Ohio State football: Five-star recruit Curtis Grant, now a junior, looks to make impact

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Linebacker Curtis Grant started the first three games last season before being benched after this game against California.

The lessons keep coming for Curtis Grant. Even when you do things correctly, there are no guarantees.

After two disappointing seasons, the former five-star recruit from Richmond, Va., is determined to live up to his vast potential. So this year, the middle linebacker has been determined to do everything the right way. Then on Aug. 7, in the first day of full-pad drills, Grant blitzed and made contact the way it is now emphatically taught — by not lowering his head.

“It was a good hit,” Grant said on Sunday at Ohio State’s media day. “I had my head up for the first time in (my) football history.”

But that didn’t stop Grant from suffering a concussion.

“I was doing it the right way, and I ended up getting hurt,” he said.

Grant has not returned to practice.

“Hopefully, I’ll be back this week,” he said. “I had a few days of practice, so I’m happy about that. Everything happens for a reason. It’s in God’s hands. All I do is pray about it every night to just get better.”

The Buckeyes need a healthy and productive Grant. Ohio State has no senior linebackers. Other than junior Ryan Shazier, Grant is the most experienced Buckeyes linebacker, with only three starts.

Those came at the beginning of last season, and they were not up to anyone’s standards — not Grant’s or his coaches’. Grant was benched, and the Buckeyes struggled until Zach Boren switched from fullback to middle linebacker to solidify the position and the defense.

But Grant rededicated himself in the offseason, and the coaches have been pleased with his progress.

“We’re expecting a lot out of Curtis Grant,” defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell said. “Curtis has done an incredible job in the last year, growing and getting over a lot of things. We expect really, really big things from him.”

So does Grant.

“It’s more than determination,” he said. “A lot of things have changed in my life that has made me a lot hungrier about the game and things I needed to do. I tell my mom every day, ‘We’re going to make it.’ That’s my promise to her, and I’m determined to make it for her.”

Asked to elaborate on those life changes, Grant demurred, saying with a laugh, “Nah, I’m cool.”

Physically, Grant has all the tools. He’s 6 feet 3 and 241 pounds, with superb speed for a player that size. He certainly looks the part of a guy once rated the second-best prospect in the country.

But now he needs to show it. The Buckeyes have recruited two blue-chip linebackers in Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell. Coach Urban Meyer said that Mitchell has already progressed to the point where he is Grant’s backup. Sophomore Joshua Perry is the projected starter at strong-side linebacker, with Shazier on the weak side.

Grant is more than happy to show the younger player the ropes, even if he doesn’t have the game experience he expected to have at this point in his career.

“It’s different because there’s no one else to look up to,” Grant said. “The younger guys look up to me and Ryan because we are the oldest guys in the room. Us being leaders, we try to bring everybody together so we can all be leaders. I try to do the stuff I didn’t take (as a young player) and show them the right way, and hopefully they catch on and keep moving forward.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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