(JEFF ROBERSON ~ Associated Press)
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams figure to open the season with an all-Ohio State linebacking crew. Larry Grant may be one of the more unsung former Buckeyes, but he's coming off a big game in the preseason opener.
In a 28-7 loss to Minnesota on Saturday, the 6-foot-1, 251-pound Grant had four tackles, including one for a loss, two passes defended and a special teams tackle.
The 25-year-old definitely caught Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo's eye.
"Larry showed up in the game. He's done some versatile things," Spagnuolo said. "Anytime you can do that, you help yourself as a linebacker and you help yourself as a team."
That's music to Grant's ears.
"It's working out," Grant said. "I did my best. Everything I'm picking up a lot better. If you do what you're supposed to be doing, everything will fall into place."
That's to be expected in any player's second full season with a team. Grant learned the system installed by Rams defensive coordinator Ken Flajole last year and is more comfortable in it this preseason.
It's been a slow climb for Grant.
The San Francisco 49ers drafted Grant in the seventh round after he played two seasons at Ohio State. Before joining the Buckeyes, he spent two years at City College of San Francisco, where he was the national junior college player of the year. Grant played in four national championship games in four college seasons.
He was signed to the Rams' active roster from San Francisco's practice squad Nov. 26, 2008 and saw action in two games on special teams. Grant played mostly on the special teams last season, seeing action in all 16 games during a 1-15 season.
Grant has made the move from strongside to weakside linebacker in training camp. He is on the first-team defense with fellow Ohio State teammates in middle linebacker James Laurinaitis and free-agent pickup Na'il Diggs at strongside linebacker.
"We all have the same tradition," Grant said of his college teammates. "Being at Ohio State, they taught us to learn to love football a lot more."
Grant said the move was not difficult for him and he feels he's found a home at weakside linebacker.
"It wasn't too big for me because I was here last year and I just didn't pay attention to my job," Grant said. "I tried to learn as much as I could about the defense and the other linebacking jobs. It's been a cool transition so far."
Grant wants to stay with the first team unit and knows it's not something to be taken for granted.
"Right now, most of my thoughts are on just trying to get better every day," he said. "You've just got to go out there and go at it."
He wants to continue playing with the special teams as well.
"Every play counts in a game," Grant said.
Seeing his old college teammate succeed does not surprise Laurinaitis.
"Larry is a guy who, playing with him at Ohio State, I knew he had a ton of talent," Laurinaitis said. "He's crazy athletic. It's just a matter of consistency with him. It was awesome for me to see him play so well against Minnesota. We'll see how he continues to do.
"I think he's excited about his opportunity, and he's looking good so far."
With training in its third week, Grant acknowledges you have to keep grinding to get through the workouts, meetings and film study, but it's all part of being a starter.
"On days when it's too hot and you're tired, you got to work," Grant said. "You got to put all that past you and do the best you can. You've got to make yourself be the best player you can be today and every day. My expectations for myself are high.
"This year is different. I want to win and that's what I'm here for."
* There were three scuffles during the morning practice. DT Gary Gibson mixed it up with C Hank Fraley and RB Steven Jackson.
The other fracas involved DE Chris Long and RT Jason Smith. "You know it was just one of those days where you go against the same guys everyday, there's going to be some animosity," Gibson said. "It's nothing intentional. Everything's good with all the guys. Everybody hugged it out afterwards. We're good to go."
* DE Victor Adeyanju did not practice because of a sore knee.
* DE George Selvie planned to have an X-ray on his lower leg after practice.