Werner makes impact in first start for OSU

Bill Rabinowitz
brabinow@dispatch.com

Pete Werner was told early this summer that he had won a starting linebacker job.

“I was shocked,” the sophomore from Indianapolis said.

He wasn’t alone. Werner was a four-star prospect, so it’s not like he was under the radar. But he was still ranked 18th among Ohio State’s 21 recruits last year.

Werner opened eyes last year on special teams, which is the Buckeyes’ pathway to earning snaps. His progress continued in the offseason program and in spring practice. At 228 pounds, he is 16 pounds heavier than when he enrolled, and he has gotten faster despite adding the weight.

Werner acknowledged feeling nervous before Saturday’s opener. He said veterans such as Dante Booker and Tuf Borland helped calm him.

Werner made his mark late in the first half. He drilled Oregon State quarterback Conor Blount, jarring the ball free in the Beavers’ end zone, and Nick Bosa recovered for a touchdown.

“It’s always the best feeling when you’re not covered on a blitz,” Werner said.

He was credited with five tackles, including four solo.

“I thought Pete played well,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “Did he make mistakes? Sure, everybody did, including yours truly. But I thought Pete played at a high level of speed and plays the game with great passion. He's going to hit you. (There’s a) bright future for him. We're looking forward to seeing him get better and better.”

Meyer returns to practice

Coach Urban Meyer returned from suspension on Monday. Tuesday was his first practice.

“I gave him a high-five and a big hug and said, ‘Welcome back, coach,’ ” defensive end Jonathon Cooper said.

Other than that, it was pretty much business as usual, players said.

“It didn’t seem too different,” defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones said. “The (other) coaches kept up the same tempo as if he was there the past couple weeks.”

Meyer met with the team the day after OSU president Michael V. Drake and the university’s board of trustees suspended Meyer two weeks ago. Otherwise, he had been apart from his team since the end of July.

Cooper said he didn’t detect any difference in Meyer.

Cooper gets nod

Cooper often is overlooked at defensive end, which says more about the status of Bosa, a unanimous All-American, and the potential of Chase Young. But the Gahanna native also was a five-star recruit, and he got the start alongside Bosa against Oregon State.

“It meant a lot,” said Cooper, a junior. “I’m a guy from Columbus. I grew up here. Starting for Ohio State is a dream come true.

“I’m playing with the best D-linemen in the country. So for me to go out there (and start), it’s kind of humbling and makes me realize I’m just as good.”

Buckeyes ranked fourth

Ohio State is ranked fourth in both the coaches poll and The Associated Press media poll, both of which were released Tuesday.

The Buckeyes were third in the coaches preseason poll, but that one was done before Meyer was placed on administrative leave and then suspended. Ohio State was fifth in the AP preseason poll, which was released after the suspension. The Buckeyes overtook Wisconsin this week.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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