Sophomore LB decides to study

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Physically, there's not much for Joshua Perry to be uncertain about.

After spending a season getting his feet wet in brief action on the field and going through Ohio State's conditioning program, he's well aware of the effort the program requires to get on the field or survive a workout.

Those two things are certainly a start in a group that features as much open competition as linebacker for the Buckeyes. And as for the third part of the equation for a potential starter of a demanding position, Perry might not be a finished product with the mental aspect of the game -- but he knows there are things he doesn't know, and figuring them all out are at the top of his priority list.

"It's different coming out of high school, and then even last year I don't think I was in my playbook as much as I am this year," Perry said after the second practice of spring camp. "So there's a big difference in the learning.

"You watch yourself on film. You watch what other people do on film. You draw it up, get in your playbook. You can sit down and ask other guys questions, you can ask coach a question. There are a million ways to do it. Just whatever it needs to be, get in there and learn it."

Perry is taking it upon himself to spend the extra time soaking up the defense, with drawing up plays and watching film among his preferred ways to study the game.

It might be too soon to tell how much progress he has made since nearly cracking the rotation as a true freshman last fall. The Buckeyes have had just two workouts and the pads won't be on until Tuesday. But if nothing else, there's clearly a commitment to absorbing the schemes and responsibilities in the heart of the defense.

And with a set of skills that could allow him to play either in the strongside spot or potentially right in the middle, and with a sturdy frame at 6-foot-4, 243 pounds that doesn't appear to be sacrificing any speed, Perry could be on the way to giving Ohio State one of the answers it needs with two starting jobs available.

"That's what I'm trying to do," Perry said. "I'm trying to come out here and show what I have, be the best me I can be. Also help the team, and that's the biggest thing -- whatever I can do to help the Buckeyes be the best we can be, that's what I'm going to do.

"I add a little versatility, speed and I'm trying to learn the game right now. Once I get that down, I'll have that leadership and intelligence part that comes along with knowing the game."

The Buckeyes have one guy who can already provide the complete package, though Ryan Shazier's rehabilitation from a sports hernia will limit him during camp and leave defensive coordinator Luke Fickell essentially with nothing but young or untested linebackers to evaluate across the board.

Curtis Grant is a junior, but he has seen the field rarely despite lofty expectations when he signed with the Buckeyes as one of the top recruits in the nation. Camren Williams and David Perkins boast the athleticism to be factors in the rotation as well, though between them they have just nine career tackles heading into their sophomore seasons.

Perry doesn't have much on his resume, either, making just five tackles in a debut campaign that was hampered for a time with a knee injury. But like the rest of the bunch, the main issue for Fickell isn't really finding out if Perry has the tools to contribute -- it's if he can use them properly.

"We need to see guys who can make some plays, guys who understand how to play the game of football," Fickell said. "That's the thing that right now we've got to get a lot better at.

"We missed 15 practices with not having a bowl game. We've got guys who are athletes, but they've got to learn the game of football."

That's certainly not news to Perry, and he's got no problems with homework.