By Jake Trotter •
Modified: December 3, 2008 at 8:50 am •
Published: December 3, 2008
/articleid/3327177/1/pictures/522828"> Mike Balogun AP photo
"He’s got pop. He’s got explosion. He’s got the ability to cover. He’s a good blitzer. He works really hard.”
One of the biggest challenges for Balogun this season has been remaining mentally sharp while standing on the sidelines.
But Balogun, who had been in for fewer than 10 snaps all season, played well and recorded three tackles after Box was injured early in the fourth quarter at OSU.
"I’ve just had to act like I was a starter, preparing like the starters do,” Balogun said. "I could’ve done some things better.
"But I was ready and excited to get on the field.”
In the preseason, many, including Venables, pegged Balogun as the likely replacement at weak-side linebacker for Box, who had just then undergone arthroscopic knee surgery.
"He had flashes all fall camp and his presence was what possibly earned him a starting position,” Venables said. "But right at the end, he kind of tapered off and got overwhelmed and Travis Lewis stepped up. The rest is well-documented.”
Balogun had another chance to crack the lineup following starting middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds’ season-ending knee injury against Texas.
But in the end, Venables went with Box, who had a year of experience in the system.
"This defense is not easy to learn, by any means,” Lewis said. "As players, our confidence has really grown with Mike.”
"He wants to be a part of the team, and he’s finally getting his chance. I think he’ll be prepared and do a good job.”