The Early Bucks: Raekwon McMillan

Seven Ohio State recruits in the class of 2014 have enrolled early, which sounds like the makings of a week-long series to us. With that in mind, BSB is profiling the seven players who have already arrived on campus ahead of National Signing Day, including this piece on linebacker Raekwon McMillan.

Raekwon McMillan
6-2, 242
Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County
No. 5 MLB, four stars
Committed on Dec. 16, 2013

Ohio State Bio:

Raekwon McMillan is the nation's top-rated inside linebacker prospect by three of the four recruiting services, and he was chosen as the 2013 national high school Butkus Award winner as the top linebacker in the country ... a four-year starter for coach Kirk Warner at Liberty County H.S., McMillan accumulated 456 tackles and 10 forced fumbles during his career ... as a senior he totaled 159 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks for his 8-3 squad, and he also rushed for nearly 700 yards on offense ... was named the Georgia Region 3 AAAA defensive player of the year and a first-team all-state pick after his senior season ... a two-time Savannah Morning News player of the year ... named a first-team USA Today All-American in 2013 ... switched to outside linebacker because of an injury to another player and recorded five tackles in the 2014 Under Armour All-American game ... is the son of Monica and Rafael Washington.

McMillan's Story: It didn't take long for McMillan to earn notice in recruiting circles, as he received his first scholarship offer almost two years ago in February 2012 when South Carolina came through.

"When I heard about the offer, I starting hollering and jumping up and down," he told Scout. "I was very excited about the news and I couldn't stop jumping. I will remember when Coach Warner stopped me in the hall and I got my first offer."

It was a feeling he was going to have to get used to. By the end of March, he had offers from two more SEC schools in Georgia and Ole Miss, and shortly after that he picked off scholarships from Auburn and Ohio State, at which point he named the Buckeyes and Bulldogs his favorites.

"I went up to Ohio State a couple of weeks ago and it was great," he said. "I spent time with Coach (Everett) Withers, Coach (Urban) Meyer, and some other coaches, and they were great. Coach Meyer gave me the tour, he spent a lot of time with me, and he is a cool coach. He made me feel like part of the family there and it was great up there."

An offer from Alabama would be his by the time the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons was up, and he spent that time visiting schools around the country. But Georgia and OSU stayed near the top of his list, and it was soon becoming clear he was one of the best players in the nation at his position.

"He is a very strong linebacker, he plays downhill, and he likes to attack the ball carrier," Scout recruiting analyst Chad Simmons said in September 2012. "He has a great frame, he is solid at taking on blocks, and he has the ability to play early in college at inside linebacker. McMillan projects as one of the top inside linebackers in the 2014 class. He has what you look for in a prospect at this position."

McMillan was one of the athletes to make the initial Scout 100 that fall, and he visited a number of schools during his junior campaign including Georgia, Clemson and Ohio State, stopping in Columbus for the Michigan game.

"I have to say that I am a little surprised that my expectations were met this weekend because they were so high. I expected a lot and it was everything I thought it would be. It was amazing," he said. "It is crazy up there and the fans are amazing. Hearing the noise and meeting the fans really stood out to me this time. I got to meet some of the fans and that was great. They have been following me on Twitter, so meet them, that was great. I saw 107,000 people at the game and it was just awesome."

Top schools from across the country kept chasing after McMillan, but by April, he was ready to name a leader – and it was Ohio State.

"The part of this visit to Ohio State that wasn't like any other was being able to meet Archie Griffin, Gene Smith, and Bobby Carpenter," McMillan stated. "I knew who all three were but never thought I'd be introduced on a visit. It was a ‘wow' moment for me.

"Coach Meyer wanted to talk to me for a while," he added. "He didn't mention recruiting, a great four years at his program, rings, or championships, once. It was all about family. He talked about how important it is to him. That was impressive and it was eye-opening and unexpected."

He would continue to praise Meyer and Ohio State while at The Opening camp in Oregon, though Clemson and Alabama continued to be part of his discussion. He released a top five in August that included those three schools along with Florida and Georgia, then went about having a dominating senior season in southwest Georgia with an eye on making his choice in mid-December.

By the time he was ready, McMillan had pared his choices to Alabama, Auburn (which made a late surge), Clemson and OSU. The one school that had been in his top choices all along, though, was Ohio State, and he picked the Buckeyes during a nationally televised press conference that began with him picking up an Alabama hat before eventually tossing it aside and donning the scarlet and gray.

"There was something special every time I went to Ohio State," McMillan said. "It was special and great every time I talked to Coach Meyer and Coach Fickell. Last night didn't close on anything. The whole 3 years they have recruited me closed the deal."

He finished his career as an Under Armour All-American, where he performed well just days before enrolling at OSU.

Early Impact: It's obvious why McMillan wanted to come into Ohio State early – he'll have a chance to play immediately in 2014 for the Buckeyes. With by far the team's most consistent linebacker, Ryan Shazier, leaving early for the NFL draft, the Buckeyes have a lot of uncertainty at linebacker, and the Georgia native could be right in the mix for a spot. He'll have to challenge returning players Curtis Grant, Joshua Perry and Camren Williams – not to mention highly touted class of 2013 recruits Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell – for playing time, but enrolling early will allow him to make a move. Meyer often says that the fall depth chart is set in spring, and McMillan will have a chance to impress.

Expert Take: "McMillan is an imposing figure and he has been that for the last few years. He jumped on the scene as a sophomore once his film got out. It showed bone-jarring hits and aggression you love to see at the linebacker position. McMillan has continued to get bigger and fill out his frame over the last 18 months or so. He got up to 250 pounds at one point, but dropped back down to play at around 235 pounds as a senior. He plays much better right now at 230-235 pounds.

"He is an ideal run stopper. He is a great downhill player, he hits the A gap in a hurry, and he can stop the running back in his tracks. He brings some pop with his tackles and he is strong at the point of attack. He is much better going north-south than east-west. Pass coverage is not a real strength of his. He moves well for his size, but he is not great in space, and he cannot turn and run with the hybrid tight ends or the quick backs. He can drop into the shallows if needed or drop in the middle in zone coverage, but his strength is playing the run, not covering the pass." – Simmons

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