Shazier on Quest to Become Ohio State Linebacker Royalty

By Kyle Rowland on August 23, 2013 at 9:30a

Football is a numbers game. Mismatches, points, down and distance. Every direction you turn inside a stadium, numbers are in plain sight. The same is seen in the hallowed halls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Stats, awards and coaching records are all listed.

Numbers can be manipulated to tell many different stories. But there’s nothing false about the equation when it comes to Ohio State’s linebackers. Twelve All-Americans, eight first-round draft picks, two Butkus Awards and two Lombardi Awards. Other schools – Penn State – claim to be Linebacker U. Upon further review, though, the Buckeyes have a legitimate claim to the honor.

Ryan Shazier, a tackling machine that moves from sideline to sideline like a circling shark, would like to add more separation between Ohio State and other linebacker factories. He’d also like to etch his name alongside the likes of Spielman, Gradishar, Katzenmoyer, Hawk, Laurinaitis and other Buckeye greats.

In Shazier’s first career start as a freshman, he finished with 15 tackles. During his sophomore season, Shazier finished in the top 10 of the conference in five different defensive stat categories. He led the Big Ten in tackles for loss – 17 – and was second in total tackles – 115. The latter number was the most by an Ohio State player in a decade.  Shazier was a first-team All-Big Ten selection and honorable mention All-American.

For someone who’s attempting to leave a lasting legacy, Shazier’s first two seasons have certainly made an impression.

“Things have come pretty naturally for Ryan, pretty easy,” said defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell. “But with the abilities that he has and the expectations we have for him, he’s got a long way to go. That’s what I keep telling him.

“I compare him to some of those ones I’ve had the fortune of coaching here, and I’m going to continue to push him to be that kind of guy and get that much better.”

The spotlight will shine brightly on Shazier this season for a whole host of reasons. For starters, he’s the top defender on the second-ranked team in the country. A young defensive line could put pressure on the linebackers, though expectations are high for the line, even with all the youth.

That word – youth – could describe the linebacker corps. Take Shazier away and they could be rated near the bottom of the Big Ten. Shazier’s 15 career starts are 12 more than Curtis Grant, the only other linebacker who’s started. Entering Year 3, Grant, the No. 2 overall recruit in 2011, still isn’t up to speed. Sophomore Josh Perry will start at strong side. He only played on defense in four games last season.

The relative inexperience has thrust Shazier into a leadership role. He plays the part of teacher and motivator. He’s a vocal presence that becomes animated when demonstrating how to play the position. Last year, he played through a sports hernia injury that ultimately sidelined him from spring practice. The devotion impressed his coaches and teammates.

“Shazier’s a name that he’s always been kind of that young linebacker,” Meyer said. “Guess what? He’s not a young linebacker. And he’s earned it. He played very well through injuries.”

Shazier understands how to lead by example and when to speak up after witnessing the leadership qualities of Etienne Sabino and Zach Boren last season. Meyer praised both players for helping the defense evolve and being uplifting forces for the team.

“Everyone learns in different ways,” Shazier said. “You just have to use different techniques for everybody.

“I need to focus on the things I need to focus on right now, and that’s leading these guys to where they want to go. I just have to keep working on what the coaches keep telling me to do and just keep leading these guys.”

Fickell described Shazier as “charismatic” and someone who has the unique ability of allowing his actions to speak louder than words. There’s often a misconception that leaders can only lead by being seen and heard. It’s not entirely true, though. It takes some form of action, but it doesn’t need to include a vocal authority, being the best player on the team or someone who has regular playing time.

Take Thomas Matthews for example. He was a minor contributor for the Buckeyes from 2000-2004, but was considered to be one of the team’s largest personalities and someone who provided inspiration. 

“Ryan has that ability to make others around him better because he has that giant heart,” Fickell said. “I think that’s one of those great qualities in a leader that people don’t talk about all the time. His actions will speak.”

Leading isn’t the only transformation is Shazier’s game. When he arrived at Ohio State, he weighed less than 200 pounds. For a Big Ten linebacker, it’s nearly impossible to last a grueling October and November stretch without a bulky frame. So Mickey Marotti put Shazier into a program that elevated his weight to 229 pounds, a majority of the added weight being muscle. All of a sudden, Shazier is a gym rat.

A change in physique wasn’t the only alteration that benefited Shazier. He got down to the basics – fundamentals, especially footwork – to add another gear to his on-field performance.

“Once I started focusing on those things, it helped me get where I wanted to go,” he said.

In the future, the final destination is a national championship. But a Butkus Award wouldn’t be all that bad, either.


Comments Show All Comments

Borrowed Time's picture

Interesting to think... is Roby or Shazier the Buckeyes' best defender?
I would tend to think Roby is the better player (read: higher NFL potential), but Shazier is more important to the team given our lack of depth at LB.
Hard to compare players at different positions, of course.

