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Published: Monday, 12/1/2008

Busy offseason for Buckeyes

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - When the current football season started, many in the Ohio State camp thought by this time on the calendar, running back Chris "Beanie" Wells would be picking out some fine threads to wear to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York. He was expected to be the headliner of the Buckeyes' parade when the 2008 awards were passed out.

The reservation for Wells at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue likely got canceled when he planted his foot to make a lateral cut near the goal line in the first game of the season and felt something pop. The 6-1, 240-pound junior missed three games with a foot injury and fell off the awards radar.

But as the season comes to a close and the bowl shuffle becomes vertigo-inducing, several of Wells' teammates are still in contention for national honors. Linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins, receiver Brian Robiskie and injured walk-on Tyson Gentry are candidates for prestigious awards.

Laurinaitis, already a two-time All-American and the Big Ten's two-time defensive player of the year, is a finalist for the Lombardi Award, which goes to the player who best exemplifies the discipline of former coaching great Vince Lombardi, along with outstanding performance and ability.

The 6-3, 240-pound senior from Minnesota is also a semifinalist for the Walter Camp player of the year honor.

"Being considered for any award is a great honor because it reflects on the performance of all the people around you," said Laurinaitis, who will play a final time for Ohio State in a yet-to-be-determined bowl game. "Nobody wins anything on their own - you need great players and coaches around you - and I've been fortunate to be surrounded by some real talented individuals at Ohio State."

Laurinaitis, who won the Bronco Nagurski Trophy in 2006 following his sophomore season with the Buckeyes, is also a finalist this year for the Bednarik Award, given to the defensive player of the year, and a candidate to repeat as the winner of the Butkus Award, which goes to the top linebacker in the college game.

"James is not only an outstanding player and an outstanding leader on this football team, but he's been a great ambassador for the university throughout his time in Columbus," Ohio State coach Tressel said. "He's set an example for the younger players on how to work every day at becoming the best player you can be."

Laurinaitis played in four victories over Michigan during his career and helped the Buckeyes win four straight Big Ten championship trophies. This season he was second in the conference with 10.1 tackles per game (121 total) and had four sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble.

Jenkins, a 6-1, 208-pound senior from New Jersey, is a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the top defensive back in the country. The honor is named for Native American sports legend Jim Thorpe and is awarded for performance, athletic ability and character.

Jenkins is a four-year starter for the Buckeyes and a three-time first team All-Big Ten selection. He was a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award last year.

Robiskie is an Academic All-American for the second year in a row and a candidate for the academic Heisman - the Draddy Trophy. Robiskie carries a 3.54 grade-point average in marketing. He led the Buckeyes in receiving this season with 37 catches, good for 419 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gentry, a walk-on from Sandusky Perkins who suffered partial paralysis after he was injured during a spring practice in April, 2006, is a nominee for the 2008 Courage Award, sponsored by ESPN and the Football Writers Association of America.

During his extensive rehabilitation process, Gentry has remained in school and continued his association with the Buckeyes' team.

The award cites courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap or living through hardship. The first Courage Award in 2002 went to Toledo running back William Bratton, who played despite dealing with the pain and weakness associated with a sickle cell anemia-related blood disorder.

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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