- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ohio State hardly needs motivation thanks to the chip on its shoulder already firmly in place after sitting out the postseason with a perfect record. But just in case any players required any extra fuel heading into workouts or wanted a little help putting together some goals, BuckeyeNation is here to lend a hand with some records that could be in reach with another productive offseason.
SOLO TACKLES IN A GAME
Who owns it: The combination of a one-man wrecking crew and an abundance of chances to deliver hits has popped up a few times in Ohio State's decorated history, though Tom Cousineau's busy afternoon against SMU in 1978 still stands alone in the record books. The relentless, athletic linebacker chased down 28 overall tackles that day, but it was his 16 solo takedowns that established a new standard for the Buckeyes that have followed behind him.
Who wants it: A season like Cousineau delivered in 1978 with more than 200 tackles might be out of reach, but on a single-game basis, Ryan Shazier might be more than capable of threatening a record that hasn't had anybody come within two tackles of tying it in nearly 20 years. But the rising junior has made it well known that there's no ballcarrier he won't or can't run down with his blend of elite speed and strength, and he broke into double-figures in solo tackles twice as a sophomore. His personal best is 11, set this season against Illinois, but there will plenty of opportunites to top that next season.
Relevant number: Only one player in the Big Ten worked better alone on defense than Shazier last season, with his 70 solo tackles ranking No. 2 in the conference. The Buckeyes were obviously relying on Shazier to pick up the slack for a thin position group and stay on the field as much as possible, and he emerged as both durable and reliable at the second level -- finishing with at least 10 total tackles in half of the games during the perfect campaign.
Offseason checklist: Even while Shazier was racking up conference player of the week honors, the Buckeyes were still harping on the finer points of his game that still had room to improve. Shazier was quick to point them out as well, on one occasion suggesting his eye-popping statistics had masked the fact that he hadn't played that well fundamentally or technically. His athleticism allows him to get away with some mistakes, and it might have also allowed him to take a few chances on occasion with seniors Zach Boren and Etienne Sabino beside him. But Shazier is going to be the leader of a young group of linebackers next fall, he'll need an even better feel for his responsibilities and an improved ability to diagnose what an offense -- which will allow for even more opportunities to do what he does best.
Attainable goal: The situation has to be exactly right, but it only has to fall into place once to set a single-game record. A team that is intent on trying to rush the football, for example, could provide a chance for Shazier to pile up tackles. An offense that throws a lot of short passes or quick screens to the perimeter might also open up a bunch of opportunities for Shazier to make plays in space. Either way, the outside linebacker figures to be ready next season, and the record books could be ready for an update.