McMillan Already Turning Heads At OSU

The most anticipated arrival in Columbus this January wasn't any of the named winter storms but a man-child linebacker from Georgia. Top-50 prospect Raekwon McMillan arrived at OSU hyped as perhaps the answer at linebacker for the Buckeyes, and he's even caught the eye of head coach Urban Meyer in spring drills.

After spring practice No. 1, it was fair to say that true freshman linebacker Raekwon McMillan had caught the eye of Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

After all, Meyer said so himself.

"I was very impressed with Raekwon today," Meyer said. "Moved around, very mature."

The local media isn't the only one that Meyer is going to about the four-star prospect from Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County.

"Coach comes over to me (to ask about him)," linebackers coach Luke Fickell said. "I say I'm going to hold my tongue until we put on some shoulder pads and get out of the underwear stuff, but you know what, you're seeing what you saw from film, you're seeing what you saw in high school when I went to watch him play."

In high school, he was good enough to be named Scout's No. 50 overall player in the class of 2014, not to mention the fifth-rated middle linebacker in the class. The 6-4, 242-pounder earned those accolades thanks to a high school career in which he was a four-year starter, racking up 456 tackles and 10 forced fumbles during his career.

As a senior he totaled 159 tackles, 35½ tackles-for-loss and 8½ sacks on the way to being named the Georgia Region 3 AAAA defensive player of the year and a first-team all-state pick after his senior season. He was also named a first-team USA Today All-American in 2013 and suited up in the Under Armour All-American Game, recording five tackles.

So McMillan came in highly decorated and was perhaps the most exciting early enrollee among the seven the Buckeyes brought in for January classes. And through two practices, while working with the second team during spring, McMillan is living up to the hype.

"It's really hard because nobody has put a true helmet on anybody yet, but you can see a confidence level in a guy," Fickell said. "You can see a guy that has a lot of natural instincts. It's something that you're excited about, but you kind of hold your breath."

So how did McMillan get to that point? First, he showed up and acted like a sponge during the winter in Columbus.

"In high school I was told to run the defense on the field, make adjustments according to the offense on the field," he said in February. "Coach Fickell and I are putting in work right now. And (graduate assistant coach Jon) Carpenter, we're putting in work trying to get to the point where some of the guys are at the linebacker group. I'm learning from some of the older guys and even some of the walk-ons. They're some of the smartest guys on the team. I'm trying to pick up information from them each day and learning from there."

As Fickell says, it's still early in spring, and there is plenty of competition still for McMillan. Though no spots among the linebackers seem to be assured, McMillan is battling with last year's returning starter in the middle in Curtis Grant – a one-time five-star prospect himself – along with junior Camren Williams and walk-on Joe Burger.

However, McMillan was also told that he'll get a fair shot when it comes to early playing time.

"Coach Meyer always tells us he wants the incoming freshman to play early," he said. "He wants us not to sit back and relax and just wait for the next guy to leave, but to practice every day like you're competing for a job. Attack every drill like it's your last drill."

So far, McMillan has impressed those who are ahead of him in the rotation.

"Raekwon is a great dude," Williams said. "He's a great kid, level headed. He's not a kid that is walking around like he's an angel because he was a five-star (prospect). You wouldn't even know it. He's a great kid who doesn't get caught up in all that stuff. He's a great kid. He's grinding. I like him a lot."

"Raekwon looks real good," Grant added. "He's very talented. He comes in with a lot of things that a lot of freshmen don't come in with."

Whether the early returns keep turning up positive – or get even stronger – throughout the 13 practices the rest of the spring remains to be seen for McMillan. But when it comes to pulling an Andy Katzenmoyer and stepping right into the middle as a freshman, Fickell isn't looking that far ahead for the Peach State star.

"He's in here early, which is a big help to him," Fickell said. "We all believe our best-case scenario is our seniors will play best. However that happens, we have to try to fight for that, but can a freshman do it? Yeah, he can, if he has some guys around him."

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