Yet it is fair to say expectations might even be a little higher for Raewkon McMillan. The four-star prospect from Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County is one of the highest-rated linebackers in Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class and the only one to enroll early.
The linebackers were not a strength for the Buckeyes in 2013, sans junior standout Ryan Shazier of course. Unfortunately for OSU, Shazier forwent his senior campaign to enter the NFL draft – leaving a big hole in a unit that has come under fire in recent years.
McMillan knows opportunity is knocking, but he would have to earn a spot on the field.
"Coach Meyer told me if I come here nothing was going to be given to me," McMillan said. "I had to compete just like everybody else. Yes, I have a good chance to start, but it's all going to go to waste if I don't put in the work right now."
McMillan, the No. 5 middle linebacker in the 2014 class according to Scout.com, won the high school Butkus Award last season as the top linebacker in the country. He was a four-year starter for the Panthers and recorded 456 tackles and 10 forced fumbles in his career.
Last fall, McMillan recorded 159 tackles, 35½ tackles for loss and 8½ sacks en route to earning Georgia Region 3 AAAA defensive player of the year and first-team all-state honors. He also recorded Parade and USA Today All-America accolades in 2013.
Following the season, McMillan participated in the Under Armour All-American Game and recorded five tackles while playing outside linebacker because of an injury to another player. McMillan is primarily a middle linebacker but said he is willing to play any position asked of him.
In high school, McMillan was not only the middle linebacker but also the so-called quarterback of the defense. That is why he believes he will be able to contribute as a freshman.
"I think I'll be able to get to it pretty quickly because in high school I was told to run the defense on the field, make adjustments according to the offense on the field," McMillan said.
Getting that responsibility at that young age helped the future Buckeye prepare for the next step of his football journey.
"I felt like in high school everybody on our coaching staff trusted me that even if I did make a bad call I'd go 100 percent," McMillan said. "Even though it's wrong, you still go 100 percent and fly to the ball. That makes up for a lot of errors."
McMillan was drawn to Ohio State in part because of its linebacker history – and because of the chance to play for Fickell.
"Coach Fickell has coached some of the greatest linebackers in college football – A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis, Bobby Carpenter, the list goes on and on. But in the last three or four years, they haven't had that solid guy in the middle who can run the whole show," McMillan said. "Yeah, we've had some great players come through at linebacker who got drafted, but he's looking for that one guys that can run the whole show on defense."
For now, McMillan is working on getting a jump on his college career. He is one of seven commits to enroll early.
"It's a benefit getting a head start on the workouts, getting in shape early and getting ready for spring ball," McMillan said. "In the last couple of years, you see in spring ball that the guys who do well and thrive during spring ball are the ones who play."