Update 2009-Jan-08: I have posted a follow-up to this infamous article here: Good Riddance to James Laurinaitis and the 2008 Ohio State Senior Class
This will come as complete blasphemy to the Buckeye faithful, but it is true: James Laurinaitis is the most overrated linebacker Ohio State has ever had.
I’m not saying this because I hate the guy, or because I think I’m better than him — I am not. I am saying this because the fingers have been pointed all over the place for our terrible loss to LSU, except for one of the most important spots: the heart of the defense. And if we are going to prevent humiliation in 2008, the problems need to be addressed.
For those of you still with me, I urge you to stop being spiral-eyed, brainwashed zombies for 15 minutes so that you can objectively look at the game film with me.
All season long, we have endured Laurinaitis’ endless hesitation, jumping on top of piles after the plays are already over, and shooting of the wrong gap, which are occasionally joined by an impact play. But everyone slobbered over his ‘tackle count’ and occasional interception. LSU and Illinois both knew this, and exposed us right where it counted: straight up the middle.
Enough talk, let’s get to the OSU vs. LSU game film (this is not easy to do, but we must do it):
- Defensive Play 1, 1st and 10, 13:34 Freeman already makes the play, JL jumps on the pile. Good play #1. A sign of things to come? For Freeman, no. For Laurinaitis, yes. So I’m guessing this was one of #33’s 18 tackles?
- Defensive Play 2, 2nd and 7, 13:05 Pass play in the flats dropped by LSU
- Freeze to video of Tedd Ginn Jr. wearing Chicago White Sox gear, some ridiculous t-shirt, and beads. Lame.
- Defensive Play 3, 3rd and 7, 12:53 Botched snap, JL second man on the scene. All Buckeyes are laughing at this point.
- Defensive Play 4, 1st and 10, 9:12 Grant makes the first of his many good plays. JL in pursuit, gets a bit stuck in traffic, then jumps on the pile.
- Defensive Play 5, 2nd and 9, 8:35 You can’t see him here, but I assure you that #33 is behind #79 and 71 (Carnell Stewart, who he’ll be seeing plenty of). A double-team that nobody in college football is going to beat. Another Larry Grant play.
- Defensive Play 6, 3rd and 7, 7:50 Pass away from JL, blown coverage by Freeman, first down LSU.
- Defensive Play 7, 1st and 10, 7:25 LSU dumps off to the right to #45 Johnson, Larry Grant on the coverage/tackle. JL was the third guy there. So far not looking that bad…
- Defensive Play 8, 2nd and 7, 7:15 Hester run, pretty tough stop made by Laurinaitis. Get your hat in front of him and you might be able to stop that extra yardage, but that’s no easy feat on Hester. A good play, could have been great.
- Defensive Play 8, 3rd and 3, 6:45 JL absolutely manhandled by 71. But it looks like he might be able to shake free and make the play! Guess not. Denlinger blew it on this one too.
- Defensive Play 9, 1st and 10, 6:11 Russell absolutely burned. Laurinaitis can only watch from the middle.
- Defensive Play 10, 1st and 10, 5:59 Run left, Laurinaitis makes the angle-grabbing tackle on Doucet. Not a bad play, but Katzenmoyer and company would have put him 6 feet under.
- Defensive Play 11, 2nd and 6, 5:25 Play already made by Freeman, JL has a chance to finish him off and drive him backwards, but instead sets him down nice and easy. What a gentleman!
- Defensive Play 12, 3rd and 1, 4:41 JL in position to make a huge play, look where he’s got his helmet on Hester! Unfortunately, he is overpowered due to the futility of his sideways-tackle (he is literally perpendicular to the ballcarrier). Yeah, those usually don’t work on a guy like Hester. First down Tigers.
- Defensive Play 13, 1st and 10, 4:09 Flynn runs, Grant with another solid play. Hey, look who’s jumping on the pile! Go get em Animal, just like in the WWF!
- Defensive Play 14, 2nd and 10, 3:20 JL blitzes outside, goes nowhere. Blown play on Flynn, entire defensive front in there.
- Defensive Play 15, 3rd and 13, 2:31 Pressure Gholston and Heyward, Flynn throws it away. Field goal LSU, 10-3 Buckeyes.
- Defensive Play 16, 1st and 10, 0:07 Whoops! Can you guess who catches this one? Probably the guy that’s wide open in the middle of our baby-soft zone. End of first quarter
- Defensive Play 17, 2nd and 4, 15:00 Now this is a good one! JL and Freeman both make their blockers miss, who then in turn block each other! Tackle made by #1 mostly, but #33 is definitely there.
- Defensive Play 18, 3rd and 1, 14:23 Heacock blitzes Laurinaitis, which opens a big hole. Stupid play call! Hester vs. Anderson Russell = bloodbath. First down LSU.
