If Ohio State junior linebacker Ryan Shazier just bats .333 on the postseason awards for which he still is in the running, he will win a major trophy.
Shazier learned yesterday he was one of nine semifinalists for the Lott Impact Trophy. Earlier, he had been named a semifinalist for the Bednarik and Butkus awards.
“It’s really important to me to be in those type of award semifinalist lists because it’s always been a dream of mine to be one of the best players in the nation, one of the best players at my position,” Shazier said yesterday. “Right now, I’m just happy that our team is one of the best teams in the nation; everybody on the team gets praise. So that’s why I figure I’m doing so good right now.”
Shazier leads the Buckeyes with 73 tackles and 12 for loss, and he has four sacks, second to defensive end Noah Spence’s 6.5.
“The No. 1 thing is he is playing on a really good team, and good players on good teams get a lot of recognition, and I think he’d be the first one to tell you that,” coach Urban Meyer said. “And second of all, he is playing at a very high level. He is very deserving of being involved in the national awards.”
Meyer said running back Jordan Hall rejoined practice, meaning he should be available to play Saturday at Illinois. Hall missed two of the past four games, including the last one at Purdue, because of chronic knee pain.
Linebacker Curtis Grant did not practice as he continues to recover from a sprained ankle and lower back suffered against Purdue. Grant would not be needed when Ohio State uses only two linebackers in its nickel formation against Illinois’ passing offense.
On the rebound
Coach Tim Beckman said Illinois (3-6, 0-5) has improved compared with a year ago, even though the Illini have lost 19 straight Big Ten games. Meyer agreed, bringing up recent games that got away from the Illini, who are sixth in the league in total offense (425.3-yard average).
“I see exactly that, they shoulda, coulda, woulda in a couple of games,” Meyer said. “They’re real close to winning — they went overtime with Penn State, and this last one (at Indiana), I believe could have gone either way for a while. They are much better on offense. That’s where I notice night and day improvement.”
Meyer wants to see Ohio State’s defense improve against the pass. Games against Illinois and next week against Indiana should provide a test.
“You want to see how much we have improved because the last couple of weeks it was night and day from where it was earlier in the season,” Meyer said.