Ohio State’s spring practice is fast approaching. The Buckeyes have already started training for the 2016 season and the team will take the field for the first time March 8. With nine underclassmen and a number of seniors departing from the 2015 team that went 12-1, there are questions surrounding plenty of position groups for the 2016 Buckeyes. BuckeyeSports.com is taking a look at those positions and how they might be sorted out between now and the Ohio State spring game on April 16.
The Departed: Ohio State loses a projected first-round pick in Darron Lee, the playmaking outside linebacker who burst onto the scene with a standout season in 2014. However, the Buckeyes will also be without his counterpart Joshua Perry, a senior captain who led the team in tackles in 2014 and was perhaps underappreciated for his on-field contributions because of all the great things he did off the field. Lee and Perry combined for 171 tackles, eight sacks for 60 yards, 18.5 tackles for loss, one interception and two forced fumbles in 2015.
The Contenders: Junior middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan is a sure thing from a starting standpoint, and his level of play has been so good that this will likely be his final season in Columbus. The other two spots, however, are up for grabs. Perry’s spot seems like it will go to Dante Booker, the junior linebacker out of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, though Booker will have to beat out redshirt freshman Justin Hilliard. “You can tell Josh I said this: Dante is a way better athlete,” McMillan joked with reporters in February. The other outside spot appears like it will come down to either junior Chris Worley or sophomore Jerome Baker. Ohio State will also have some depth, with middle linebacker Nick Conner backing up McMillan and early enrollee Tuf Borland ready to take part in spring practice.
How It Might Shake Out: It’s fair to pencil in McMillan for one of the three spots, even though he said Conner has done a good job of pushing him over the past year. Booker is the favorite to land the spot vacated by Perry, having made 22 tackles and one tackle for loss last season while Hilliard redshirted. The battle between Worley and Baker could go either way, although McMillan told reporters Worley had a noticeable edge in that race because of his experience advantage.