Amid a Youth Movement at Linebacker, Ohio State Finds Stability From a Veteran

By Kyle Rowland on March 31, 2014 at 3:00p

With all eyes focused on Raekwon McMillian, it’s another linebacker who’s attracted the attention of head coach Urban Meyer. And for good reason.

Joshua Perry might be quiet and unassuming off the field. But on it, he’s nonstop action. The four to six seconds, point A to point B speech runs on repeat inside his head. Perry finished with 64 tackles last season, fourth most on the team and the leading returning tackler, but this spring has aided in his surge to the big time.

The junior was already asked by Meyer to address the team. The linebacking corps is an inexperienced bunch loaded with underclassmen and juniors and seniors who haven’t been feature players. Perry’s making a push to be the group’s leader while solidifying his status as a starter. 

“He’s without question one of our top five most improved players,” Meyer said. “Demeanor’s always been there, work ethic’s been there and the toughness element is something that’s really improved. He’s a wonderful guy to coach, a much improved player.”

You’ll hear no argument from Perry. He knows he’s a better player in March than he was when he walked off the field at the Orange Bowl. His offseason included watching last season’s game tapes. What he saw was a timid player whose inexperience was glaring.

In the nearly three months since a loss to Clemson, Perry has moved to the weak side. But he plays with more speed, gusto and confidence. There’s no longer a guessing game on the field. He’s fully immersed in the defensive overhaul executed by Meyer, Luke Fickell and Chris Ash, and instinctive in the offense-defense chess match.

“It’s not about individual stats necessarily. It’s about what I can do for the team. We want to win championships here.” – Joshua Perry

“It’s a little bit new,” the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Perry said. “We’re downhill. We’re reacting in the pass game and trying to get hands on guys. We’re really aggressive. I love it.

“I’ve got a lot of goals I'm trying to achieve. The more I’m out here practicing hard getting guys going the better. I had that comfort level towards the end of the year to be able to play a little bit faster and go out there and know my assignment, and just go. So right now, I’m trying to get that comfort level to where I can just see the play and react and be downhill. If I need to cover, I'm going to go cover. But I want to be able to do everything fast with reckless abandon.”

It’s almost precisely the same thoughts as Meyer. He wants speed and energy. On defense, Perry will be relied for production and as a spark. The comfort level Perry spoke of coincided with Ohio State’s defensive meltdown.

The final three games yielded a 1-2 record and burnt out light bulbs where the opponents’ points and yardage were meant to appear. But don’t blame Perry. He had 22 tackles and a sack, including a career-high 10 stops in the Orange Bowl. If he wants to be a legitimate replacement for Shazier, Perry’s numbers must continue rising – and then stay consistent.

“The sky’s the limit for me,” Perry said. “I got a little momentum heading into the end of the year, and I think that’s carried over a little bit. I have to get better at a lot of things – playing with great vision, using my hands a lot, just getting an aggressive mentality will help out. Being vocal and being one of those guys who can keep the defense together is always helpful, because the more guys you have like that on your defense the better.”

No departure on defense looms larger than Shazier’s, which makes Perry’s end-of-season stats and subsequent spring emergence so critical. Depth at linebacker is a mystery due to the green nature of the players. But recent history is known, and it isn’t good.

Lack of development hit the Buckeyes hard, lessening production. It never reached Shazier, though. The injuries stayed away, as did missed tackles – for the most part. The position change brings on added responsibilities for Perry. Don’t expect him to shrink in the moment, though.

“It’s not about individual stats necessarily. It’s about what I can do for the team,” Perry said. “We want to win championships here. We have to get guys playing, and everybody wants to play well. The better I can play, the more it’ll help the team.”

It’s not quite “as Perry goes, so go the Buckeyes.” But the replacement for Shazier will impact the defense for better or worse.


Comments Show All Comments

BGSUBucksFan's picture

Watching a lower-rated player develop into one of the team's best assets is much more rewarding than landing a 5 star recruit and expecting them to do the same from day one.  Therefore, I think this is appropriate:  BOOM

+4 HS
AJBor41's picture

Perry was a pretty highly rated kid coming out of Olentangy in 2012.

+8 HS
BGSUBucksFan's picture

Well then, I thought this article was about Tyvis Powell?! [for the save?]

+10 HS
bucksk1n's picture

In his defense most of the guys that committed to Tressel/Fickell were afterthoughts after Urban arrived.  Most people were predicting big things for Cam Williams and David Perkins with few words of praise for Perry.  

I don't think it was a reflection on Perry.  Fans always remember the last guys to commit and we always seem to like savor players that live out of state more the ones just up the street.  That's probably because we take in state commits for granted but we steal the ones out of state from another school.

