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Published: Thursday, 4/27/2006

Carpenter may be No. 2 but he isn't second-rate

COLUMBUS - Playing in the shadows of his buddy A.J. Hawk never bothered Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter.

Hawk helped make Carpenter a better player.

The dynamic duo put on quite a show for NFL scouts and general managers last month at Ohio State's pro day.

Hawk likely will be a top-5 pick in Saturday's NFL draft and Carpenter is expected to be taken later in the first round.

The third member of Ohio State's talented linebacking trio, Anthony Schlegel, is projected as a second-day selection.

Not since 1974, when Rick Middleton and Randy Gradishar were first-rounders, has there been this much buzz about Buckeye 'backers.

"I think we've all been in competition with each other the past three years," Carpenter said. "Everyone always wants the most tackles, the most sacks and the most interceptions. When you compete with those guys, it makes you better."

The 6-foot-2 1/2, 256-pound Carpenter, whose father, Rob, was a longtime NFL running back, is the kind of player the pros covet.

He has great speed, strength and versatility. He can drop down as a defensive end and rush the quarterback or fall back in coverage as a linebacker - much the way he did as a senior last year at Ohio State.

That is vital for NFL teams running a 3-4 defense.

"If Bobby Carpenter had been at one spot during his career, he might have had more production," Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage said. "He's not quite as productive as A.J., but when they walk into a room together, you're more impressed with Carpenter in terms of the way he looks."

Carpenter would prefer to play outside linebacker in the NFL, but he has the ability to play inside or to operate out of a three-point stance in third-down passing situations.

That's the same role former Buckeye Mike Vrabel has excelled in for the New England Patriots.

"He's a guy who does a lot of things," Carpenter said. "I tried to kind of pattern what I did this year off of him. The coaches put me in a situation to rush the passer a lot.

"He's someone in the offseason who I really talked to. He's the all-time sack leader at Ohio State, so I figured he knew something about rushing the passer a little bit. So I learned some from him."

Ironically, the Patriots are one of the teams interested in Carpenter, along with the San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants and Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Carpenter, a two-year starter who had eight sacks last season, is not quite 100 percent since breaking his right fibula against Michigan Nov. 19. He missed the Fiesta Bowl and was unable to run at the NFL scouting combine in February.

Carpenter was timed at 4.66 and 4.68 in the 40-yard dash on pro day. He had a vertical jump of 34 1/2 inches, a standing jump of 10-foot-4 and he benched 225 pounds 20 times.

"He is a very good player in that he's versatile - he can play the line of scrimmage, behind the line of scrimmage and as a pass rusher," said Kevin Colbert, director of football operations for the Steelers.

Carpenter made a boatload of big plays and highlight-reel tackles last season for Ohio State before getting hurt.

Look for more of the same in the NFL.



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