Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hines follows 'star' path first blazed by Whitner

September 25, 2008

Doug Lesmerises

Columbus- The screen pass that banged off Ohio State defensive back Jermale Hines after he jumped a route near the goal line Saturday - that was no coincidence.

Sure, he wished he would have grabbed the interception for a touchdown.

"I knew I had the pick," the sophomore said. "I dropped it. I faked outside and went inside and the ball was right there."

He'll have other chances, because he always seems to find himself around the ball. In his first year at a new position since moving from linebacker, Hines has blown away his coaches with rare football instincts while establishing himself as the ideal antidote to the spread offense.

"I'm not sure I've seen a guy who can go line up and play a position and probably didn't get coached," coach Jim Tressel said. "He's just got natural instincts and an understanding of the game of football."

Safeties coach Paul Haynes sees linebacker size and safety speed in the 6-2, nearly 220-pound Hines - a combination that makes recruiters drool. That's why the Glenville graduate has seized the "star" position for the Buckeyes, the role as the fifth defensive back who takes the field on passing downs. As Tressel exhorts a veteran team to play faster, Hines has stood out as a example of ferocious, yet intelligent, intensity.

"His football instincts are incredible," Haynes said. "You sit there and you're like, 'That's exactly what I wanted him to do.' He does it without you telling him."

Ted Ginn Sr. saw it at Glenville, where the head coach used Hines all over the field, including at quarterback and linebacker his senior season. Ginn is certain Hines could excel at nearly any position in college as well.

"He's a football player. Some things you can't teach," Ginn said. "Jermale Hines is a freak. You don't find 6-2, 200-pound guys that can run and have the technique and the instincts like that. He'll be one of the great ones to come through Ohio State."

It was Haynes who dropped the name of the greatest safety in recent OSU history - former Glenville star and current Buffalo Bill Donte Whitner. Hines is bigger, Whitner was faster, but both found their way to the ball. Haynes was reminded of the past by the way Hines disrupted Troy's passing game Saturday, when he tied for second on the team with seven tackles.

"Maybe since Donte Whitner that's something we've missed on those screens," Haynes said. "After a while, you could see that receiver kind of started turning those down, because Jermale was coming after him."

Haynes made it clear Hines has a long way to go to reach the level of Whitner, a film rat who knew the game like a coach. But you can see that initial spark that resides in playmakers.

"It's just something you're born with, your mentality. Some people have it, some people don't," Hines said. "That's something I look forward to, going out there and trying to take people's heads off."

That's what the Buckeyes need from their star, which is the position Whitner played in the nickel defense in 2005 before he became a first-round pick of the Bills. The player needs to be physical enough to stop the run, but quick enough to play man-to-man against a receiver. Haynes said one of Hines' greatest advantages is few receivers can block him when he rushes up to make a play.

On an OSU defense predicated on everyone doing their job, the star position provides a rare level of freedom that must be taken advantage of. Hines loves that aspect of it. And he knows what to do with it.

"He'll do exactly what you tell him to do, but he'll do that extra you don't tell him," Haynes said. "He may not be right every time, but he's going to make more plays than he screws up. The sky is the limit for him."

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