Ryan Shazier: A Bright Spot in Dark Times

The 2011 college football season was one of the worst seasons in recent memory for the Buckeyes and their fans. The dismissals of famed head coach Jim Tressel and star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, along with suspensions of others involved in the now infamous “Tattoo Gate” left the football program in turmoil. The aftermath resulted in an unprepared Luke Fickell to take over the head coaching position and a host of young, unproven players forced into action. But through this nightmare 6-7 season one of the young players that was forced into action and shone bright was true freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier. When Buckeye fans saw Shazier on the field they knew he was going to be great.

Shazier played in all 13 games that season and started the final three. His first start against Penn State certainly made a big impression, as he led the team with 15 tackles. He finished the season with 57 tackles, one of the highest totals by a freshman in the last 15 years at Ohio State, along with three sacks, five tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. This was only the beginning of a great collegiate career.

Shazier truly broke out his sophomore season as he started all 12 games for Ohio State and was a thorn in the side of every offense he faced. He more than doubled his tackle totals from his freshman season, recording 115 tackles for 2012. This was good for second in the Big Ten conference. His 17 tackles for loss led the league. He also had five sacks and three forced fumbles. Shazier’s only interception of the season was big as he returned it 17 yards for a touchdown against Penn State, which broke a 7-7 tie and propelled Ohio State to victory.

His biggest play though came against Wisconsin. Buckeye fans will remember it fondly. Late in the game Wisconsin was on the goal line, facing a fourth and one at the goal line and threatening to tie the game, as Wisconsin handed it off to Monte Ball. Then Shazier happened…

It was the first fumble of Ball’s collegiate career and ensured victory for the Buckeyes. Shazier was a big part of the 12-0, undefeated season for Ohio State and seemed to make a big play every time he took the field. He was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week twice in 2012 and was named first team all-Big Ten by the media.

Shazier once again improved his numbers in 2013. He had 144 total tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four forced fumbles while starting all 14 games. This was good enough to lead the Big Ten in tackles, tackles for loss and forced fumbles. Shazier was named first team All-America by USA Today, Sports Illustrated, the Associated Press and Phil Steele. He was named first team all-Big Ten by the coaches and the media, while just missing out on winning the Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten Linebacker of the Year award (in my opinion he should have won).

While Shazier didn’t have a lot of flashy plays in 2013, it was certainly the best of his career and he was an anchor on a Ohio State defense that struggled at times. He is definitely ready to make a jump up to the NFL, as the NFL Draft Advisory Board projected him to be a second round pick this spring. Yahoo Sports currently projects him 20th to the Arizona Cardinals. I have a feeling Shazier will be playing on a lot of Sundays over the next several years.

For Ohio State, the loss of Shazier will certainly be felt. The Buckeyes lose not only a great player, but a fantastic person and leader. While Shazier wasn’t at an A.J. Hawk-type level, he was certainly one of the top defensive players to come through Columbus over the last decade. His playing career only last three years at Ohio State, but his impact will remembered by Buckeyes’ players, coaches and fans forever. Shazier was part of the light that led the Buckeyes through dark days and back to the spotlight again.

Comments

  1. Great retrospective on a great Buckeye, Josh. I love that he was just a great all-around player. From taking the #48 to honor his friend to #2 to honor Christian Bryant, he is just a good guy. Things like that make a longer lasting impression that a goal-line stand.

    But that goal line stand was pretty great, too.

    • Thanks Tony. Yes he was a great player, but an even better person. Him honoring Bryant this season was such a classy move on his part. I hope he has a long and successful career in the NFL. And I will never forget the goal line stand. It was such a big play in game that was dead even throughout.

Trackbacks

  1. […] a better look at Shazier, check out this piece I did on him a few months ago. He’s a hard-hitting, fast defender who bullrushes ball carriers. He also plays with heart […]

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