I will always root for all of the kids that committed to Tressel and stuck with their committment.  Hopefully we see big things from all of them this year.



+2 HS
Zimmy07's picture

"instinctive in the offense-defense chess match"

-man, I hope so.  To me it looked as if he wasn't quite sure what was going on a lot of the time last year.  If he's turned the corner, that would be great.

southbay's picture

Six-four, 250?  This guy is relentless with the weights.  Have the Buckeyes ever had a OLB that big?  Awesome.

alust2013's picture

A.J. Hawk was a pretty big dude. He's listed at 6-1 and 247 now, and I don't think that's very different than when he was at OSU.

...and Michigan still sucks.

WezBuck28's picture

That's a big ass LB'er!! Most schools have DE's that size lol

NitroBuck's picture

Alonzo Spellman played OLB as a Freshman, before moving down to DE.  At 6-4 and 265, he looked like a man-child out there with his size 18 feet.

Ferio.  Tego.

d5k's picture

Wait, so Perry has moved over to the weakside LB spot?  Can we get some sort of updated projected depth chart at some point?

I assumed it looked like this at LB based on earlier reports:

SLB - Perry

MLB -Grant OR McMillan

WLB - Darron Lee

+1 HS
Zimmy07's picture

From something I read on Ozone they had Lee at SLB & Perry at WLB, Grant at MLB.

+1 HS
tussey's picture

From what I've read on here, it seems that in terms of alignment from last year to this year it is different.  Last year, the WLB would line up to the boundary (short side of the field).  This year, the SLB lines up to boundary.  (At least this is how I have been reading the articles) 

Him1stftballl8er's picture

Lee is the field or "walk-out" LB and Perry will be playing the boundary. 

The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools. 

Kyle Rowland's picture

Bingo. They've done some re-arranging. I'd be shocked if Grant wasn't the starter in the middle. But Meyer clearly likes McMillan. I think that means the true freshman will get some playing time. 

CGroverL's picture

Coach Fick had a lot to do with James Laurinaitis coming from being a 3-star LB and coached 3-star LB AJ Hawk as well (to a lesser extent). Fickell takes a lot of heat but after the performance of Shazier and the improvement of Perry, he now just needs Curtis Grant to get going so Buckeye Nation will call the dogs off. After all, the man was born in Columbus and has been a fan/player/coach in Columbus for Ohio State for all but 4 years of his life. He bleeds more scarlet and gray than anyone. In my opinion, in the dictionary next to "Ohio State Buckeye", there should be a picture of Luke Fickell.

The man played 4 years at Ohio State and started at nose guard for a school record 50 consecutive starts...Everyone always blames him for the defensive lapses when more than half of the Buckeye defenses that he coached on finished in the top 10 (in total defense and scoring defense). Fick will get the LB's back to the top and Perry will probably be 100 tackles of that defense.

"I hope they're last in everything". One of Meyer's comments when speaking of TTUN after being hired at Ohio State.



+21 HS
bedheadjc's picture

You know there is some validity about people's concerns with Coach Fick when a supporter of his comes to his defense in the comments of an article in which he is mentioned once in passing, and not quoted.


-7 HS
Nutinpa's picture

Not necessarily.  There may be more than just a few people tired of seeing Fickell getting bashed in this and other Buckeye fan sites. 

Lost on a lot of people was the dreadful year of 2011 when Fickell took over for Tressel and Vrabel had the reins at LB.  

If just for one season, in the minds of a lot of people....including some of the players, when speaking bluntly....that year was more of a setback to some players' careers in the LB corps than many of us in the fanbase realize.  With Vrabel and Withers gone, we'll learn a lot about the players on this Defense and how they've responded to their revised coaching staff.

+11 HS
bedheadjc's picture

You've spoken with the players when they were "speaking bluntly"?

Not necessarily? What part of this article was bashing Fickell? It wasn't; which is why someone choosing to defend him here is so illuminating.

If the DVs were because someone interprets my comment as anti-Fickell that's on them. I'm neither a supporter of his nor a detractor.

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks." 

Nutinpa's picture

A little sensitive there, jc?  You might want to think about switching to decaf.  But hey, not everyone quotes Shakespeare in this forum so that's cool. 

Yes, on other sites, there was commentary from players who hinted about what I posted.  No...I don't have the desire or time to quote directly from the o-zone or provide my "citations" as this isn't a high school term paper. 

I am not giving you credit as a Fickell basher or supporter. That's your business and like many fans, I am tired of that debate. You asked a question in your post and I just responded with what I think people have been saying.  Nothing more, nothing less.

