Friday, August 6, 2010


(Photo of Brian Rolle (36) and the Ohio State defense
by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — Standing behind a podium at 5-foot-11 and 218 pounds, Ohio State senior linebacker Brian Rolle doesn't own an intimidating presence.

But throw on some shoulder pads and a helmet and Rolle suddenly resembles a wrecking ball.

After stepping into the starting middle linebacker position as a junior last season, Rolle quickly proved his ability to constantly find the football. In 13 starts, Rolle accumulated 95 tackles and one interception as he helped lead an Ohio State defense to a fifth consecutive top 10 ranking in points allowed.

The Florida product expects the defense to produce similar, if not better, results in 2010.

"The seniors, including me, have been pushing the younger guys," Rolle said. "Last year's defense was last year's defense. This year's defense is going to be faster, bigger, and stronger. We're going to be a lot better and more disciplined.

"We've got more seniors and guys who want to lead like (linebacker) Ross Homan and Jermale Hines at safety. I think Jermale is one of the smartest guys on our defense."

When asked if Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel has themed the 2010 season, Rolle responded with "Don't believe the hype."

"People have us at No. 2 or No. 3 in the polls and everybody wants to know what we think about that. They're just polls," Rolle said. "The polls don't play. We play."

After a 26-17 victory over Oregon in the Rose Bowl, Rolle is experiencing his first offseason where the Buckeyes are riding a winning streak.

"Guys are hungry to win again, I can tell you that," Rolle said. "Guys are working harder than last year. We worked tremendously hard in bowl practice to get the win against Oregon and I think the young guys who really didn't play in that game or play much were in the offseason working just as hard because they knew that the work that we did in those 40 days of bowl practice led up to a big win against Oregon in the Rose Bowl."

Linebacker at Ohio State has seemingly always been a position of immense depth, and Rolle made it clear in that the position isn't going to take a step back any time soon.

"The linebacking corp is coming along. I feel like we got a bunch of guys who can play," Rolle said. "I think that everybody is doing a great job and taking on the responsibility of coming in and watching film in the offseason and just getting better at every position, instead of focusing on just one."

Rolle said he's excited to see the younger defenders put on the pads when training camp begins, especially true freshman linebacker Scott McVey.

"Scott is one of those guys that won't ask a lot of questions, but he learns a lot from seeing," Rolle said. "He's faster than I expected him to be."

With Rolle and Homan set in as the starting middle and weakside linebackers, junior Etienne Sabino is penciled in as the No. 1 on the strong side. On-the-field communication is the key, Rolle said, and Sabino is picking up the defensive calls very well.

(left, photo of Sabino by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

"When we were running 7-on-7 drills, I didn't have to signal the calls to him because he knew the calls anyway," Rolle said. "He makes defensive calls now, so that takes a lot of pressure off myself. He's doing a great job of taking on a role of a MIKE backer at SAM backer."

— To discuss this story or any others involving Ohio State football, click here.