Leverage: a noun meaning the mechanical advantage gained by using a lever.
Transition: a noun describing the passage from one place to another.
Doug Worthington: a sophomore defender who has used his leverage to deal with a transition from defensive end to defensive tackle.
As the Buckeyes have replaced one of the nation’s top defensive tackle tandems in Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson, they began by moving Worthington inside from his natural end position. While he has adjusted well through the first two games of the 2007 season, the move made at least one member of the team’s offensive line question the decision-making.
“When he moved inside, (I thought), ‘What is he doing?’ ” sophomore center Jim Cordle said. “I’m in one-on-one pass pro and he’s got his arms out here and I’m reaching for him but I’m way back here and I can’t get him. That’s a challenge that he brings inside; he’s got longer arms than anybody he’s going to play against.”
At 6-7, 271 pounds, Worthington is the tallest member of the OSU two-deep along the defensive line. Although he played some defensive tackle in high school, he was a five-star defensive end prospect as ranked by Scout.com.
After signing with the Buckeyes as a member of their class of 2005, Worthington redshirted during his freshman season. Last year, as the Buckeyes boasted four seniors with significant playing time along the defensive front, the native of Athol Springs, N.Y., saw limited action in seven games. In all, he recorded three tackles in 27 minutes of playing time.
This year, he is being counted on to provide a force from the interior of the line despite being described by defensive coordinator Jim Heacock as “a young pup.” To do so, he will have to rely on something that does not come easily for someone with his frame.
“Being my size, I’ve been bigger than everyone that’s played since little-league football,” he said. “I always wanted to have a good knee bend and be low because of leverage in the game these days: if you go high, you’re going to go back. Playing as low as possible, using my limbs, my long arms and my legs at times to help myself.
“Being in the trenches playing Big Ten football, you have to be low. I learned that being high sometimes when Steve Rehring or Ben Person or Jim Cordle, you can’t do that.”
That self-described leverage knowledge helped him with the transition to tackle from end, he said. It has been a transition that gradually came about over the course of his OSU career thus far.
The OSU coaching staff frequently has the team’s ends and tackles rotate to ensure that each players knows all the responsibilities along the line. To that end, Worthington said the experience he gained going against a few former Buckeye standouts has served him well.
“Since freshman year I was getting a lot of reps in pass rush and a lot of reps in the spring because at Ohio State you have to wait behind some of the best players in the country,” he said. “When the time came to go against a Nick Mangold in pass rush and get beat by him and going against a Rob Sims, I tried to do good and beat some of those players.”
Junior defensive end Lawrence Wilson said that Worthington presents a different set of abilities than Pitcock did.
“He always goes hard,” Wilson said of Worthington. “He’s extremely athletic and he has long arms so it throws the offensive linemen off a bit because of his arms and his athleticism. I think he’s different compared to a Quinn Pitcock who’s a big, power guy. Doug is a leaner, longer-armed kind of tackle.”
After Wilson suffered a broken leg in week one, the Buckeyes turned to two youngsters in sophomore Robert Rose and freshman Cameron Heyward. There was no discussion of moving Worthington back to end, he said.
At his size, and with a history for not being able to put on weight, Worthington said he now considers himself a defensive tackle in a defensive end’s body.
Now he just needs to play like it.