- Austin Ward, College Football
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- His role was already diminishing coming out of spring practice, and then seemingly it disappeared entirely.
Not even a part of the team when training camp opened after an offseason incident, now Storm Klein is once again a starter and is suddenly going to see his opportunity to contribute expand even further.
A rough patch that started when the Ohio State senior lost his job at middle linebacker in April gave way to an even more uncertain future when Klein was arrested and immediately dismissed from the program in July following a charge of domestic violence. Even after pleading guilty to a lesser offense of misdemeanor disorderly conduct and getting reinstated by the Buckeyes, the road still looked long for Klein after missing camp and facing a two-game suspension to open the season. Yet heading to Indiana on Saturday, he could perhaps be one of the most important defenders on the field.
"I mean, I'm just glad [those three months] are over," Klein said. "I'm moving on with it, and it's just good to be back out here and getting in the swing of things.
"When I came back in, I just knew that I was behind a little bit. I was going to come in and work my butt off, and things happened for me and I got the spot back -- but I expected to do it."
That expectation seemingly wasn't shared by many at Ohio State, which moved on without him during the preseason with Curtis Grant filling the starting role in the middle and the program focusing on a crop of talented freshmen to develop and provide depth.
But Grant struggled to make an impact and has made just eight tackles this season. The young Buckeyes haven't adjusted as easily to the speed of the game as the coaching staff would like, and snaps have been hard to come by even with few veterans ahead of them on the depth chart.
And now that senior Etienne Sabino has been lost for at least three weeks with a fractured bone in his leg, Klein is in position to take on even more responsibility as the second linebacker in the nickel package, which could leave him on the field all evening against the pass-first version of the spread that the Hoosiers run.
Considering that Klein was working out on his own at this time two months ago with no assurance he would ever be allowed to put on the pads again, that amount of work for an undefeated team might have been close to unthinkable, even with all the attrition the Buckeyes have suffered at the position in the last few years.
"He's not [playing] well enough, but he's getting better," coach Urban Meyer said. "Linebackers, I went back and did the homework on recruiting, out of the 10 guys [signed from 2009-11], only two are really playing. We've got to get some guys going. Either they've got to get going or we've got to get some guys in here.
"That position is not Ohio State standard, not depth-wise."
The number of bodies wasn't where Meyer wanted even before Sabino's breakout season was interrupted last week, and the margin for error is obviously much slimmer at this point.
But it had already received an unexpected boost from somebody with plenty of previous experience with the Buckeyes, and they need it badly at this point.
"Especially with Sabino going down, that's a big loss," Klein said. "Anything I can do to help the team, that's always been my mindset. As long as we're getting wins, I'll do whatever.
"We just have to keep going, we have what we have and we've just got to keep working as hard as we can to pick up the slack."
The Buckeyes had to do that without Klein for a while. Now he's back in a role with a lot of weight on his shoulders.
Storm Klein has come back from an offseason arrest and dismissal from the team to be a key contributor on the defense.