Ohio State players usually wear warm-up suits or ragged jeans when they’re going about their daily functions, but sophomore linebacker Josh Perry is more comfortable in business attire.
He always wears dress clothes when out in public, though he sometimes draws puzzled looks from teammates.
“I think if you look good, you feel good,” he said. “I’ll come to a workout, and it’ll be 5-something in the morning, and I’ll be dressed up. Guys will be like, ‘Why are you dressed up? It’s early in the morning!’
“But I don’t think it takes much to throw on a shirt with a collar, some khakis and dress shoes. I have more dress shoes than I have tennis shoes. It’s what I do.
“My dad dresses with a little swagger also. I picked that up from him. It’s kind of my M.O.”
The OSU coaches aren’t as concerned with Perry’s fashion sense as they are with how he looks on the field. And lately, they’ve been happy with his modus operandi there, too.
He recommitted himself a few weeks ago, and he’s become a consistent performer in a position group that’s been causing coach Urban Meyer some angst this year.
The transformation began the week of the Wisconsin game when the Buckeyes knew their front seven would be challenged by the Badgers’ dynamic rushing attack.
“I started taking things a little more seriously on and off the field,” Perry said. “I was in the film room more, making sure I knew what I was doing.”
Asked what spurred him on, Perry said: “A lot of people say I’ve got some tools, and it would be a shame if I wasted them. That got in my head, that I should be playing the way I know I can.”
Wisconsin was held to 104 rushing yards in the Buckeyes’ 31-24 win. In their other eight games, the Badgers have averaged 315.6 yards on the ground.
The 6-4, 244-pound Perry, who is a strongside linebacker in the Buckeyes’ base defense and a middle linebacker in nickel packages, chipped in with seven tackles.
“Starting the season, he was nowhere near what we expect from an Ohio State linebacker. But his last few weeks of practice and certainly in the games, he’s played very well,” Meyer said.
“I always talk about momentum in players’ lives outside of football and in football, and he’s working under incredible momentum right now. He’s just a leader. … I like the way he’s practicing. I love his energy. I love the way he comes to work every day.”
Meyer, though, has not hidden his concern about the linebacker position overall, identifying it as perhaps the team’s only real weakness.
Junior outside linebacker Ryan Shazier is an All-Big Ten player, and junior middle linebacker Curtis Grant is finally coming close to playing at a level befitting a one-time five-star recruit in his first year as a starter. But the Buckeyes can’t afford injuries because of the talent void after the first-stringers.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be as far as the expectation level of the linebacker play here,” Meyer said. “Arguably, in the last decade, the linebacker play has been as good at Ohio State as anywhere in the country, and we need to get back to that.”
Playing in pain: Junior defensive tackle Michael Bennett has battled a hyper-extended left elbow and a shoulder stinger, which has knocked him temporarily out of games.
But the Centerville product is trying not to let those setbacks slow him.
“It hurts bad enough to come off the field. But pain is temporary. It’s one of the cheesiest lines, but it’s the truth. You’ve got to relax and get your head about you and go back out,” he said.
Bennett is third on the team in tackles for loss with 5.5 and tied for third in sacks with 3.0.
“I think I’m doing all right. I can always do better,” he said. “I hold myself to pretty high standards. I feel like I shouldn’t be blocked. I want to be All-Big Ten and an All-American. When I think about guys like that, I don’t think they get blocked. So, I look at what I’m doing wrong and try to fix it.”
Meyer said: “He got dinged up with those stingers and had a three- or four-game segment where he wasn’t as productive. At the beginning of the season, I thought he was without question an All-Big Ten player, but then his production dropped off.
“But he’s back to playing at a pretty high level. I just want to see him finish this the right way and get some All-Big Ten (consideration).”
Ohio State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) at Illinois (3-6, 0-5), noon, ESPN, 1410