Thursday, August 12, 2010


(Photo of Etienne Sabino by The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)

COLUMBUS — There may be some talk of an ongoing battle at the starting strong side linebacker position this fall at Ohio State, but make no mistake about it, the opening is Etienne Sabino's to lose.

All the way through spring and thus far in fall camp, the junior Sabino has been running with the first team at the SAM backer position, a spot vacated by Austin Spitler (who graduated and is now playing for the Miami Dolphins in the NFL).

There are many who see a battle going on between Sabino and fellow junior Andrew Sweat for the opening, but I'm just not seeing it — even if Sweat is fully recovered from an ACL injury which kept him sidelined during the spring.

No disrespect to Sweat at all, I think he's an outstanding player as well, but Sabino is bigger, more athletic, much faster and hits with greater force. In fact, I'll go as far as to say Sabino is the most athletic linebacker the Buckeyes have on the roster ... and have had for some time.

The only thing Sabino lacks is minutes, but that's definitely going to change in 2010.

"It's exciting," Sabino said of being the possible starter at the SAM spot. "This is what you come here for. You don't come here to sit on the bench, you come here to play because Ohio State is a place where you want to (start). So I'm excited to know that that's a possibility. I just need to keep working and make sure I do that."

Sabino came out of high school in 2008 with a lot of fan fare. The Miami, Florida product was considered a five-star prospect by and had offers from pretty much every top school in the country.

Sabino decided to head north to Ohio State, and although he was coming into a team that had players ahead of him like James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman, the talented young backer was itching to get on the field as a true freshman.

Sabino found his way onto the field that season, showing everyone the skills that made him a heralded player coming out of south Florida. He even earned the Jack Tatum hit of the week award twice that season (against Troy and Minnesota).

However, Sabino's sophomore campaign in 2009 wasn't what he was expecting. Although the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder earned his second letter, being a starter was a goal of his and it didn't come to fruition.

Sabino said that it was tough on him not being on the field as a starter.

"It's rough," Sabino said. "Coming out of high school everybody here comes out there as all-Americans, wanting to be the head guy on their team. You come here, you've got to learn the system, you have other great players here, as well. It's definitely been tough, not the easiest thing when you're used to playing every down.

"But I think it will make me a better player in the long run."

Sabino has been one of the hardest workers on the team this off-season. He knows that his chance to shine is now and he's doing everything in his power to make sure there is no letdown this time around.

Ohio State senior middle linebacker, Brian Rolle, said Sabino is doing everything possible to be the best he can be.

"He's calling me to go watch film all the time," Rolle said of Sabino. "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."

Rolle said having Sabino on the field takes a lot of pressure off of himself because he knows all of the defensive calls now.

Thus far in fall camp, Sabino is looking the part and unless he suffers a major setback — which I don't foresee — the starting SAM spot is his.

(The Buckeye Times photo day interview footage of Sabino speaking with the media.)


O.J. READY TO GIVE SECONDARY A LITTLE SOMETHING ... Ohio State sophomore safety Orhian Johnson will have to fill some mighty big shoes this fall as he tries to replace first team all-Big Ten selection Kurt Coleman at free safety.

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

The third-year sophomore from St. Petersburg (Fla.) who is currently running as the No. 1 at the free safety spot, brings a lot of athleticism to the secondary, something the Buckeyes will definitely need this season if they have any aspirations of heading to Glendale.

"I would like to say I bring a little bit of athleticism to the table," Johnson said.

Fellow safety Jermale Hines said that O.J. has a more than just "a little bit of athleticism."

"He's probably the most athletic kid on the team," Hines said of Johnson. "Running, speed, jumping and all that. He's ready."

Johnson who played sparingly last season in the secondary said that now, as a starter, he needs to earn the trust of the defensive veterans.

"It's a transition," Johnson said. "I'm just trying to go out and gain the trust of the defense and let them know that I'm back there to help them out."

Johnson said he is just trying to get better each day.

"I definitely need to keep working daily, you know, getting in my playbook all the time, asking questions for the things that I don't know and just stay humble and hungry," Johnson said.

"I'm understanding the concept of the defense and a lot of the stuff we need to do here at Ohio State," Johnson continued. "I've just been working hard in the weight room every time I can, asking questions, talking with Coach (Paul) Haynes, anything I can do to get better."

KICK SCRIMMAGE THIS SATURDAY ... Ohio State will hold it's annual camp kick scrimmage this Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium. It is closed to the public.

The Buckeye Times will be on hand to provide coverage of the event.

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