Raekwon McMillan, for one.
The former five-star prospect enters his second spring with the Ohio State football team looking to remain uncomfortable.
“Being uncomfortable breeds growth,” McMillan said.
McMillan spent last season splitting time with fellow former five-star recruit Curtis Grant. The freshman recorded 54 tackles, including 6½ for a loss, with 2½ sacks and an interception. While McMillan definitely had flashes of brilliance on the field, he never beat out Grant for the starting middle linebacker spot.
Part of that had to do with Grant’s play. Some of it had to do with McMillan getting used to life as a college football player. Either way, not starting made McMillan uncomfortable – a good thing.
“I was kind of uncomfortable not being a starter,” said McMillan, who added watching Grant last season was good for him. “Start your whole career and then come to college and not be the starting lineup, it made me work harder in practice. So I’m thankful for that.”
So now the player given the nickname the Chosen One by teammates will likely replace the graduated Grant as the starting middle linebacker this fall. In order to remain uncomfortable, however, coaches and teammates have been hard on McMillan.
McMillan said OSU defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell has been strict on him.
“Just putting pressure on me, being real hard on me in practice,” McMillan said of Fickell’s efforts to make him uncomfortable. “Grading me hard, putting a lot on my shoulders. Every day we get in the meeting room and he quizzes me all of the time. Guys around me have high expectations for me.”
Strongside linebacker Joshua Perry said he’s noticed McMillan’s development continuing to progress, especially compared to a year ago.
“He’s different in terms of how he’s matured physically, definitely,” Perry said. “Mentally, he’s a little bit different, too. He handles some of the adversity well. The thing with him is he just has to keep everything in perspective, keep all of his ducks in a row and just take it one step at a time and not try to do too much.
“I think that we’re doing a pretty good job of just letting him know that and keep reminding him. He’s making a big push, and we need him to be a great player and a great leader because of what Curtis did last year. But his development is coming along definitely.”
As the likely new Mike linebacker, McMillan will have to take on an added leadership role. Not only does the middle linebacker have to know what he is doing, but that player has to know what everyone else around him needs to do as well.
McMillan, like Grant before him, will make defensive play calls on the field and make sure everyone is lined up correctly. He is even a part of Ohio State’s leadership group as a sophomore.
“I have to be the coach on the field like Curtis Grant was last year for us. Just being out there as the Mike, you’ve got to make sure everything’s right,” McMillan said.
As for the spring, McMillan wants to continue to progress – and impress his coaches.
“I want to show that I can be an every-down Mike, not just rotate in,” he said. “I can make all the calls on the field and show Coach Fickell that he can trust me on the field.”