+3 HS
bedheadjc's picture

Sensitive? How so? Responding to you means I am sensitive; arguing my point, or against yours makes me sensitive? Noted. By that logic anyone who disagrees with anyone else on this site is "sensitive". Tissues for us all.

 I don't subscribe or read the other OSU fansites. Used to read Bucknuts.This is the best of them all and one reason is is the because the writers like to back up their assertions with direct quotes or citations, particularly when they deal with something that was supposed to have come out of a player's mouth. That way the readership can trust what they are reading. Very little aside from Birms recruiting discussions requires use of secondhand or unattributable reports (to protect his sources). That you don't want back up your claims is fine. But hopefully you wont find fault in the fact that I don't just take you at your word that on the other site someone reputable actually spoke to the players, and that your assertion isn't just BS from a reader from one of the other sites that came from their neighbor's brother-in-law who is "tight" with the players. When Kyle writes a piece that says "some of the LB'ers from previous year's teams think Vrabel and whomever did not develop them as they should" then I'll believe it. Could that be the case? Absolutely! But no one here, to me the more reputable people, has made that claim. (I think??)

The "lady" from the quote in this case would be all the Fickell supporters who without prompting feel they have to defend him. Had Grover said; "Perry is looking good, good for him, and good for Fickell." I wouldn't have said anything. But Grover took the time to write a paragraph or two defending Fickell against a non-existant attack. And that begs the question: why?

I should have worded my first post differently. Something more along the lines of "Why are you defending him here when no one attacked him? Your post makes more sense in the context of one of the Fire Fickell threads. Here it looks strident and defensive. Why vehemently defend him in the absence of an attack?"

Decaf? What's that? :)

EDIT: In summary of my own post: TL;DR. Lol at my own dumbass. Enjoy your evening.

-1 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

Looks like he was merely applauding him and giving him some credit for coaching up Perry. Defended him a little bit but he may just be being proactive and considered the attacks on Fick that might have been coming due to his comment. God knows there's enough people around that are all too quick to bad mouth a guy that's dedicated himself to tOSU.

Slingin' swag since 1970


+2 HS
ScarletGrayFire's picture

Perry was ranked as the number 9 OLB by Scout, and number 11 by Rivals.  Also worth noting, Devin Smith and Perry went 1-2 in the State long jump in 2010, and he has a personal best jump of 23 feet!

+6 HS
seafus26's picture

Sounds like we may have a good one. He did seem to be around the ball more the last third of the season

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

+2 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

It sounds like we will be more aggressive with the line this season, that puts more pressure on the linebackers and defensive backs.  With that said we will need quick reactions for the linebackers to protect against the draws and SCREEN PASSES.  I'm not worried about the defensive backs with their speed but the lbs need to be fresh and ready.  Just like the line rotation, all the backers need to be rotated in and out all the time.  Perry will be ready and I believe he wants the new group to be more ready to play then he was.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Outstanding!  We need Perry to come on strong this year and it looks like he's making great progress!  Let's get back to the days of the Silver Bullets!!

Go Bucks!!!

+3 HS
wyatt's picture

Josh Perry was slow and didn't make tackles. He was horrible. Move on to faster, better, younger players who can make plays.

-6 HS
Stellar's picture

Totally.  If a guy isn't an All American his sophomore year then you bench him for an unproven rookie - that's just good coaching.  Never mind if he's your top returning player at the position and he's been showing marked improvement since last season.  We all know that nobody ever bets better from one year to the next. All good football coaches know that if a player isn't instantly amazing then you just give up on him...

+7 HS
Boxley's picture

See, now thats why I am not a coach, because I would have a hard time giving up on a player who keeps improving;)

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

+1 HS
southbay's picture

I think Perry is perhaps not the fastest of the linebackers, and he's had to learn a lot about reads and being in the right position, but the new scheme will help him since he won't have to chase guys out to the wide side of the field.  He's a solid tackler, when he's in the right place he gets his man.

I'm optimistic that this unit will be much more cohesive this season, and everyone is going to do better as a result.

+1 HS
Jeremypreemo81's picture

I like the kid and his steady improvement over the last few years is noticed.  He is a big LB, imposing if you will.  Down hill with reckless abandon.  Hey thats good enough for me any day

blackblockO's picture

I just want to see the Silver bullets back. It sounds like we are a lot closer. I think Carpenter was that big. I think this defense has a ton of potential.

BAR43's picture

I honestly believe Perry will have a breakout year. I think Grant will get by ok but Perry I see filling the role of RDS well, although not to the same level, but still solid.

+1 HS