- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- With spring practice in the books and Ohio State heading into its offseason conditioning program, BuckeyeNation is looking at the players who boosted their stock with the program the most during those 15 workouts. The offense went first last week, and it's now followed up with a handful of defenders who will be in line for heavy workloads this fall.
No. 4: Curtis Grant
Who: The wait has been longer than Ohio State surely imagined, but it appears there might finally be a reward for the patience shown toward the once highly-regarded recruit heading into his junior season. Grant has left camp with a starting job before, and he didn't waste much time losing his spot at middle linebacker last fall. But there seems to be a different urgency coming from Grant as the clock ticks on his career with the Buckeyes, and there's clearly more confidence coming from the coaching staff about his ability to handle the responsibility than there was a year ago.
Spring progress: The physical skills that originally sent expectations for Grant skyward have never really been in doubt, and Ohio State wasn't trying to find out this spring if he could still run fast or deliver a hit with his 6-foot-3, 241-pound frame. The question for Grant was if he was ready to truly channel all his energy into the other parts of the game that allow a linebacker to take the next step, and at least throughout camp, the answers he provided were all positive for the Buckeyes. Grant has taken more time studying film with his roommate and fellow linebacker Ryan Shazier. He's also played with more energy and also acknowledged a few mistakes he made in the past in terms of preparation to shoulder the blame for two seasons effectively wasted on the sideline. That adds up to a pretty mature package, and the Buckeyes can certainly put it to use.
Jockeying for position: Grant wrapped up spring on top of the depth chart at middle linebacker, complete with coach Urban Meyer's blessing that he had earned that right to play in that spot at Ohio State. The Buckeyes still have some depth issues collectively at the second level, but a starting group with Shazier and sophomore Joshua Perry flanking either side of Grant is a fine foundation as the competition heats up with incoming freshmen Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson set to arrive this summer.
He said it: "Curtis looks totally different than he used to. Last year he felt like he had a spot locked down, and I don’t feel he got complacent, but he thought it was his. He worked as hard, but I just think he had a mentality that it was his job and he lost focus. Now, this year, I can tell he’s more into it. Nothing is on his mind but football, and he’s going to take us in the right direction." -- Shazier
Closing number: After wrapping up his disappointing sophomore campaign with just eight tackles, Grant put a much nicer bow on his productive spring camp by chipping in on 10 hits for the Gray team -- including six solo efforts. Grant also added a sack to help solidify himself as a potential regular on defense heading into the offseason.
5dDan Murphy and Austin Ward