Last year, Ohio State’s captains combined for 61 tackles, 48 starts, 8 sacks and 1 Heisman Trophy.
Needless to say, Kirk Barton, Dionte Johnson and James Laurinaitis have some big shoes to fill. In a press release issued this afternoon by the university, those three players will take over the official leadership reins for the 2007 Buckeyes.
“I am more appreciative than I can say about being voted captain,” Barton said in a press release. “We have worked hard and are ready for a great season, and it will be an honor bigger than I can say to serve as a team leader.”
On a team that boasts just 12 seniors including walk-ons, Barton appeared to be a lock to be named a captain since spurning the chance to head to the NFL last season and returning for his fifth and final season at OSU.
At the Big Ten Media Kickoff in Chicago at the beginning of the month, Barton was one of the three representatives for the Buckeyes in attendance. He was joined by juniors Vernon Gholston and Marcus Freeman.
After redshirting his first year on campus, Barton started seven games as a freshman and six more as a sophomore before a knee injury knocked him out for three games and out of the starting lineup for five.
As a junior, Barton started all 13 games and earned all-Big Ten honors in the process. In doing so, he emerged as a favorite interview among media members for his candor and sense of humor.
He is joined on the offensive side by Johnson, a fullback. As a junior, he played in all 13 games but primarily on special teams. During his freshman season, Johnson had four carries for 10 yards and caught two passes for five yards.
“This is a terrific honor and I am humbled to have been given this responsibility by my teammates,” he said. “This team can do great things in 2007.”
The team captains are voted upon by the players. While Laurinaitis is the lone defender named to the honor this season, he will be joined by a second defensive captain during each game as the result of close voting on the defense, according to the release.
“Being voted as team captain is a great honor,” said Laurinaitis, who brought home the 2006 Bronco Nagurski award as the nation’s top defensive player. “I will do everything I can to represent this team and this university the very best I can. We have a great opportunity starting next Saturday.”
Laurinaitis is also the lone junior among the three. OSU opens the 2007 season at home against Youngstown State Sept. 1.