- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 6, 2008

NEW ORLEANS — Tomorrow’s BCS clash is refreshingly defined by defensive personalities.

College football’s national title game typically features a distinctively offense-driven set of story lines.

Let’s face it: Defense might win championships, but offense dominates when it comes to hype and popularity. Just look at the Heisman list.

But tomorrow’s matchup between No. 1 Ohio State (11-1) and No. 2 LSU (11-2) stands in stark contrast to that norm. This gem represents an upset of crash over flash as the most decorated, remarkable players on both teams play defense: LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis.

“You usually get wide receivers who score touchdowns, quarterbacks with their golden arms, running backs with a thousand moves,” Dorsey said. “It’s nice to see defensive guys get some publicity for a change. That’s so cool, man.”

Laurinaitis, the junior linebacker for the Buckeyes, is the son of famous wrestler Joe Laurinaitis, who is better known as “Animal” from the WWF tag team the Road Warriors.

“I was definitely the cool kid in elementary school because of my dad,” Laurinaitis said. “All the kids at school always wanted to spend the night with me and meet my dad.”

Since arriving at Ohio State, Laurinaitis has carved out quite a celebrity niche of his own, winning the Nagurski Award last season as the nation’s top defensive player and the Butkus Award this season as its top linebacker.

This season, the 6-foot-2, 244-pound middle linebacker led the Buckeyes with 103 tackles, including 8½ tackles for loss and five sacks as the anchor of the nation’s top-ranked defense.

Unlike Laurinaitis, Dorsey’s journey to the BCS spotlight has been anything but charmed. As a child, Dorsey was definitely not the cool kid.

Courtesy of a case of what he now calls “extreme bowlegged-ness,” the 3-year-old Dorsey was forced to wear heavy braces on both legs and was fitted with a pair of orthopedic shoes connected by a chain.

Literally shackled by his disability, Dorsey spent the better part of two years dangling his useless legs off the porch of his grandmother’s house in Gonzales, La., sullenly watching while the other kids ran, played and, worst of all, occasionally took a timeout to mock him.

“I was ashamed about it,” said Dorsey, who still refuses to look at the braces his grandmother kept. “It was a sad time, best I can remember. I couldn’t do nothing. But once I could, somebody was going to pay.”

And pay they have. Dorsey has been running since the day he ditched those braces, tormenting anyone who tried to stop him.

In four seasons in the SEC, Dorsey’s insatiable drive has yielded 174 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 12 sacks even though teams began double- and even triple-teaming the 6-2, 303-pound bulldozer early in his sophomore season.

Auburn’s solution to slowing Dorsey this season was an illegal chop block (Oct. 20) that severely strained ligaments in his right knee.

Dorsey tried to play through the pain, which eventually spread to his lower back. But for the second time in his life, he was virtually immobilized, watching much of the second half of LSU’s season from the sidelines.

“It was tough man,” Dorsey said. “I was in pain, and I’m watching plays that usually I can destroy. That was the biggest thing. My body was hurting, but the mental thing was just killing me.”

In spite of his limited snaps during the season’s stretch run, Dorsey still finished with 64 tackles, 11½ tackles for loss and six sacks and was recognized as the game’s best defensive player by sweeping the Nagurski Award and the Outland (top interior lineman), Lombardi (top lineman) and Lott (impact defensive player) trophies. He spent the last month collecting those awards and, most importantly, resting and rehabbing his knee.

“My body feels like it’s done a 360,” said Dorsey, who estimates he’s near 100 percent for the first time since LSU beat Virginia Tech 48-7 on Sept. 8. “This month off was just what the doctor ordered. It did wonders for us physically. I’m moving around really good.”

That bad news for the Buckeyes, who were victimized by another SEC defensive lineman (Florida’s Derrick Harvey) in last year’s title game. Harvey, a Greenbelt native (Eleanor Roosevelt High School), had three sacks of Ohio State’s Troy Smith in Florida’s 41-14 rout. Blocking Dorsey is considered considerably more difficult.

“Honestly, I’m not sure Ohio State or anyone else can block Dorsey,” an NFL scout said yesterday. “You have to go back to Warren Sapp to find a guy who can nuke a pocket like that kid. He’s a beast.”

POSTCARD FROM NEW ORLEANS

The best anecdote from yesterday’s media day at the Superdome came courtesy of LSU’s Bo Pelini, the defensive coordinator who will become Nebraska’s coach immediately after tomorrow’s title tussle. Asked to relate his favorite tale about Tigers defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, Pelini shared this gem:

“There was one game after [Dorsey’s knee injury against Auburn] where we were up pretty big, and I told him, ‘OK, Glenn, you’re done. Go sit down.’ A few minutes later, the trainer runs up to me and says, ‘What about Glenn, coach? Don’t you think we should rest him?’ I look out there, and he’s in the game, making a tackle no less. He comes limping off the field after the series, and I’m standing there waiting on him with some choice words I can’t repeat. I say, ‘Glenn, what are you thinking? Didn’t I tell you to sit down?’ And he apologizes to me and says, ‘I know, Coach. I just wanted to get in a couple more plays.’ That’s how much he loves to play football.

“I’m sure there are guys out there who have similar talent. But what makes him special is that he uses every ounce of his. That’s so rare. That’s why he has ‘it.’ He’s the total package, and those guys don’t come around very often.” …

The Rover got his first live look at Georgetown recruit Greg Monroe of Harvey, La., on Friday night. The 6-foot-10 power forward whom Rivals.com ranks as the nation’s No. 1 player tallied eight points, 11 rebounds, six assists, four blocks and two steals in leading Helen Cox High School to a comfortable 66-45 over rival Karr.

On the plus side, Monroe is the most polished passing big man the Rover has seen at the high school level; in that regard, he’s well ahead of former superstar point forward Jeff Green. On the minus side, Monroe is an extremely marginal shooter and rebounder with a weaker-than-advertised handle. If he truly is the best prep player in the nation, then this is the weakest senior class in decades.

Barker Davis

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