Ryan Shazier is trying to keep his thoughts on leading the Ohio State defense against Michigan on Saturday in the 110th renewal of The Game, but he had to acknowledge the plaudits that came his way yesterday.
The junior linebacker was named the Big Ten defensive player of the week for a career record-tying fifth time in the wake of his 20-tackle performance, including five tackles for loss, in a 42-14 win over Indiana. He also was named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, which goes annually to the nation’s outstanding linebacker.
“It’s just a tremendous honor just to be in the names with a lot of guys, and being able to keep getting these honors, because I’m just doing what I have to do for the team and I just get honored for it,” Shazier said. “So I’m just going to keep doing what I have to do and keep working as hard as I can to perform at the level I am.”
The other four Butkus finalists include a familiar name to Ohio State fans: Khalil Mack of Buffalo. The others: Anthony Barr of UCLA, C.J. Mosley of Alabama and Shayne Skov of Stanford.
Shazier is closing as strong as any of them, though. The past two weeks, though playing against the spread offenses of Illinois and Indiana, he has recorded consecutive career highs for tackles, starting with 16 against the Illini.
He has been in on 88 tackles overall, 141/2 of those for loss, including 41/2 sacks. And he has forced three fumbles.
Coach Urban Meyer named Shazier the team’s co-defensive player of the game this week, along with tackle Michael Bennett, and he cited Shazier’s tenacity against the Hoosiers.
“He played outstanding — 54 production points,” Meyer said. “We’ve always done production points, and to have 30 is probably the most I’ve ever seen. And he had 54 production points.”
Call it a Guapo duel
In their seven Big Ten games this season, Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah are on top of the rushing chart: Hyde with a 146.1-yard average and Abdullah at 145.4. With one game to go, that race will go down to the wire, and features two players with similar Twitter handles. Hyde goes by @El_Guapo34, and Abdullah’s is @Ameerguapo.
They have conversed a couple of times this season, including the past week when Abdullah tweeted to Hyde, “go ham tomorrow big dog!” and Hyde replied “U do the same bruh!”
Abdullah went on to run for 147 yards in Nebraska’s overtime win over Penn State. Hyde had 117 against Indiana, in the process becoming the first running back in the 12-year head-coaching era of Meyer to top 1,000 for a season. Hyde did it in eight games, too, because he was suspended the first three of the four nonconference games because of an off-field incident.
If Hyde hangs on to his edge, he would become the first Buckeyes running back to lead the Big Ten in rushing since Beanie Wells in 2007.
All hands on deck
Meyer said that cornerback Doran Grant worked out with the team on Sunday and will be fine for the game at Michigan. Grant had to leave Saturday’s game because of an undisclosed injury and was replaced ably by freshman Cam Burrows.
Middle linebacker Curtis Grant also is expected to play at Michigan, Meyer said. Grant returned from a high-ankle sprain last week but was not used against Indiana.