Prospects

Prospects
Photo of James Laurinaitis
James Laurinaitis (ILB)
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 244
College: Ohio St.
Conference: Big Ten
Hometown: Hamel, MN
High School: Wayzata
Featured Prospects
Selected by: St. Louis Rams
Round: 2
Pick (Overall): 3 (35)
Discuss
Pick Analysis: The Rams add the highly productive Laurinaitis to their defense. With outstanding instincts and awareness, Laurinaitis could play immediately as a potential first-year starter.
  1. Overview
  2. Analysis
Overview

One of the most highly dedicated athletes in school history, Laurinaitis carried on the tradition of standout performers to compete at linebacker for the university, joining perennial All-Americans Chris Spielman, Tom Cousineau, Pepper Johnson, Steve Tovar and A.J. Hawk as some of the best ever produced at OSU.


In addition to garnering All-American and All-Big Ten Conference honors since his sophomore campaign, Laurinaitis has been a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Lott Trophy and Bednarik Award. He was the 2006 Bronko Nagurski Award winner as the nation's best defensive player, the same year he won the Randy Gradishar Linebacker Award. As a junior, he added the coveted Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker) to his trophy case.


In 2008, Laurinaitis was named the inaugural winner of the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for NCAA. The award, chosen by a nationwide vote of coaches, media and fans, is presented annually to the most outstanding NCAA Division I senior student-athlete in nine sports. The announcement and trophy presentation to Laurinaitis were made today during the pre-game show of the Fiesta Bowl national telecast on FOX.


Laurinaitis, who has received many awards including the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, said the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award is special because of what it represents. "What a tremendous honor this is to be recognized with such a prestigious award," Laurinaitis said. "The Lowe's Senior CLASS Award is already well known in basketball, and to be the first-ever winner for football is something very special. I appreciate the compliment it pays to me and to Ohio State to be recognized for character, academics and community service. I am very proud to be the winner."


The son of world renowned wrestler, Joe Laurinaitis (pronounced Larr-en-EYE-tiss), who competed as the "Animal" in the 1980s and 1990s as part of the tag team called the Road Warriors (Legion of Doom), James also has excelled in the classroom. One of the more instinctive players on the field, he also captured Academic All-Big Ten Conference honors during his junior season.


At Plymouth Wayzata High School, Laurinaitis was named Minnesota's "Defensive Mr. Football" as a senior, going on to record 193 tackles, five sacks and 28 stops behind the line of scrimmage. That year, he led the team to the Minnesota Class 5A state championship game.


During his junior campaign, Laurinaitis was credited with 160 tackles, earning All-State and All-Conference accolades. In addition to his exploits on the football field, he also excelled in hockey, serving as that team's captain during his senior year. He led the hockey squad to the state tournament in 2004 and was considered to be a possible second- or third-round pick if he had decided to enter the NHL draft after high school.


When Laurinaitis accepted a scholarship to Ohio State in 2005, he became the first player from the state of Minnesota to join the Buckeyes' football team since the famed Sid Gillman in 1930. The true freshman played mostly on special teams and as a reserve outside linebacker that season. He would close out his first year on the varsity by delivering nine tackles (3 solos) and assisting on one stop behind the line of scrimmage.


Laurinaitis shifted to middle linebacker in 2006, earning All-American and All-Big Ten Conference first-team accolades. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and Bednarik Award, in addition to winning the Bronko Nagurski Award, given to the nation's best defensive player. He ranked fourth in the conference and led the team with 115 tackles (53 solos), including four sacks and 8.5 stops for losses. He also paced the Buckeyes with five interceptions and deflected two other throws while causing three fumbles.


As a junior, Laurinaitis was again selected All-American and All-Big Ten Conference first-team. He was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year and won the Butkus Award, as he tallied a team-high 121 tackles (51 solos). He posted 8.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, including five sacks and also picked off two passes.


Laurinaitis was voted team captain for the second consecutive season by his teammates in 2008 and is only the seventh Buckeye to be elected twice. He earned All-American and


All-Big Ten Conference first-team honors, and for the second consecutive year was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year.


He led the team, ranked second in the Big Ten and 14th in the nation with an average of 10.0 tackles per game. He posted a career-high 130 hits (52 solos) with four sacks and seven stops behind the line of scrimmage. He also picked off a pair of passes and deflected four others while leading the Buckeyes to four BCS bowl games during his career at the university.


High School

Attended Plymouth Wayzata (Minn.) High School...Named Minnesota's "Defensive Mr. Football" as a senior, going on to record 193 tackles, five sacks and 28 stops behind the line of scrimmage...That year, he led the team to the Minnesota Class 5A state championship game...During his junior campaign, Laurinaitis was credited with 160 tackles, earning All-State and All-Conference accolades...In addition to his exploits on the football field, he also excelled in hockey, serving as that team's captain during his senior year...Led the hockey squad to the state tournament in 2004 and was considered to be a possible second- or third-round pick in the NHL draft, if he had decided to enter the draft after high school.


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Analysis

Positives: Prototype size and athleticism for the inside linebacker position. Reads the action quickly and gets in position to make the play. Instinctive and rarely out of position. Uses his hands well to meet, greet and discard blockers. Best attribute might be his open-field tackling. Form tackler who can generate explosiveness with his hits. Rare instincts and underrated athleticism for coverage. Gets good depth on his drops and has good straight-line speed and lateral agility. Baits the quarterback and can break on the ball. Soft hands for the interception.


Negatives: Needs to continue to add strength, especially in his upper body. Relies on his athleticism and good technique to defeat blocks and can struggle to disengage. Consistent and reliable, but rarely made the game-changing play over his career. Experienced and productive blitzer, but doesn't show a variety of pass rush moves, relying more on athleticism, hustle and instincts.


Compares To: NICK BARNETT, Green Bay -- Like Barnett, Laurinaitis gets most of his production by making plays on the move. He has very good range and change of direction agility, but for a middle linebacker, you would look for someone that is more of a smash mouth type. But, the OSU defender lacks the brute strength and bulk, resulting in his getting bounced around when attacking inside. He would be a much better fit as a weak-side linebacker (compares to Green Bay's A.J. Hawk there), as he has the foot speed and pursuit skills to be a big impact vs. the outside running game. He will be an effective player in the middle, but could be much more productive if allowed to roam the field from the outside, as he is better on the chase than one who can initiate the tackle (only 159 of 375 career tackles are solo efforts).


Injury Report

2007: Sat out the second half of the Kent State game (10/13) after Laurinaitis suffered a hip pointer when he got kicked in the right hip.


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