Expectations were high when top-ranked inside linebacker Curtis Grant, a five-star recruit from Richmond, Va., came to Ohio State in 2011. Unfortunately, those expectations were not necessarily met during his four years in Columbus. However, Grant’s size and speed could earn him looks from an NFL team.
A fourth-year senior, Grant started in 30 games at Ohio State, including all 15 games during his final season. Overall, he played in 45 games during his career including 10 as a true freshman. Various injuries prevented him from starting more often early in his career.
And while Grant started every game during his senior season, he rotated reps with outstanding true freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who is expected to start for the Buckeyes next year. This reduced playing time could raise some eyebrows with NFL teams.
Grant was elected captain by his teammates his senior year, indicating his strong leadership abilities on a team which emphasizes such under Meyer. Further, he dedicated time during his final season to developing his football IQ, spending more time in the film room to improve his preparation.
In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch last year, Grant said "Now that I know what I am doing, I can understand what my opponent is doing. That’s very big for a middle linebacker, because you can’t just rush up the field, get lucky and make a sack or something. You have to be able to read the offense and go execute."
And execute he did. Grant’s play was much improved during his senior year. In particular, he was an outstanding performer against Illinois with two turnovers recovered, and he played well on the national stage against Alabama with 10 tackles. Though he has always been a solid downhill runner, he has not shown the instincts needed to improvise as plays change on the field.
While Grant’s mental game is improving, his biggest strength has always been his physicality. He is a good tackler and his size is NFL caliber for a linebacker at 6’3," 238 lbs.
Grant was not among the four Buckeyes invited to the 2015 NFL combine, but his results at Ohio State’s pro day in March are expected to help improve his draft stock. His 4.65 second 40 yard dash and 4.46 second shuttle drill would have earned him fifth place among linebackers at the combine, while his 125 inch broad jump would have tied him for first.
Grant has played well under Chris Ash’s 4-3 defense, but could face a learning curve if entering a new scheme. He will need to continue to improve his instincts for the game and become more of a playmaker in order to make a pro roster this fall.
Grant is expected to be picked up as a free agent after the draft. His size and speed will earn him a second look, but he will need to prove enhanced football IQ in order to make a roster come September.