Whaley sees similar traits in Florida that Buckeyes have faced

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Tyler Whaley said the Ohio State Buckeyes have seen the Florida Gators before, but they just weren’t the Florida Gators.

Whaley, the redshirt junior backup center for the Buckeyes, found a comparison between Florida and some previous opponents as Ohio State prepares for the BCS Championship game Monday.

“They’re a lot like Texas because they’re really good and fast. And they’re like Michigan. Their defense was pretty stout. It’s kind of a combination of the two. They have a lot of good size up front and they have speed,” Whaley said.

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Ohio State won at Texas 24-7 in the second game of the season and then got by rival Michigan 42-39 at home in the final game of the regular season.

Whaley thinks the Buckeyes offensive line will be a key. He said Ohio State much control the line of scrimmage and try to wear down the Florida defense.

“Personally, I thought Michigan’s defensive line was real good. We spread them out and our wide receivers are pretty good,” Whaley said.

“Florida might match up, but we have a lot of weapons and we can get open.

“We need to put pressure on their defense. That’s where the turnovers come from and three-and-outs come front. Fast teams have to get tired. Our offensive line has to give the quarterback that extra second.”

The 6-foot-1, 270-pound Whaley was a walk-on with the Buckeyes after a stellar career with the Ironton Fighting Tigers. He earned a scholarship prior to the start of the season and moved into the backup job behind Doug Datish.

As a center, Whaley gets plenty of work in practice with quarterback Troy Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner.

Whaley said a lot of the Buckeyes success on offense hinges on Smith because of the way he handles the position.

“Troy’s important to our offense. He doesn’t try to be a star on every play. He’s smart. He doesn’t try to score on every play. He lets the play develop and takes what’s there,” Whaley said.

As game time gets closer, Whaley admits that the tension will increase but he thinks the Buckeyes, as well as himself, will handle the pressure well because of previous trips to the Arizona the past three seasons.

However, he knows it will be different this time because the game is for the national championship.

“It’s a dream come true,” Whaley said. “In high school, you dream of playing in the state championship but I never got to experience that.

“This will be exciting. The competition will be the best. I’ve been out here the last two years and, really, if it’s not the championship game it doesn’t matter as much. Now we’ve got a chance to make yourself part of history.”