Thursday, July 14, 2011
Moeller sees big things for Buckeyes' D
By Adam Rittenberg
Tyler Moeller could be called the resident historian of Ohio State's defense.
No Buckeyes defender has been on the roster longer than Moeller, who enters his sixth season this fall.
Recovered from a chest injury, linebacker Tyler Moeller is excited about Ohio State's defense.
Since his arrival in 2006, Moeller has been part of units that have ranked 12th, first, 14th, fifth and fourth nationally in yards allowed. He has seen Ohio State finish fifth, first, sixth, fifth and fifth nationally in points allowed.
On paper, the 2011 version of the Buckeyes' D might have a tough time continuing such an impressive run. The unit says goodbye to seven starters, including first-round pick Cameron Heyward and four other players selected in April's draft (Chimdi Chekwa, Brian Rolle, Ross Homan and Jermale Hines). Ohio State's defense must fill gaps in all three levels.
But Moeller isn't concerned about the unit's outlook. Just the opposite.
"I'm more excited about this defense than any defense since I've been here," he said. "The guys we're bringing back, the guys that are stepping up, even the people who you don't see in the first lineup, they're great."
Moeller rattles off names like lineman John Simon, linebacker Etienne Sabino, cornerback Dominic Clarke and safety Christian Bryant.
"We have a lot of playmakers," Moeller said. "At any position, anyone can make a turnover or a big play at any time."
One of the biggest reasons for optimism is Moeller himself. He returns to action after missing the final eight games of last season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Limited both in the weight room and on the field this spring, Moeller has been cleared for full participation. Unable to bench press for years because of the pectoral muscle, which began to tear before the 2008 season, Moeller is boosting his bench press and his body in preparation for camp next month.
"Compared to last year, I feel like I'm 10 times better," he said. "I was 200, 205 last season going in after my head injury, and I'm 219 today. I definitely got some mass back, my strength feels great, I feel almost 100 percent right now and we still have three, four more weeks until camp starts."
Although Moeller has played in only five games since 2008 -- he missed the entire 2009 season with a head injury after being assaulted in a Florida restaurant -- he showed good promise in limited action. He recorded two forced fumbles, an interception and 4.5 tackles for loss last season, despite an injury that kept getting worse until it tore.
Moeller played the "star" position, a safety in Ohio State's oft-used nickel package, last season. He could see time this fall at star or as an outside linebacker, a position he played in the first part of his Buckeyes career. He recently spent time watching film with new Buckeyes linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, who "gives a whole new perspective of what to look at," Moeller said.
Moeller doesn't care where he lines up.
"They’re really the same thing," he said. "Hopefully, the coaches will put me in a position where I can go out there and be the type of player I am."