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The Big Ten's Best 11: No. 11 Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State Defensive End

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Kristofer Green

The Ohio State defense is full of very good, very solid players who will make routine play after routine play. They are sound, but not too flashy.

Thaddeus Gibson is the exception.

Last season the junior led the team in sacks with five, but didn't really start to kick it into gear until late October. Now that he knows what he's doing, he's a legitimate threat for double-digit sacks.

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Thaddeus Gibson is inspiring teammates to get tougher with lines like, "Destroy everything moving."

Gibson's best trait may be his eagerness to learn and his drive to always be better. His need for continuous information could be annoying, but Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock loves it.

"I've coached for a long time but don't know if I've ever had a guy like him," Heacock said. "Every drill, he wants to know how he's doing, how he can do it better. Every practice, he's really interested in his performance and what I thought of it and how he can do better. Really a neat kid. He's just so focused on being as good as he can be." 

Gibson, a 6-2, 240-pound miniature version of former Ohio State star Vernon Gholston, started the final 10 games, and truly emerged in Week 7 against Purdue.

In that game he recorded a forced fumble, a sack, two tackles for loss and six total tackles.

The next week he returned a Michigan State fumble 69 yards for a touchdown.

Gibson closed the season on a strong note notching a sack and two tackles for loss in the Fiesta Bowl.

"I'm sure from a protection standpoint, [opponents] have to know where he's lining up," Heacock said. "He's got good quickness and good speed. He can come off the edge. He gives you a presence. Certainly if they're concerned about him in the pass rush, then your other guys have a little bit more of an opportunity, not getting doubled as much."

The potential for destruction is there as witnessed in the Fiesta Bowl when Gibson was routinely in the face of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. But Gibson was also flagged for two roughing-the-passer penalties.

This off-season coaches have been working with Gibson on knowing when to control that need for destruction and when to unleash it.

"The last thing you want to do is slow him down too much," Heacock said. "He's got a gift and we want to allow him to do that. But you can't do it at the risk of hurting the team. So there's a fine line there. But we're trying to put him in positions to free him up a little bit more."

Big Ten quarterbacks beware.

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