COLUMBUS — Ohio State linebacker Etienne Sabino was talking about his coach Urban Meyer when he said, “He’s big on focusing on the now.”
But Sabino could have been talking about himself, too.
The senior linebacker is regarded as one of the key players on Ohio State’s defense. His five career starts makes him the most experienced linebacker in OSU’s starting lineup.
Ohio State’s other starting linebackers, sophomores Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant, have combined for three college starts, all of them by Shazier late last season.
Being a key player on Ohio State’s defense is what was expected from Sabino when he signed with the Buckeyes in 2008.
Sabino was rated the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect nationally by rivals.com when OSU recruited him out of Miami, Fla.
He chose Ohio State after getting offers from Florida, Florida State, Miami, USC, Notre Dame, LSU, Georgia and several other big-time football programs.
But he played only a little his first two years at OSU, then was asked to take a rarely seen mid-career redshirt while healthy in 2010.
The idea was that rather than have Sabino sit behind Ross Homan, Brian Rolle and Andrew Sweat, he would save a year of eligibility for this year when OSU knew it would be thin at linebacker.
Not playing at all when he expected to be playing all the time was “one of the hardest years of my life,” Sabino said.
But with that behind him, he is focused on the now.
“I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. Everything happens for a reason. Things didn’t pan out as fast as I wanted them to pan out but things are going good for me now,” Sabino said. “I can’t look back at the past. I don’t have any regrets.”
Sabino hit career highs in tackles (62) and sacks (2) last season, but he still was one of many players who benefitted from the new coaching staff hitting the reset button when they took over in January.
“I didn’t realize he didn’t play that much because he acts like a veteran player,” Meyer said.
Sabino was one of eight players Meyer named to an eight-person leadership committee and he recently was elected one of OSU’s team captains.