Big Ten: Bob Carpenter
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
First things first. James Laurinaitis isn't a podiatrist and doesn't know when his Ohio State teammate Beanie Wells will return to the field. The Buckeyes star linebacker and two-time team captain is more focused on leading a dominant defense featuring several potential All-Americans. Laurinaitis, the reigning Butkus Award winner and former National Defensive Player of the Year, was among the Buckeyes stars who passed up NFL money for a final shot at the national title.
|Joe Robbins/Getty Images|
|Linebacker James Laurinaitis passed up NFL money for a final shot at a national title.|
After recording 236 tackles, nine sacks and seven interceptions the last two seasons, Laurinaitis headlines a unit that led the nation in both total defense and scoring defense last fall but once again got gashed in the BCS national championship game. Ohio State started off strong in Week 1, keeping Youngstown State behind the midfield stripe until the game's final play. A much larger test looms Sept. 13 against USC as Ohio State tries to improve its national reputation against an elite opponent.
Laurinaitis, the preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the year, sounded off on Wells, the defense and dealing with expectations in an interview this week.
First off, I've got to get your take. How is Beanie and do think he'll play this week or next week?
James Laurinaitis: I don't know. I'm not just blowing smoke, but I really don't know what's going on with Chris. He's feeling good. He seems like he's doing well. They do a good job of keeping it under wraps, how he is. I think he'll be a day-by-day thing, but to me, he looks good and he looks like he's getting after it in the rehab room. We don't know his diagnosis, so we don't know really what his plan is or what his timing is, but I know one thing about Chris: If he has the slightest chance to play, he'll play because he's an extremely tough kid.
Have you see him walking around at all in practice? Is he moving OK or struggling?
JL: I walked by him a few times in the locker room and he seems like he's doing OK. He's just trying to get better. Most of the time, he's in the training room and whenever he's not around the practice field or lifting, he's trying to get rehab on it or something. I really haven't seen him all that much.
You're obviously going to be facing some tougher teams later on, but what did you get out of that first game against Youngstown?
JL: With a first game like that, it's harder because you don't know what to expect, so to speak. We knew Youngstown was going to have a new quarterback and things like that and you go into a Game 1 against anyone, teams are going to try something new. They had tendencies, when they're in this formation, they're only going straight downhill. Well, they didn't go straight downhill. They went outside with it. Just reacting and seeing little things that we maybe messed up on scheme-wise and just getting something on film to evaluate, that's the important thing.
What are some of the things you'd like to see improve personally and as a unit?
JL: There's certain things where someone scrambles, they left their guy to go try get the quarterback and then there's an open receiver. Just making sure everyone does their job. When someone tries to go out of their way to make a play, that's where there's openings for a hole to be hit. Just really focusing on scheme stuff, stuff that we can control and trying to improve. Obviously we have to try and improve on turnovers. We had a fumble recovery but we dropped an interception.