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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive 2010 OSU Buckeyes - Linebackers
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar

Homan_Rolle_r(one in a series of position group previews of the 2010 Buckeyes)

The Buckeyes will hit the ground running with a loaded linebacker corps in 2010, returning everyone but Austin Spitler from last season's unit. There are promising youngsters two-deep at every backup position...and the competition for playing time among them ought to be fierce. That's because returning seniors Ross Homan and Brian Rolle rarely take a play off, and defensive coordinator Jim Heacock plays with just two linebackers as much as 50% of the time.

Rolle and Homan...(how 'bout "Ross and Rolle"?) combined in 2009 for 203 tackles, six interceptions, 12 tackles for loss, and three fumble recoveries. No wonder Heacock and linebacker coach Luke Fickell have a hard time taking either one off the field.

The team hasn't announced their official field leaders for this fall but Homan and Rolle are both Buckeye captains waiting to happen as Homan begins his third year as a starter at OSU, and Rolle his second. They learned the job description of senior leader from James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman before them, and both appear more than ready to assume the position.

Etienne Sabino will man the strongside spot in the base defense, as Fickell unleashes one of his best athletes on the opposition after grooming him on special teams and in backup duty for two years. If ever a player looked "ready" to start, it's this 6' 3", 247 lb. junior from Florida. His performance will help dictate on what percentage of snaps Heacock chooses to use three linebackers instead of five defensive backs. Based on what we've seen of Sabino so far, he's going to make that decision a tough one.

Linebackers Playing Safety

Two players who were officially listed as linebackers last season are being called safeties this fall, but their roles remain much the same as before. It was (then LB) Jermale Hines who came on at the Star position as the fifth DB last year when Spitler came off the field, and this season, Hines takes over full-time duty at one of the safety spots. I include Hines here because...well, you can put an "S" before his name...but he's a linebacker at heart.

And competing for the starting job at the hybrid Star position this year will be Tyler Moeller, another former linebacker who will work with the safeties in 2010 and try to come back from missing the entire 2009 season with a head injury. By itself, Moeller's presence on the field will be a motivating force for the Bucks this year, given what he's been through. Anything they get from him that resembles the Tasmanian Devil style of play he showed before the injury is a bonus. Again, the safety label is mere semantics based on how they are expected to use Moeller. (No thumbnails on Hines and Moeller below with the LB's...we'll play along with the safety thing)

The Bench

We talk about depth every year, and of course OSU always has the talent funnel full of young players with stellar high school credentials. But this year there truly is an embarrassment of riches backing up the Buckeye starters at linebacker. Storm Klein, Dorian Bell, Jordan Whiting, Andrew Sweat and Jonathan Newsome make up the next wave of OSU linebackers, and all arrived in Columbus with a lot of press clippings and all-State awards.

Klein and Newsome played last year as freshmen, mostly on special teams, while Whiting and Bell redshirted in 2009 and retain four years of eligibility. Sweat is a versatile junior who is attempting to come back from an offseason surgery. Barring injury to starters though, OSU fans may have to wait until 2011 before they see what these kids can do on defense. In the meantime, they'll be relied upon to make the hits on the special teams units.

Incoming freshmen Scott McVey and David Durham might get a look on special teams as well, but a better bet for both of them might be a redshirt year, considering the talent logjam ahead of them.

Here's some more detail on the 2010 Buckeye linebackers...


Ross Homan - #51 - Senior    6' 2", 230   Coldwater (OH) H.S. RHoman1r

Homan led the Buckeyes in tackles (108) in 2009, and tied with Kurt Coleman for the team lead in interceptions with five. A fifth-year senior, Homan played in all 13 games in 2006 as a true freshman, and then sat out and redshirted in 2007 with a serious turf toe injury. He has been a starter at the wide side (Will) linebacker spot ever since the start of the 2008 season, accumulating 215 career tackles for the Buckeyes.

Homan had a dream high school career at Coldwater, winning first team all-State honors three times, and finishing it off with the Div IV State Championship and the Ohio Div IV Player of the Year Award as a senior in 2005. He also excelled as a running back as a prep player, and he will occasionally flash the hands and the running back skills on interceptions and returns, as he did just before the half in the Rose Bowl last year to set up a crucial OSU score.

