- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Counting down the five most impressive statistical performances so far this season for Ohio State as it heads into a bye week before trying to close out a perfect season against Wisconsin and Michigan.
No. 2: Ryan Shazier
When: Sept. 15 against California
What: There certainly wasn't anything missing from the first two games of his sophomore season, but it was the third that offered the most clear example of what Shazier was capable of -- or, at least provide a reminder of his playmaking barrage at the end of his freshman season. The Buckeyes were far from perfect defensively in the win over Cal, but Shazier's 13 tackles, 2 takedowns for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble helped the Buckeyes do enough to survive and foreshadowed what was still to come.
Impact: The big plays Ohio State gave up perhaps added more drama than was necessary and made the final score closer than it needed to be, but the defense also chipped in a couple significant plays along the way. Shazier, in particular, stuffed a Cal drive just before halftime that could have tightened up a two-score game by shooting into the backfield for a third-down sack that forced a punt, preserving Ohio State's advantage.
How: There might still be room for improvement on the mental side, but physically Shazier has been more than capable of making up for it with an incredible blend of strength and speed to complement a relentless motor that allows him to make plays anywhere between the sidelines. At times he's also had to shoulder more of the load than expected with senior Etienne Sabino out with a broken bone in his leg, middle linebacker Storm Klein dealing with a back injury and a lack of depth that prompted Ohio State to convert fullback Zach Boren over to linebacker. But Shazier has done everything that's been asked of him, and has a stuffed stats sheet to show for it.
For the season: 98 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, 11 passes defended, 4 sacks, 3 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles and a touchdown
He said it: “He's an athlete and he's very blessed, he runs around and makes tackles, but he's also out of position at times. ... There's still so much more there. He can even be better." -- Urban Meyer
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