While most of the attention for the Ohio State Buckeyes heading into 2013 will be on Braxton Miller and the offense, Urban Meyer should be more concerned with his defense. The Buckeyes will have to replace a major chunk of their defense, particularly in their front seven, if they hope to come close to repeating their perfect season from 2012. That puts Ryan Shazier under pressure to step up and lead the new faces from his linebacker position.
The two-year starter grew leaps and bounds in his sophomore season, leading the team with 114 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss and five sacks. He also broke up 10 passes, forced three fumbles, had three quarterback hurries and one interception that he returned for a touchdown. He broke out as one of the stars of the defense last season, but he’ll be asked to do even more as the only returning starter from the Buckeyes’ front seven.
This season, Shazier will have to become a leader and another coach on the field as Ohio State breaks in a lot of new players. The bar of expectations of what the coaching staff expects from their defensive starters will be set by Shazier and he’ll be tasked with coming up with big plays in big moments to win games.
Luckily for Meyer and company, Shazier has already shown a knack for that. The athletic linebacker has shown a playmaking ability to disrupt offenses in his first two seasons in Columbus. Through two seasons, Shazier has eight sacks, five forced fumbles and an interception and has also shown an ability drop in coverage.
He came to Ohio State as a premier athlete, but Ryan Shazier has grown into a complete linebacker for the Buckeyes. They will need him to continue that growth this season to take the next step from great player to a leader of the defense.