Squirrel Master's picture

Roby has the higher NFL potential tag because he was unreal and heavily recognized for it. Shazier was easily just as good last year but went mostly unnoticed. I think the bad rap of the linebacking corp all together hurts Shazier as well.
but if you ask anyone who has really studied Shazier and what he does, I think he is actually the best player on that defense even over Roby. He cleaned up so many messes, and early on he was the cause of many messes too, but really turned in on late in the season. Some attribute it to Boren. I just think the game slowed down for him, and he slowed down some too, and those last 5 games were unreal. Since the start of conference play, 4 of his 5 sacks came, his 1 INT and 6 of his 8 passes defended. He also got most of his team leading tackles then too, a ton of them were solos.
Roby was good all season long from the beginning, but Shazier got better as the season went on and I believe he is the better player now.
then again, who cares. They both rock!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

carence's picture

I love Shazier. I still think the national media didn't talk enough about his stats last year. All we heard about was No WoMan Ti-Teo. His stats were on par and sometimes even better than his.

Buckabroad's picture

ND tried to secure the Heisman with one of the oldest tricks in the book: using a scam to pull at the heart-strings of America. Damn near worked, too. Had it been about on-field production, Shazier would have demolished Teo in many areas. That is why the ND-doting media always talked about the overriding importance of Teo's "intangibles", i.e. "success" that cannot be measured by any but the most subjective benchmarks.
This year, Shazier will receive the respect he has merited all along.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

daytonbuckeye's picture

If I remember correctly, the only stat of Teo's that was higher was interceptions. Shazier had better numbers all around. 

3 85 yards and a cloud of dust.

Bigbutterbuckeye's picture

Not only were Shazier's stats better than Teo's, Teo's stats from previous seasons were better than his senior season. 

ESPN starting the SEC channel to concentrate on the SEC is like Baskin-Robbins starting a new store to concentrate on selling ice cream.

Charlene's picture

Yes, but Shazier has a real girlfriend and therefore, had to be rated below the great Teo. He showed his true talent against Alabama and so far in the NFL. What a joke. By the time we get to the strength of the season, our D will be gelled and LB worries gone. 

THEBEAROSU's picture

Shazier is without a doubt the best defender on the team. He is a beast. He hits hard, he tackles, he is a very disruptive force on the field. A true leader. Speed and agility , the nfl will be all over him come  his time.


carence's picture

He reminds me of Darren Sharper his last years with the Saints. I remember a game where he went head on with Adrian Peterson and they pretty much stood each other up.

FROMTHE18's picture

the main reason Shazier was 'ignored' by the media last year, for the most part, is because of Teo and their love affair with him...if Shazier repeats his performance of last year (I hope he does, and I think he could surpass it), I feel he will be the Butkus winner, 1st team all conference and all american, probably conference defensive player of the year.

Earle's picture

I would argue that a big part of the reason Shazier was ignored was performance-based, both individual and team, during the first part of the season.  Ohio State's defense struggled early on, and Shazier was a real part of that.  Couple that with the Buckeyes being somewhat off the national radar screen due to coming off a 6-7 season and being ineligible for the post season, and it's no surprise to me that he didn't get any media love.  Once the Teo narrative was established, there was no going back. 
Shazier was lights-out the last, say, third of the season, so I'm pumped about was he's going to do this year if they find someone to play beside him.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Jabba the Hoke's picture

If Shazier had a fake dying girlfriend, the media would love him too.

Buckabroad's picture

Shazier definitely prefers to let his deeds speak for him: the INT TD return vs. PSU that turned the dream of an unbeaten run into an unassailable certainty, the goal-line stop and forced fumble vs. Wisconsin that stemmed the tide in favor of OSU and denied a TD record for Ball, etc. This certainly makes him the most valuable player on the D. His intensity and no-compromise style of play, even if he thereby risks injury, is exemplary for all other D players. Shazier is leadership by example. As far as I am concerned, he already is a Buckeye great.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

droessl's picture

His game against PSU last year was absolutely amazing. So was this hit:

Buckabroad's picture

Thank you, DROESSL, that hit warms my heart every time I see it. +1.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."

droessl's picture

There's so much to love about it. 1) Edge and Goldberg would be proud of that spear. 2) the QB tries to get up and act like he's good, but immediately falls back down. 3) Shazier just walks away from it like it's what he does ALL. DAMN. DAY. 

Natron D14's picture

Anyone else notice Nate Williams throw that RB down at the end of the play?? AWE-SOME!! Haha, Loved watching him play through all last season...

AT1 (AW) Dawson - Buckeye Born and Raised 

Larryp713's picture

It is really hard not to root for Ryan Damn Shazier. It is so fun to watch him blow people up, and he goes hard everytime I watch him. He sounds like he is really growing into a guy that will have success at the next level.
I hope he stays healthy and improves on tackling fundamentals, and I think both go hand in hand with each other. It looks a lot stronger this year... I am excited to see all the hard work pay off. Go Bucks!



CrimsonReLLiK's picture

Something about that picture reminded me of Knight Rider.... and KITT, so here we go!

Mirror Lake Jump's picture

Hope he is a team captain this year. It has been a pleasure watching him develop these last few years.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Shazier is a bad man! 

bigbill992001's picture

What i like about Shazier is that when he hits a guy, that guy STAYS hit.   Almost always going backwards.