August 4, 2009

Coleman to lead by example

CHICAGO - Last season the Ohio State football team's defense had the luxury of players such James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins, Marcus Freeman, and Nader Abdallah.

Now, the Buckeyes have none of them.

Hoping to make the transition smoother this season as the Buckeye defense turns over a new leaf and moves forward in an entirely different direction is senior strong safety Kurt Coleman.

Now all Coleman has to do is decide what's tougher: replacing all of the aforementioned defensive stars or taking the leadership responsibilities solely onto his shoulders?

One thing is for sure, though, and that's Coleman will take lessons learned both on the field and off to try and help the Buckeyes get back on the national map and contend for a national title this season.

"I have taken a lot of wisdom and a lot of things from Malcolm, James and even when (Troy Smith) was there," Coleman said. "I watched them a lot and I saw how they kind of carried the team and how they carried themselves around the team. I have tried to use some of those things they have given me around the team this year and I think it is starting to pay off."

While there are no guarantees in terms of who will eventually be named captains of the Ohio State squad, if there is a sure thing on this year's roster, it is Coleman.

Ever since Coleman has been on campus he has had the privilege of playing with some of those leaders - now in the NFL - so moving on the field could be just as hard on the senior safety as taking new leadership roles.

When it comes to making plays on the field, Coleman's resume certainly wasn't short of examples in 2008, and that was made clear in his second team All-Big-Ten selection at the end of last season.

Coleman amassed 78 tackles on the campaign (not so much a good thing given he is the safety), but also added in four interceptions. Now, not only does he have to carry the team on his back this season, he has to put up on the field without the aid of players like Laurinaitis, Jenkins, Freeman, and Abdallah.

Believe it or not, Coleman isn't too worried about it, which could be the best of all of his many leadership qualities. Instead of worrying about what the team will do without some of the departing playmakers, Coleman has given the trust to his newer teammates and expects the same out of the ones replacing them.

"It is going different getting ready for the games," Coleman said. "But the thing about Ohio State, we have a lot of players that can come in and make a difference."

Entering his last season at Ohio State, Coleman realizes that things could be over in Columbus with the snap of his fingers, which is why he has put a new emphasis on detail and doing everything right the first time.

When he was a freshman he had all the time in the world. Now he has nothing more than five months.

"I've definitely learned that everything you do you have to do to the fullest," Coleman said. "There (are) a lot of minor things that you may overlook when you are young. I have taken a little finer detail, especially critiquing myself and watching other teams. I think it has helped me out tremendously."

While setting the bar off and on the field is a responsibility Coleman won't take likely this season, he has done plenty of film sessions critiquing himself with things he can get better at.

It may be hard to remember plays in which Coleman got beat - there weren't too many - but on film, the safety has seen quite a bit. This season he hopes to break through some of his negative tendencies.

"I watched a lot of myself and when I am in man coverage there are times where I kind of what we call lunge or overstep basically, so I get thrown off-balance and (the receiver) gets a step on me," Coleman. "This whole summer and spring I have really worked at being under control at all times and it is starting to pay off."

When it comes to leadership, there are plenty of different things that Coleman could try to live up to. After all, all the former leaders had their own specific styles. Instead, Coleman is just going to do what he does best.

"I am just going to be myself," Coleman said. "I have always been a vocal guy."

This season he won't have to say anything because the team will already be looking his way for example.

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