Wednesday, August 24, 2011

BUCKEYES SENIOR ANDREW SWEAT EMBRACING NEW LEADERSHIP ROLE

Andrew Sweat
TBT/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell
COLUMBUS — Ohio State begins the 2011 college football season as a member of the new Big Ten Leaders division.

Interesting, huh?

I mean, the Buckeyes did lose team Most Valuable Player Dane Sanzenbacher, linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, defensive end Cameron Heyward and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa to graduation.

The Buckeyes did lose its three-year starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor and 10-year head coach Jim Tressel, who were both in essence kicked off the team for violating NCAA laws.

They will also be without seniors Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas for the first five games of the regular season.

So ... where indeed are the "Leaders" for Ohio State this season?

Well, I can answer that question in just two words: Andrew Sweat.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound native of western Pennsylvania was a major contributor on the Buckeyes' defense last season, recording 41 tackles and an interception while starting at strong-side linebacker. Yes, he was already expected by many to elevate his game to another level as a senior in 2011 — and he has done that.

But it's his leadership thru the first two-and-a-half weeks of fall camp that is giving me have visions of James Laurinaitis and A.J. Hawk.

Not only is Sweat exhibiting his tenacious style in practices and scrimmages, seemingly making a tackle on every defensive play, but he's also taking on a leadership role that's been nothing less than inspiring.

Being a senior, and the only returning starter at linebacker for the Buckeyes going into 2011, Sweat is really embracing his new role as leader.

"It's cool being a leader," Sweat said. "I'm going to do whatever it takes, whatever role they need me in, I'm going to do my absolute best."

Sweat admits that he's had some incredible leaders at linebacker to learn from in his four years at Ohio State — players like Rolle, Homan and one of the greatest backers to ever suit up in the scarlet and gray in Laurinaitis.

"It was great learning under guys like Brian and Ross and James," Sweat said. "Seeing how they practiced, seeing what they'd do, seeing how they handled game-week, watching film. I think I've gotten a good grasp about it and I'm excited to teach the younger guys now that I'm in that position."

He will lead a linebacking corps this season that — besides himself — possesses zero starting experience, and has two true freshman in Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant, who will likely see the field often in 2011.

Sure, it seems like a scary situation for the Buckeyes with so much unknown, but with Sweat's leadership at the position, the entire unit appears to be ready for action.

"I think they've done a great job," Sweat said of the linebackers. "Ryan Shazier, all the guys have done a great job. They're hungry and ready to play. When someone goes down, we have a guy who can run around and make some plays."

Guys who can run around and make plays, huh? Sounds like the definition of Sweat.

No surprise, though ... he is their leader after all.

SWEAT ON QB BATTLE ... Being a leader of the Buckeyes defense and facing the quarterbacks in practice each and every day, who would be a better evaluator of the QB battle between senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller, than Mr. Sweat?

The senior linebacker offered up his scouting report on the two players vying for the starting job under center.

"I think that Braxton and Joe have both done a great job," Sweat said. "Obviously it's up to the coach's decision, but they've both managed the offense very well, both have been leaders and have thrown some great balls.

"I think that they both bring a different challenge for a defense. Obviously, Joe with his big arm and Braxton with his legs, they can both hurt you. If Braxton breaks contain, he can really hurt you. If you make a mistake on Joe he can just bomb it deep.

"They're really good in different ways. We're in good hands either way."