Thomas Bradley / Campus editor
With former linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan moving to the NFL, Ohio State will attempt to fill the void left by the two 2010 All-Big Ten selections. Replacing Rolle and Homan won’t be an easy task, but senior linebacker Andrew Sweat thinks this year’s squad is up to the challenge.
The starter opposite of Rolle and Homan much of last season, Sweat has been thrust into a veteran, leadership role this year. Redshirt junior Etienne Sabino and junior Storm Klein took most of the first-team repetitions beside Sweat in Saturday’s jersey scrimmage at strongside and middle linebacker, respectively.
“They’re doing well,” Sweat said. “Etienne and Storm are hungry.”
Despite being a letter winner his freshman and sophomore year, Sabino redshirted last season after losing the starting battle at strongside linebacker to Sweat.
This year, the position seems to be Sabino’s to lose.
Linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, in his first year of coaching at Ohio State after a 14-year NFL career, said Klein has had a strong camp, but stopped short of calling either Sabino or Klein starters.
“(The linebackers) have had a competitive camp and they want to be lined up next to Sweaty (Sweat.), whether it be in a base defense or in a nickel defense,” Vrabel said, adding that he still wasn’t certain of who will separate themselves as a starter. “I think we need to find out; I think we need some competition.”
Sweat said the size of the 6-foot-3 Sabino and the 6-foot-2 Klein are their biggest assets.
“They are both big guys,” Sweat said. “They’ll lay the wood.”
Redshirt junior safety Orhian Johnson said he was confident that Klein and Sabino could contribute as starters.
“I’m definitely happy for them to get a chance to get out there and play some football,” Johnson said. “Those two are both great linebackers and I think they’ll hold the tradition up.”
With Ryan Shazier, Curtis Grant and Jordan Whiting also seeing significant playing time in the scrimmage, Sweat said he was confident in the entire group of linebackers.
“I think they’ve done a great job,” Sweat said. “If someone goes down, coach Vrabel has done a good job of getting them ready.”
Sweat said he has learned a lot from Vrabel as well, and attributed the enhancement of the linebackers’ pass-rushing abilities to his new coach.
Playing beside Homan, Rolle and former Buckeye and current St. Louis Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis helped too, he said.
“I’m just hoping to compete and help the team as a leader,” Sweat said. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”