Read & React: Excellent nose for the ball, which is his best asset. Good feel for creases inside to stop the run and knows the correct angles to take to prevent big plays. Reacts well against misdirection plays, often beating pulling blockers to the spot. Might take a false step against play-action but gets back into coverage quickly.
Run defense: Instinctual run defender who seems to always find his way to the ball. Feels his way through traffic inside to make tackles, avoiding pulling guards and catching backs from behind. Takes good angles to the ball and won't overpursue. Can explode from athletic position to stop running backs in the hole or from going over the top in short yardage. Protects himself from cut blocks, feeling them coming or defeating them with his hands. Lacks great size to deal with linemen or H-back blocks when they reach him, but generally holds his ground and can disengage.
Pass defense: Very active pass defender. Quarterbacks must account for him on any throw between the hashes. Takes on slot receivers at times and has fair change-of-direction skills to mirror. However, he will get beat in this situation against NFL receivers. Gets good depth in his pass drop. Knows where the first-down marker is and gets underneath deep crossing routes. Has some man coverage skills, lining up in the slot and man-up against tight ends. Understands zone routes and will light up receivers over the middle. Looks for the passing lane by reading the quarterback. Shows good hands for the interception, though he has had some drops. Will hustle to the ball in zone coverage to prevent yards after the catch.
Tackling: Solid tackler who consistently wraps up but is not particularly explosive. Stays low and square to stop ballcarriers when meeting them in the hole. Breaks down in space and has the quickness and change-of-direction ability to prevent backs from getting the corner. Shows the speed and instincts to catch backs before they build a head of steam. Good chase and hustle to get to the opposite sideline. Gets angles to prevent big plays crossing the field. Is consistently the second or third man into the pile. Many tackles come several yards downfield as linemen or tight ends push him back. Lacks size to get off blocks at the next level and his arm tackles will not slow NFL running backs. Should have value as an assignment-sure contributor on special teams coverage units because of his football intelligence and secure tackling.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Fair first step coming off the edge or through the middle as a blitzer. Flexible enough to turn the corner when attacking the passer or trying to grab running backs from behind. Adequate hands to beat fullback blocks but could improve in this area to prevent slowing down his rush. Needs to develop counter pass-rush moves.
Intangibles: Tough player who plays hurt; tried to get through turf toe in 2007 but had to shut it down and redshirt. Suffered a concussion against Illinois in 2009 but did not miss any time. Missed just two games after spraining the arch of his right foot. Relished taking over leadership role when senior linebackers graduated before 2009 season. Academic All-Big Ten. Cousin of former Ohio State players Bobby and Tom Hoying.