COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State’s class of 2017 got even better when the Buckeyes added 4-star outside linebacker Pete Werner.
The Indianapolis Cathedral star hails from the same high school as Ohio State wide receiver Terry McLaurin. He committed to Notre Dame in March but backed off that pledge after visiting Ohio State for the Buckeyes’ game against Michigan.
Cathedral coach Rick Streiff spoke to Land of 10 about what Buckeyes fans can expect from the program’s newest commit.
Q: What traits stand out when he’s on the football field?
Streiff: “First, he has excellent size at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and, quite frankly, a framework to add some weight to that. He runs incredibly well and is an excellent tackler and hitter. We played him some at safety where he could be back off the ball and make plays all over the field. He’s a great player in space.”
Q: Has that versatility always been part of his game?
Streiff: “He transferred in, so we only had him as a junior and senior. We didn’t know too much. He came in as a junior and was a little beat up. In the summer prior to his junior year, he didn’t practice very much. We really didn’t know what we had. We knew we had a big, good-looking kid, but what could he do? It took us probably three weeks into the season before we got him on the field on a regular basis.
“What ended up happening is that we were playing a team that was primarily a run team. We put him at our backside corner, which is a glorified safety spot. He just made play after play after play running all over the field. We realized we had to use him, so we kept him there for most of the season. As a junior, he was an all-state defensive back. He’s a versatile kid, and his ability to run is what separates him from a lot of 6-3, 220-pound linebackers.”
Q: What was it like to watch him grow into this type of player?
Streiff: “When we first saw him, we thought, ‘If nothing else, he looks the part coming off the bus.’ But you really don’t know until you see him play. He got better and better each week. Then he had shoulder surgery after our last game his junior year and ended up having another set of surgeries. Because of that, we didn’t really have him that much the summer before his senior season, either. He really started to come into his own this past season. It became clear just how special he is.”
Q: Is there a play or a performance you can remember that demonstrates what he can do on the field?
Streiff: “We played St. Xavier out of Cincinnati and ended up bringing Pete on some blitzes. We had a good scheme, but they were also having trouble blocking him one-0n-one. He probably had two or three sacks in that game. He ended up with 17 tackles for loss this season. But that game in particular was against a quality opponent, the eventual (Division I) state champion in Ohio. He made play after play after play and put pressure on the quarterback all game.”
Q: How did Ohio State become a player in his recruitment?
Streiff: “When he made the decision to go to the Ohio State-Michigan game, I told him he had to reach out to the Notre Dame people, which he did. He told them what he was going there to do. Ohio State had been calling over the last six or seven weeks. They’d been trying to build a relationship with him just in case. As it turned out, the conversation continued until he decided to take that trip. Notre Dame pressed him to make a decision and he decided to look a little more and did just that.”
Q: What did Ohio State coaches tell you about him?
Streiff: “They like his size and his ability to run and his toughness. He fits into the culture very well. We have Terry over there, as well. He’s a similar player to Terry in the sense that you can tell him you need him to do something and you can walk away and know it’s going to get done. He falls into this same category as Terry McLaurin did for us.”
Q: How would you describe his personality?
Streiff: “He’s a quiet, under-the-radar, very humble and unassuming kid. Again, very much like Terry. He’s rah-rah when you need him to be, but that’s not his first instinct. He spoke up more as a senior, which you should. When it’s time for someone to step up or make a play, he’s going to step up and get it done.”