Ohio State football: Curtis Grant's in the middle of it all

Curtis Grant, coming soon in more than bit player format. - USA TODAY Sports

Once the #1 rated linebacker in high school football, Curtis Grant could be the key to a successful Ohio State defense in 2013.

Curtis Grant came to Ohio State via Richmond, VA, as the #1 ranked linebacker prospect in the country. For me, the only other player I was more excited about in the class of 2011 was QB Braxton Miller, and many people felt the same way. Grant was one of the more prolific players in Virginia high school history, and looked to be next in the long line of outstanding OSU linebackers.

Although Grant saw action in 10 games as a freshman, he only recorded 10 tackles, and played mostly on special teams. It wasn't out of the ordinary that Grant played sparingly-the Buckeyes had a fairly experienced linebacker corps, and it would've been tough to beat out Storm Klein, Andrew Sweat, and Etienne Sabino. So even as 2011 played out, not seeing Grant on the field wasn't all that troubling.

But expectations were raised in 2012. With Urban Meyer coming in, there was a new attitude, and a lot of high expectations for the Buckeyes to return to the ‘Silver Bullets' style of tough, hard-nosed defense that fans had come to expect. Etienne Sabino and Ryan Shazier had the outside spots pretty much locked down, and a lot of people expected Grant to step up and compete for the starting ‘Mike' job, especially after 2011 starter Storm Klein was briefly dismissed from the team.

He was the starter for the first three weeks of the season, but Grant was soon relegated to the bench after three weeks for poor play, and rarely saw the field after that. Even as the Buckeye defense struggled mightily through the first half of the season, Grant was nowhere to be found. The situation became so dire in 2012 that fullback Zach Boren was converted to linebacker the week of the Indiana game and ended up staying there the rest of the season.

And Curtis Grant stayed on the bench. The Internet message board whisper campaign inevitably started, saying Grant was a ‘bust' – he couldn't catch up to the speed of the college game, and was having a hard time grasping the OSU defense. And after looking at the dearth of OSU linebacker recruiting in recent years.

and the fact that Boren was converted in the middle of the season to a defensive starter from an offensive one, it seemed plausible that Grant might indeed be a bust. After the '12 season ended and OSU began their offseason conditioning, it was half reported, half rumored that Grant was being converted to defensive end, which was puzzling to me. Ohio State had some very promising defensive ends on the roster in Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence, and had just landed a commitment from top DE prospect Joey Bosa, yet linebacker, especially Grant's ‘Mike' position, was still woefully thin. The move was short lived, and Grant was moved back to MLB before Spring.

And once Spring Practice got underway, Curtis Grant began to stand out. He was making plays in the middle, getting the defense properly aligned, and all signs pointed to him ‘getting it'. He was singled out by Coach Meyer as one of Spring Ball's most impressive players and culminated his impressive rebound with a Spring Game that was very encouraging, registering 10 tackles and making a couple borderline GIF worthy hits.

If the 2013 Ohio State defense is going to rebound, they're going to need dramatic improvement from the three linebacker positions. Ryan Shazier is a given on the outside, Joshua Perry looks like the real deal at the other outside position, and now it looks like Curtis Grant has a chance to step up and realize his potential in the middle.

And if he does, the Silver Bullets will indeed be back.

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