April 8, 2008

Freeman sums up the linebackers

There is less than two weeks left before the 2008 Spring Game and that might not be a moment too soon for many people as the bumps and the bruises associated with spring practice are starting to mount. While it might be a stretch to say that the trainers have been working overtime to keep everyone on the team moving forward there is no denying that anyone who believed that this would be solely a mental workout is sorely mistaken.

"They said (there would be more of a mental aspect) coming in on the first day," linebacker Marcus Freeman joked. "It has been (very) physical too. We have been working a lot on the mental but physically we have been getting after it and things have been going really well… We are really getting after it and having a lot of competition and making sure that each person gets better."

Even after moving Thad Gibson and Mark Johnson to the defensive line the Buckeyes have ten linebackers going at practice. For a team that has two linebackers on the field as much as they have three it creates a lot of that competition and also creates a bit of a log jam for players to see any significant playing time on defense.

"That is good and a lot of people may say how do we get all of those guys on the field but it creates a lot of competition," Freeman said. "I think that is the only way to make yourself better and to continue to try and push yourself and have people behind you pushing you so you don't become complacent. You have to keep working hard."

It goes as no shock that James Laurinaitis, Curtis Terry and Freeman are mentioned atop of the depth chart. While Ohio State has not released any sort of public spring depth chart the popular belief is that Austin Spitler, Ross Homan and Tyler Moeller are on track to be in the two deep as well but with players like Jermale Hines, Brian Rolle and the talented freshman duo of Etienne Sabino and Andrew Sweat the Buckeyes have a lot of youth eager to contribute.

"I see a lot of talent," Freeman said. "Jermale has really stepped up and Brian hasn't really been able to get out there because of his knee but Tyler Moeller has definitely stepped up. The two young guys I try and talk to them because I remember coming in and being so lost. I tell them there is a reason why they were All-Americans and there is a reason why they are here and to relax. Mentally it is going really fast but you can see the talent and the chance out of all of them. They all look like they are going to be good."

Freeman also has used his time around the younger players to lead by example just as much as leading by words. He knows that the "students" would love to be able to cut into the "teacher's" playing time come fall.

"Right now going in spring we might be a (first stringer) but you know you have great players behind you that are pushing and trying to get a lot of playing time," Freeman said. "If you slack they will ease their way right in there up in front of you. You have to keep working hard and act like we are all fighting for the same position."

2008 was supposed to be the year for the Buckeyes to make a BCS Championship run and the trip by last year's team took a lot of people by shock. How will the team approach a season that is supposed to be "the season"?

"When you return so many guys the expectations go up," Freeman said. "Yeah, we want to get to the national championship but last year we had a young team and we didn't know how far we could go and we just took it game by game. We have to do the same thing this year but I know our expectations are to get back there but like last year we have to take it game by game."

Of course the Buckeyes might not be a popular choice nationally to send back to a third straight BCS Championship game after the last two losses.

"You have to try and improve," Freeman said. "We heard a quote from John Madden saying, 'to get to where you want to go you have got to go through the dumps,' and we can't say we are going to go straight from the national championship game and go straight from there. We have to go back to square one and try and get better and better and hopefully from there be better than we were last year."


You have to keep working hard and act like we are all fighting for the same position.

Marcus Freeman
on the competition at linebacker

Freeman personally has been able to get better playing alongside Laurinaitis at linebacker. Is it difficult playing next to someone that naturally grabs the headlines and notoriety and casts a tall shadow?

"Anytime you are in the shadow of a Butkus Award winner and a player like James you can't be too disappointed because he is an excellent football player," Freeman said. "I am thankful to be behind him and be able to learn and I think when you have a player like him you would be foolish not to try and learn and copy some of the things that make him so good. I think I am in a terrific situation where I can see him in film and see what makes him so good."

Coaches and teammates have all commented on how nobody practices better than Laurinaitis and it is something that Freeman has taken notice spending as much time with the little animal as he has.

"I think James is a guy no matter how good he gets or how much recognition he gets every day in practice he is the guy running past everybody and the guy making himself better in practice," Freeman said. "A lot of coaches say you have to make yourself better in practice but when you get out there every day you get tired and don't want to keep going. He is that guy that finds that energy and just makes sure he gets better and better each day."

And getting better each and every day might be the difference that this team needs to get over that hump and finally end the season with a win.

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