- Defensive Play 19, 1st and 10, 14:05 Option left, how did Grant not get Perrilloux? Laurinaitis blocked at both levels and looked slow on this one. Bullshit Late hit, but the first of many stupid OSU penalties.
- Defensive Play 20, 1st and 10, 13:55 Dump left, Laurinaitis drops back, gets blocked, and dives 7(!) yards from the tackle in an obvious attempt to jump on the pile. Great play Heyward. I’m starting to wonder where these 18 tackles came from, so I’m guessing they gave #33 one here too.
- Defensive Play 21, 2nd and 11, 13:16 If you listen close enough, you can hear Laurinaitis and Freeman yell “Oh, shit!” simultaneously here. Freeman blows a big one. But wait, there’s more! Facemask on #33! Great job guys! And we’re excited to have both of them back for 2008?
- Defensive Play 22, 1st and 10, 13:05 Yep. All-American. If you can’t tell by this picture, let me put it to you this way: There’s nobody in between the tight end and the endzone.
- (Missed Robiskie TD pass [hey, he’s from Cleveland, what’d you expect?], blocked field goal [what happened to Tressel’s special teams over the past few years?])
- Defensive Play 23, 1st and 10, 10:42 Option right. Announcer: “Gholston doesn’t take the bait but will have no help behind him” By “no help”, he means #33 and everyone else are getting punished by #71 again.
- Defensive Play 24, 2nd and 1, 10:29 Pass incomplete down the sideline, Larry Grant puts a hit on Flynn. Man is he a beast.
- Defensive Play 25, 3rd and 1, 10:23 Hester is in… so let’s blitz Freeman on the strong side and send JL over to the left, leaving the middle wide open. HEACOCK STOP BLITZING YOU FOOL!
- Defensive Play 26, 1st and 10, 10:03 I’m running out of synonyms for “manhandled”. Stewart (71) is having his way with JL. Grant on the stop.
- Defensive Play 27, 2nd and 10, 9:20 Dear God. Heacock blitzes JL to the left, who realizes his coach’s folly and makes his way back to the runner all in time to whiff on the the tackle! Gain of 9 on this one. Looks unlikely from the picture, doesn’t it?
- Defensive Play 28, 3rd and 1, 8:45 Flynn keeps it, defensive line gets owned, it doesn’t matter who your LB is here. #33 somehow becomes the last person on the pile, but the last person to get up, swimming his way towards Flynn and further padding his stats.
- Defensive Play 29, 1st and 10, 8:24 Pass batted down by Grant. JL in coverage.
- Defensive Play 30, 2nd and 10, 8:13 Flynn on another keeper, and look at this — JL has a chance to put him on his back right here! But what happens? Another terrible form tackle around the ankles, giving Flynn 3 more yards. This is Flynn, not Hester.
- Defensive Play 31, 3rd and 5, 7:40 Laurainitis blitz, gets to Flynn but a second too late. Touchdown LSU. This is getting painful. LSU 17, OSU 10.
- Defensive Play 31, 1st and 10, 6:15 (Boeckman interception) Another worthless MLB/WLB combo blitz. Barrow drops into coverage, can’t keep up, 8 yard pass. Way to go Heacock. Please resign.
- Defensive Play 32, 2nd and 2, 5:45 Grant and Laurinaitis blitz AGAIN. Nobody is in the middle (I mean nobody!) Heacock, you are now officially retarded. You think this blitzing isn’t working?
- Defensive Play 33, 1st and goal, 5:29 WOW. Now THAT’S how OSU linebackers play. Hester gets pasted by JL here. Wow!
- Defensive Play 34, 2nd and goal, 4:56 Hester stuffed again by Larimore and Laurainitis. Finally some good plays!
- Defensive Play 35, 3rd and goal, 4:30 #33 hesitates way too long and makes the stop one step too short. I don’t understand how you can go from play 33 to this garbage on the goal line. He simply dances while Hester gains the momentum of a freight train. Touchdown LSU. Two good plays and one awful play = you lose. I know the punt is an important play, Jim, but what about 3rd downs?
- Defensive Play 36, 1st and 10, 15:00 1. JL gets blown up
- Defensive Play 37, 1st and 10, 14:40 At this point, LSU has figured things out and are simply attacking Laurinaitis. A wonderful one-handled catch, which #33 should have been able to knock away if he was within 2 steps of the receiver. Good coverage is not good enough.
- Defensive Play 38, 2nd and 5, 13:59 Option. JL covers his assignment (the pitch), but Perrilloux keeps. Unfortunately, #33 also dances for 2 seconds while Perrilloux has already crossed the line of scrimmage. This guy has no killer instinct.
- Defensive Play 39, 3rd and 1, 13:23 James and Heacock are both having a terrible game. A Hester run up the middle and he is nowhere to be found. Not sure who made this gap assignment, but I like my middle linebackers to stay in the middle on 3rd and 1 and an obvious Hester play.