In the Big Ten Conference, Homan has played somewhat in the shadow of players like MSU's Greg Jones and PSU's Navorro Bowman over the last couple of years, but there is no more complete player at the linebacker position in the conference in 2010. Homan isn't flashy, but he is rarely out of position, and he is a relentless and punishing tackler and a solid pass defender with excellent ball skills. A first team All-Big Ten player if he stays healthy.

Scout page - Rivals page


Brian Rolle - #36 - Senior   5' 11", 218    Immokalee (FL) H.S.Rolle10r

The other half of "Ross and Rolle" is the outgoing and vocal counterpart to the more reserved and quiet Homan. Rolle was a two-time all-state player in Florida, playing running back and linebacker, and he got noticed almost immediately as an OSU freshman in 2007 with his jarring hits on special teams. Last year he finally got his chance to play regularly, and responded with 95 tackles as a junior, including seven tackles for loss, plus one very, very big interception.

In the 2009 season opener, the Bucks' 29-14 fourth quarter lead over Navy had shrunk to two points as the Midshipmen rallied with two late TD's. They run-happy Middies lined up to go for the tying two-point conversion with just over two minutes to play, and surprised most everyone by dropping back to try to throw it into the end zone. Everyone, that is, except Rolle, who stepped into the passing lane and picked off the Ricky Dobbs throw, returning it 99 yards for two points the other way, sealing the Buckeye victory. Rolle showed off his great wheels on the play, beating the speedy Dobbs down the sideline, making his first OSU start a memorable one.

Rolle is relishing his leadership role this season, and his infectious enthusiasm and energy should help keep his defensive teammates at a high emotional level. Brian's cousin is NFL player Antrel Rolle, and with another solid season in 2010, he could find himself playing on Sundays too.

Scout page - Rivals page -


Etienne Sabino - #6 -  Junior  6' 3", 247   (N. Miami Beach, FL) Dr. Michael Krop H.S.Sabino7r

Special teams excellence is the path to playing time on Jim Heacock's OSU defense, and Etienne Sabino has paid those dues now for two seasons as he learned the system as a backup linebacker. Sabino has reportedly worked hard in conditioning and film study, and showed up this summer in great shape at a sculpted 247 lbs. It's tough to come up with a former OSU linebacker for comparison, because there just haven't been many with the size, speed and athleticism all wrapped in the same package that Sabino brings to the field.

Making plays in games with 105,000 people watching is another matter entirely though, but Sabino has shown in limited duty that he can do more than look good in the uniform. He's a strong tackler, with the range to go sideline to sideline in pursuit, and his long arms and remarkable speed allow him to rush the passer as well as cover backs and tight ends in pass defense. He is on everyone's list of breakout talents on the Buckeyes for 2010. Believe me, you'll notice #6.

Scout page - Rivals page - YouTube of Sabino hit on a Wolverine



Storm Klein - #32 - Sophomore  6' 2", 230   (Newark, OH)  Licking Valley H.S.Klein3r

Klein is another Buckeye whose high school career was storybook stuff. A Buckeye from the cradle, he was a three-time all-state selection, and was named Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. He rushed for over 6000 yards and 99 TD's in high school as a running back, punted for a 40.7 yd average, and made all-state as a linebacker. Then there's the All-Name Team thing.

Klein got his freshman feet wet as a special-teamer in 2009, playing in all 13 games and making 10 tackles, mostly on coverage units. He did get some brief stints as a middle (Mike) linebacker on defense and acquitted himself well in limited duty. Similar in size, savvy and toughness to Homan, Klein will try to get on the field more this fall, but barring an injury to a starter, his main contribution will probably once again be busting heads on kick coverage and return teams.

