Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TUESDAY NOTES: WILLIAMS SHINING, BIG HANK'S IMPACT AND MORE ...

Nathan Williams
(The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
COLUMBUS — When defensive end Thaddeus Gibson decided to forgo his senior season at Ohio State to enter the 2010 NFL draft, the Buckeyes were in desperate need of finding a player to fill his dynamic role.

Thus far through six games, Nathan Williams has been that man.

Williams, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound junior from Washington Court House (OH), brings the same type of abilities to the table that Gibson — who's now with the Pittsburgh Steelers — brought to the Buckeyes last season.

He is sort of a hybrid type of player, a defensive end who's much too quick for opposing tackles, and an outside linebacker who can run with and physically dominate tailbacks and tight ends.

"He plays a lot like Thad (Gibson) did last year," OSU senior defensive end Cameron Heyward said of Williams. "He's running to the ball, he gets in on so many plays, he's very productive."

Williams leads the Buckeyes in tackles for loss this season and is tied for first in quarterback sacks. He also ranks first on the OSU defensive line in total tackles.

One could argue that Williams has been the best defensive lineman on the Ohio State team this season.

"He's having a really good year and I just tell him to not settle for just that," Heyward said. "I would like to say he's been our best defensive lineman so far."

Better than even the All-American candidate Heyward?

"Right now he is," Heyward smiled.

Williams, who looked poised to take over for Gibson all preseason long, suffered a setback late in training camp when he injured his left knee during the team's kick scrimmage at Ohio Stadium. Although not as serious as it first appeared, Williams would miss the season opener against Marshall because of the knee.

He would make his season debut in the Week 2 victory over Miami (FL) and wasted little time making his presence felt, picking off Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris in the first quarter and returning it into scoring position.

This past Saturday against one of the top passing teams in the nation (Indiana), Williams was a nightmare for Hoosiers quarterback Ben Chappell, recording 2.5 tackles for loss in the win, and pressuring the IU signal caller all game long.

"He's been a guy that missed a little bit of practice in the preseason when he got dinged a little bit, but we think he has really come along," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said of Williams. "And when you went into the season saying, 'okay, what are some key things that are going to have to happen? Someone's going to have to step up and take over the bulk of what Thaddeus did.'

"We think Nathan is coming along very, very well from that standpoint."

In order for the No. 1 Buckeyes to go into Madison this Saturday night and take down the 16th ranked Wisconsin Badgers, Ohio State must get a dominating performance from its defensive front.

Wisconsin's offensive tackles, Gabe Carimi and Josh Oglesby, are both 6-foot-7 and weigh more than 330 pounds apiece. So how can a player like Williams, who is 60 pounds lighter, make an impact against such a massive front?

According to Heyward, Williams will just out work them.

"I think a lot of times they think he's just going to give up on a play, but that's not Nate's mentality," Heyward said. "He always runs to the ball and gives 110 percent effort and I think he's gotten a lot better with his hands this year, just getting off blocks, and it's really benefited us because he's stopped the run with that.

"I think it's only going to help us pass rush. I think he gets so fast off the ball that it's only going to make them bail out more and create a couple of chances to go up and under or just speed rush the whole time."

OSU Johnathan Hankins (52) rushes the passer during the Buckeyes 38-10 win Saturday over Indiana. (TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
BIG HANK SHOULD BE A BIG FACTOR AS WELL ... Wisconsin comes into Saturday's game boasting one of the top running games in the conference.

Behind a massive offensive line, tailbacks John Clay and James White, have combined for 1,177 yards and 17 touchdowns in six games this season.

Obviously, the Buckeyes will need their big bodies up front to have a huge performance this Saturday night, and that includes the biggest body of them all — true freshman defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

Heyward thinks the 335-pound native of Detroit should help the Buckeyes not only stop the run, but get pressure on the quarterback when the Badgers decide to pass.

"I think he's become more comfortable with the system. Every week he's talking more and more and it's hard to get him to shut up now," Heyward laughed. "He moves so well for his size and he's just producing, that's all you can ask of a defensive lineman ...

"I think he helps us stop the run even more and he has a really good pass rush. We were surprised by that. We knew he was going to stop the run.

"Even though he's that big, he moves very well."

Jake Stoneburner
(TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
STONEBURNER PROBABLE FOR SATURDAY ... Sophomore tight end Jake Stoneburner may be back in action this Saturday night, after missing the past two weeks with an ankle injury.

"He was back doing individual drills on Sunday night," Tressel said on Tuesday. "I'm told that he's probable, but that was said cautiously. Let's see how he does banging into people a little bit today."

If Stoneburner is unable to go Saturday night, sophomore Reid Fragel will make his third career start.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK ... Junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor was named the offensive player of the week by the coaching staff, while senior cornerback Devon Torrence took the defensive honors, Tressel announced on Tuesday.

The Jim Parker offensive lineman of the week was awarded to junior left tackle Mike Adams, while the Attack Force honor went to Nathan Williams.

Tressel said that there were no winners for the special units this week.