- Defensive Play 40, 1st and 10, 13:06 4 receivers set right, screen pass. JL gets blocked pretty hard by a receiver, throws him away like a rag doll, but the damage is done and the play is over — 7 yard gain.
- Defensive Play 41, 2nd and 3, 12:28 You need to watch this play on tape to see how lost Laurinaitis is. Totally bit a terrible play fake. He does almost get back into the play, but once again, he gets pushed back and it’s too late.
- Defensive Play 42, 3rd and 1, 12:12 I don’t think I need to tell you which player is upside down in this picture. First down LSU. Unbelievable.
- Defensive Play 43, 1st and 10, 11:42 Owned. The good news is that it wasn’t #71. The bad news is that he was busy pancaking Heyward.
- Defensive Play 44, 2nd and 8, 11:04 JL in coverage. Intentional grounding Flynn. Gholston will be missed.
- Defensive Play 45, 3rd and 23, 10:50 Big stop, roughing the punter on Spitler (ironically, Laurinaitis’s backup). Here we go again…
- Defensive Play 46, 1st and 10, 10:33 Run right, good stick by JL! Solid tackle… but what’s this? Heyward punches someone in the face? We are now in meltdown mode. This game is about over.
- Defensive Play 47, 1st and 10, 10:26 No comment.
- Defensive Play 48, 2nd and 1, 9:22 LSU throws away from JL, who is in coverage, and at this point, nobody else on OSU can tackle either.
- Defensive Play 49, 1st and goal, 9:13 This is the play where every defensive back misses the tackle on Doucet and LSU scores/wins the game.
- Defensive Play 50, 1st and 10, 5:46 Incomplete pass.
- Defensive Play 51, 2nd and 10, 5:43 JL can’t get off his block, but does manage to get himself pancaked.
- Defensive Play 52, 3rd and 4, 5:07 Laurinaitis beat on a slant again.
- Defensive Play 53, 1st and 10, 4:40 JL finally sheds Stewart and helps Grant make the tackle after Coleman misses! Nice play!
- Defensive Play 54, 2nd and 8, 3:52 Interception Jenkins!! Are we alive? (Offensive touchdown OSU)
- Defensive Play 55, 1st and 10, 1:31 Flynn gets hammered by Freeman and Jenkins.
- Defensive Play 56, 2nd and 10, 0:50 Doucet sweet, JL behind the rest of traffic.
- Defensive Play 57, 3rd and 6, 15:00 Flynn runs, JL drops back, another big OSU stop. Heacock finally figured out that the blitz wasn’t working, but it’s too little, too late.
- Defensive Play 58, 1st and 10, 10:37 Hester run up the middle for 3. JL stands straight up, looks timid and tired and is a non-factor in this play.
- Defensive Play 59, 2nd and 7, 10:00 JL gets off his block just in time to jump on the pile. I wonder how many tackles the book-keepers have at this point. 14? Because I have about 4.
- Defensive Play 60, 3rd and 4, 9:20 Blitz JL on another pass play, but Heyward bats it down! Big play!
- Defensive Play 61, 1st and 10, 5:43 (Boeckman interception) Doucet wimps out and gets chased out of bounds by JL. Good move stopping the clock #33
- Defensive Play 62, 2nd and 5, 5:37 Another ridiculous Flynn keeper, JL brings him down but he falls forward for 2.
- Defensive Play 63, 3rd and 3, 4:52 Short inside pass to Doucet, JL with a wrestling-style ankle-tackle, stopped short of the first. I’ll take it, but can you please form-tackle someone and stop giving up yards after the initial hit?
- Defensive Play 64, 4th and 1, 4:04 *sigh* #33 and every other number in scarlet get blown back. JL is nowhere near this play.
- Defensive Play 65, 1st and 10, 3:40 Run Hester… it’s garbage time.
- Defensive Play 66, 2nd and 6, 3:37 The Flynn keeper works! OSU has given up
- Defensive Play 67, 1st and 10, 3:08 Huge run on Murphy. JL is burned and misses, but then again, so does everyone else.
- Defensive Play 68, 1st and goal, 2:40 Wait! JL breaks through on a blitz and is about to DEMOLISH this guy!!!
- Defensive Play 69, 2nd and goal, 1:56 Another Freeman/Laurinaitis suckfest combo. It’s okay though, USC is all about media hype so they won’t even think about tearing into these two overrated guys like LSU did.
To summarize, I think that Laurinaitis is the most overrated linebacker Ohio State has ever had, and not just because of this miserable game. This has been going on all season long. He does not hold a candle to the hard-hitting, smart-playing guys of our past. He plays on his heels, thinks too much, and does not have that killer instinct.
While I think JL can come back and have a phenomenal 2008, he has things to work on, just like everyone else. My main point is that he, above all others, does NOT get a free pass for the atrocious performance displayed here, despite the “18” tackles he somehow logged.
This was a terrible 3 hours of my life and I’m glad it’s over.