Friday, April 9, 2010

ROLLE, HOMAN RUNNING THE SHOW AT LINEBACKER, SABINO EXCELLING

COLUMBUS — Ohio State senior linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan are the Buckeyes' version of "The Odd Couple."

Rolle — a smaller, more compact sized player at 5-foot-11 and 218 pounds — has a beaming personality, an outgoing nature and a motor that would make a Bugatti Veyron's look like a beaten down Chevette.

Homan — a more prototypical sized linebacker at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds — is quiet by nature. An even-tempered player who always remains cool, no matter how hot the situation gets.

Both men are as different as night and day, but when each player is on the football field together, they form a two-headed monster that would make even the toughest of men duck and run.

"Ross and Rolle feed off of each other," OSU linebackers coach Luke Fickell said, following Friday's spring practice session at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. "One's a real emotional kid and the other's not."

Fickell said that each may have a different type personality, but both are extreme competitors who never want to come off the field.

"Both those guys are doing such a great job. I wish this spring I could take them out a little more and get some more reps (for others), but it's hard to keep them off the field because they are competitors. They're not giving up their reps.

"That's a great thing to have when you've got guys who don't want to sit out. They're not comfortable with their situation. They want more."

Homan and Rolle combined for more than 200 tackles during Ohio State's Big Ten and Rose Bowl championship campaign last season, as each were first time starters after the Buckeyes lost long time stalwarts, James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, to graduation.

This season, Rolle and Homan are the veteran leaders that the young linebackers are looking up to and each love their newly found responsibility.

"I'm majoring in sociology to be a teacher, so I love to help people," Rolle said Friday. "Now that the coaches are giving me a role to kind of help guys more, I take it to heart. I feel like I can lead this team and help guys know what they need to do to get better and at the same time, get better myself."

Homan stated that he will take what he learned from Laurinaitis and Freeman and use it to help teach others.

"I've played with some great linebackers here, you know, Marcus (Freeman) and James (Laurinaitis)," Homan said Friday. "I learned a lot from them and I'll try to teach the young guys here the very same things."

Homan did state, though, that he can't try to mimic Laurinaitis and Freeman, but instead be the best leader he can be. That means he will have to do something that's not in his nature — become more vocal.

"You can't really put on someone else's leadership role," Homan said. "I try to make my own mark and not copy someone else's.

"I need to be more vocal. Being a senior, the coaches kind of expect it from you. So, I have to do it."

Fickell is one of the coaches expecting it.

"(Homan) is a great inspiration," Fickell said. "He's not a very vocal guy, you kind of have to push him to be a little bit different of a leader."

With both Rolle and Homan locked in as starters at the middle and weakside, respectively, a lot of the attention this spring has been on the opening strongside position, where the Buckeyes' lost last year's starter, Austin Spitler, to graduation.

As of right now, junior Etienne Sabino is the leading candidate for the strongside starting spot.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder out of south Florida has shown great improvement this spring, displaying the incredible athleticism which made him one of the top prep linebackers in the country back in 2008. But what is setting him apart on the strongside is his passion to learn.

"He's calling me to go watch film all the time," Rolle laughed. "I watch film for about an hour a day and he's calling me wanting me to watch some more. He's a guy who just wants to learn. He has great work ethic. He wants to be perfect."

Fickell said that he wants Sabino to become more instinctive on the field, though.

"He's become a little more of a reactor so far (this spring)," Fickell said of Sabino. "He's a very intelligent guy that when you study how he learns, he really wants information. So sometimes when you see that on some of your evaluations, a guy who wants more information, has to have more information, a processor, who always thinks things out, it can take another year or so (to develop).

"But, he's only 19 years old. I wish he would've been a red-shirted guy because not many guys play their freshman year at 17. He's still a really young guy, but he's becoming more of a reactor."

The biggest competition for Sabino on the strongside could come from junior Andrew Sweat.

Sweat, who played in seven games last season, has the skills and experience to give Sabino a run for his money at the starting spot. Unfortunately for Sweat, he is coming off a season-ending knee injury and has been unable to participate in drills this spring.

Rolle said that Sweat is a player who can get the job done anywhere on the field.

"The coaches have him playing everywhere," Rolle said of Sweat. "And he can do it, he's very versatile ... He's really been missed this spring."

EVEGE CONTINUES TO SHINE — Junior defensive back Donnie Evege is making the best of a great opportunity.

The Troy Polamalu look-a-like, who's been filling in at cornerback this spring for last season's starter, Chimdi Chekwa, has been all over the field, creating chaos for quarterbacks and receivers in scrimmage drills.

OSU senior linebacker Brian Rolle tells his teammates to take notice.

"Donnie Evege, he's a guy who's been opening some eyes," Rolle said. "He's had a couple interceptions thus far in the spring. I'm like man ... somebody better step their game up because Donnie's going to be a guy to be reckoned with this fall."

Evege, who has been slowed by injury during his first couple seasons in Columbus, made 14 tackles in 2009 as a special teamer. He has the size (5-11, 180) and speed to be an excellent cornerback or nickelback for the Buckeyes in 2010.

PRYOR TO STONEBURNER — Quarterback Terrelle Pryor looks to be forming a real nice connection with sophomore tight end, Jake Stoneburner. The two have hooked up quite a few times during the past few practices, including a touchdown in the back of the end zone on Friday from 10 yards out.

KICK SCRIMMAGE — The team will have a kick scrimmage on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. It is open to the media, but closed to the public.