Oct. 4, 2013
By Alex Marcheschi
OhioBobcats.com - Staff Writer
Injuries are unfortunate for a football team and they seem to be inevitable. However, there's always two ways to look at things and in Keith Moore's case, he's looking at the glass half full.
Moore injured his left leg early on in the Louisville game and has missed every game since. This Saturday at Akron will be his first action since the opener. And even though he's had to sit out, he realizes that it may have actually been good for the team.
"I think (the linebacking corps) learned a lot and gained valuable experience when I was out," Moore said. "Now we have more of a rotation and people feel more comfortable."
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Ben Russell is one of those players who gained experience and he more than seized the opportunity.
He was forced to anchor the linebackers and be a leader on defense in Moore's absence. Russell currently leads the team with an impressive 28 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks.
"(Russell) had a tremendous start to the season, we needed someone, with Keith not being there because of health reasons, to step up and really fill that void," said Ohio head coach Frank Solich. "I think all along we felt that Ben was capable of doing that."
He's been all over the field for the Bobcats, making goal line stops and recording deep sacks against elusive quarterbacks like Marshall's Rakeem Cato. The leader position is something that he's used to, but he has his own style of executing it.
"Growing up I was never an outspoken person," Russell said. "I usually try to lead by example."
Ohio linebackers coach Ron Collins recognizes that and appreciates how the linebacker has been performing in his system.
"Ben started playing quite a bit last year and coming into this season, he really developed into a guy that is very steady," he said. "He's not a vocal leader, but guys look at him as a person that's doing everything right and working hard."
Russell got his feet wet on defense last year, but was sidelined with nagging shoulder injuries. This year he's been able to stay healthy and is playing just as the coaches envisioned when they recruited him.
"Ben was a very highly recruited kid out of high school, we identified him as a player from the minute he walked onto campus," said Collins. "He's been developing at a rate that we thought he would."
Since Russell and company held the fort down, Moore was able to nurse back to full health and now he's eager to get out and perform. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Jovon Johnson was no slouch in his absence either, tallying 21 tackles of his own was named Mid-American Conference East Division Player of the Week. The unit stepped up when they needed to and now it seems as though they will only improve.
"I'm very proud of them, I knew they could do it," Moore said. "I'm interested to see how Coach Collins makes the rotation this week, because I don't expect to play the whole game, and they proved themselves."
As for that question, Collins has an answer.
"Everyday it's a competition in the linebacker crew, we don't give anything out, those guys have to earn their spots and they have to step up and compete every day," said Collins. "The guys that are playing the best will start, but all the guys will contribute something."
And that's exactly what the Bobcat backers did when Ohio really needed him to, they contributed. The depth is solidified at linebacker and they're ready to take on Akron.
Alex Marcheschi will serve as the OhioBobcats.com staff writer during the 2013-14 season. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @BobcatFeatures.