COLUMBUS – Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry’s teammates give him high style points for the way he’s always sharply dressed off the field.
On the field, the sophomore first-year starter has earned some points from Ohio State’s coaches, but they’re still pushing him to do more.
“I’m coming along. I’ve still got a lot to work on but I’ve got a lot more confidence in my play. My teammates and coaches have more confidence in me, too,” Perry said as he assessed his progress earlier this week.
With only Ryan Shazier returning as a starter at linebacker, that position was a concern for Ohio State coming into the season, and it remains one.
Coach Urban Meyer described Ohio State’s linebacker play as “not bad” on the Big Ten coaches teleconference Tuesday and said, “The linebacker position is still my biggest concern on the team.”
Perry and middle linebacker Curtis Grant have provided some answers. But the position is still a work in progress.
“Ryan Shazier is starting to play at a very high level, which we expected. Early in the season he was not,” Meyer said. “It’s just the depth. The depth is a major concern. We’re nowhere where we need to be as far as the expectation level of the linebacker play here.”
Despite having nine first-year starters, Ohio State ranks in the top 10 nationally in total defense (No. 10), scoring defense (No. 8) and rushing defense (No. 3). But this is Ohio State, so the standards are set high.
Asked to size up Perry, Meyer said, “He’s a leader, he’s really practicing hard. He’s riding some momentum in his life right now. But that standard I’m talking about is A.J.Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Bobby Carpenter, Brian Rolle. He still has a long way to go to get to that level because you’re talking about high-round draft picks and great players.”
Shazier leads Ohio State with 72 tackles. Middle linebacker Curtis Grant is second with 49 and Perry is eighth with 33.
Perry has been noticeably more active in recent weeks than he was early in the season.
That comes mostly from confidence, he says.
“Early in the year I think we were a team of talented guys but not necessarily technicians, we weren’t great at fundamentals and didn’t have as good a grasp on the scheme as we do now. Now you turn on the film and you see guys running to the ball and better effort. I think that comes from confidence and knowing what we’re doing,” he said.
It also came after a challenge from OSU’s coaches.
“A lot of people said I had some tools, and it would be a shame if I wasted them. That kind of got into my head that I needed to play the way I knew I could play,” Perry said. “I feel like as an athlete if you don’t have that extra fire, that extra drive, knowing that you’re not doing as well as you can, you might not be that great an athlete after all.”