Scout page - Rivals page - YouTube H.S. Highlights - more YT




Dorian Bell - #11 - R-Freshman   6' 1", 225   (Monroeville, PA) Gateway H.S.Bell6r

Bell is another reason the OSU coaches feel very good about their linebacker depth in 2010. He was considered the best player in the state of Pennsylvania when Tressel and Co. plucked him from Gateway H.S. for the 2009 class. Bell was an all-state selection in PA, and made the Parade All-American team and EA Sports All-American after racking up 113 tackles and 7 sacks as a senior. He was a dominant tailback on offense for Gateway as well...(see video below)

Bell redshirted in 2009, and is the current backup to Homan at the Will linebacker spot. His calling cards are his great speed and his hard-hitting style. He caused a fumble in this spring's jersey scrimmage, and he'll be looking for opportunities to do more of the same this fall when Buckeye Nation gets their first look at this gifted young linebacker.

Scout page - Rivals page - YT Highlights (RB) - YT Highlights (LB)


Andrew Sweat - #42 -  Junior   6' 2", 238   (Washington, PA) Trinity H.S.Sweat3r

Sweat was another Tressel heist from Pennsylvania the same year he pulled Pryor from next door. He made numerous All-American teams and was listed among the Top 100 prep players in the nation as a senior at Trinity. Sweat contributed as a freshman on special teams with five stops, and then in 2009 he had 15 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.

Sweat's versatility is a major plus, as he is familiar enough with the system after two years that he can play all three of the LB positions. He had off-season knee surgery, and some thought has been given to having him take a redshirt year this season to rehab it, but as of this writing no final decision has been made on that issue.

Scout page - Rivals page




Jordan Whiting - #39 - R-Freshman   6' 1", 238    (Louisville, KY) Trinity H.S.Whiting1r

Like the other celebrated young linebackers, Jordan Whiting came to OSU with the understanding that he would have to wait his turn despite the glowing prep statistics and accomplishments. Whiting was a Parade All-American and his team won four straight state championships while he was there. He was a three-sport star at Trinity, competing in wrestling and track along with football.

Whiting is known as a strong run defender at the inside linebacker position. He redshirted in 2009 as a true freshman, so he'll be getting on the field for the first time in games that count this season, and will have to earn his stripes on special teams, just like most of the great OSU linebackers that came before him.

Scout page - Rivals page



Jonathan Newsome - #55 - Sophomore   6' 3", 219   (Cleveland, OH)  Glenville H.S.Newsome3r

Newsome is a long, rangy outside backer with good speed and pass rush ability. He played in five games as a true freshman in 2009 registering five tackles, and then had a very good spring this year in preparation for 2010. Newsome surprised some people by moving up the depth chart as quickly as he did last year. He had been considered a likely redshirt candidate coming into the season a year ago, but made a good impression and earned some playing time as the season went along.

Newsome was second team all-state at Glenville, and was selected for the "Big 33" all star game. He figures to be a special teams performer for OSU this year, and will back up Sabino at the strongside spot. Newsome has special athletic ability and now one year into his OSU career, is looked at as having a very high ceiling at outside linebacker.

Scout page - Rivals page -




Scott McVey - Freshman -  6' 0", 225   (Cleveland, OH)  St. Ignatius H.S.mcvey1

McVey was the nation's #3-ranked MLB by Scout. he was a three-year starter at Ignatius, and a two-time all-state selection. McVey has very good instincts in pass rushing and pursuit, and drops well into pass coverage. His playing time in 2010 will probably be minimal, although he has the profile of a good special teams player, and could possibly make an early splash there.

Rivals page




David Durham -  #33 - Freshman    6' 3", 225    (Charlotte, NC)   Charlotte ChristianDurham2r

Coach Fickell has said how excited he is to have Durham at OSU. He's a big kid with natural pass rush ability, and they like his versatility to play standing up at linebacker, or with his hand on the ground as a defensive lineman. They feel he could easily add 15 or more pounds, and do very well in the role of the Leo defensive end, (think Bobby Carpenter, Thad Gibson). Durham was an excellent high school wrestler, a profile long favored by Fickell and Heacock for their defensive players at OSU. It's hard to predict any significant playing time for the true freshmen, but each year holds some surprises.

Rivals page -





Other articles in the series of position group profiles on the 2010 Buckeyes:

Running Backs



(Photo credits: Jim Davidson - ; ;


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