacker position entering the 2011 season. A total of three ‘backers that were expected to be on the roster this season – Dorian Bell, Jonathan Newsome and Ejuan Price – are not around. That’s a big chunk of scholarship players to lose at one position.
Sabino (above) and Sweat will start. After that ...
The two sure-fire starters for OSU this season – senior Andrew Sweat and fourth-year junior Etienne Sabino – won’t keep Vrabel up at night. But it’s filling out the rest of the two deep that will be very interesting.
We’re hearing the coaching staff likes junior Storm Klein in the middle not the outside, so he will likely be backing up Sabino at the MIKE. That opens the way for true freshman Curtis Grant to start at the strong-side linebacker spot.
However, two veteran guys are likely to see more playing time than anyone expected, according to one contact.
Whiting will miss the season-opener against Akron on Sept. 3 while he serves a one-game suspension. He is a third-year sophomore and played mainly on special teams last season.
Jackson is a fifth-year senior walk-on from Galloway Westland in the Columbus area. He’s always been solid during scrimmages and it sounds like he’s finally going to get his shot at meaningful playing time this year.
Also in the mix at linebacker will be true freshman Ryan Shazier who was impressive during the spring. And there are other players that will be vying for playing time, such as Nate Oliver, Chad Hagan and Scott McVey. The latter has a chronic shoulder injury, but is going to be ready for camp according to one of his teammates.
“Yeah, Scott’s been working really hard and he’ll be ready to roll,” he said.
On the roster but not in their plans?
(Click here for today's edition of The Big Board with a look at the linebacker group.)
** Bell Clarification … Speaking of linebackers … although we were certain we were done talking about him, several readers have asked about the status of aforementioned Bell, Ohio State’s third-year sophomore.
Interestingly, Bell is still listed on OSU’s official roster – while Jonathan Newsome isn’t – and OSU head coach Luke Fickell stopped short of saying Bell was definitely off the team when asked in Chicago. However, we’re hearing from multiple sources that Bell has no intentions of returning to Ohio State, and that the Buckeyes no longer want him around.
Bell was suspended for the entire 2011 football season during the spring for a third violation of the same team rule. It was then learned he would be facing a five-game NCAA suspension on top of that for his dealings with convicted felon Ed Rife, former proprietor of Fine Line Ink, the now-infamous tattoo parlor in Columbus. From our understanding, if Bell does transfer to another school, he would have to sit out the first five games of the 2012 season.
Bell attempted to transfer to hometown Pitt, but the Panthers turned him away. He is currently living in Pittsburgh and not attending school. Bell was one of the top linebacker recruits in the country in 2009 out of Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway. His prep teammate – third-year sophomore defensive back Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown – remains on OSU’s team.
**Growth Spurt … Anyone want to talk offensive line recruiting? We kid because we love.
But seriously folks, here is a name to remember when looking a few years down the road (which, in recruiting time, means RIGHT NOW): Cleveland Benedictine’s Peter Cviajnovic. You may know his brother, Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic.
Much like his older brother, Peter has hit a growth spurt that expanded his recruitment as much as need for new clothing – big enough that the scout we talked said we need to wait for his new measurements. In fact, dude played junior varsity last season. Still, he won one the best lineman awards at an OSU camp this summer.
He is on OSU’s radar for sure and they will be first in line to see his junior tape. If you want a look at the younger Cvijnaovic, here it is.
**Brady’s Barbecue ... Brady Hoke looks like he would be right at home with his apron on and manning a massive barbecue grill. We weren’t there on Sunday in Ann Arbor, but we understand the Hokester had a big and rich time welcoming in a host of key 2012 and 2013 recruits at The Big House.
Dunn attended the barbecue with his cousin, 2013 Alliance Marlington athlete prospect Dymonte Thomas.
Sources indicate that Dunn remains an Ohio State verbal, although he is taking a wait-and-see approach until after the NCAA hands down its final ruling on OSU’s case. He plans to make unofficial visits to see games at OSU, Penn State and Michigan this fall.
Michigan made it apparent to Dunn that he would be given every opportunity to be a lead back, sources said.
As for the 6-1, 175-pound Thomas, he has said he would like to follow Dunn’s footsteps and play at the same school as his cousin. He knows that may not be possible. He says Michigan is his top school currently.
The Wolverines got a verbal on Sunday from Toledo Whitmer DE Chris Wormley, viewed by some as Ohio’s top prospect. That seemed fait accompli in recent weeks after Jim Tressel’s resignation and heavy indications that Wormley’s family favored UM.
They were also going hard after DT Ondre Pipkins of Kansas City, Mo., although it seems Pipkins – who also has an OSU offer – is in no hurry to decide.
Michigan has 21 commitments and has room for roughly five or six more players in that 2012 class. Ten of them are from Ohio, which must be some kind of record since the 85-man limit went into effect in the early 1990s. Of those 10, OSU had offered Kalis, Wormley and DE Tom Strobel.
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