Bank Blog: Early Look At The Linebackers

Ohio State is closing in on the season opener, and fall camp only has one more week to run. Who has stood out at this early point in time? Let's look at the linebackers.

THE ALL-AMERICAN: Raekwon McMillan is as good of a player as there is on this football team, and should be one of the top linebackers in America. Are there any worries? Not really, because he's really good. Much like with J.T. Barrett, the worry is how will these two stars do when they have to be The Man? Barrett won't have Zeke, Thomas, Braxton, Marshall, Vannett, Decker and the like surrounding him, much like McMillan won't have Bosa, Washington, Lee, Perry, Apple, Bell and Powell to support him. McMillan should be just fine, but he will surrounded by a lot of inexperienced players around him. Ohio State feels he's ready to be great.

THE YOUNG PUPS STARTING: Even though both Chris Worley and Dante Booker played last year, there's nothing like walking into Norman, Oklahoma and having to produce as a starting linebacker to test your readiness. How will these newbies perform? Nobody knows, not even the Ohio State coaching staff. Much like most of the other position groups, until you see new guys play, you really don't know what you have. So far, things look good, but you can't simulate Michigan State or Penn State in practice. 

KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: If somebody slips up, or an injury occurs, they feel very comfortable sliding Jerome Baker in. There is a dropoff behind him, so he would probably go in no matter who needed replaced, and they would mix and match with whichever threesome is on the field. Baker is pushing Worley, and while the latter has size and a little experience, Baker is faster and a better athlete. Jerome Baker is going to play. 

THE PHENOM: He's not up to speed mentally, and he's not physically where he needs to be yet, but Keandre Jones is reminding Ohio State people of Ryan Shazier as a freshman. They played Shazier at 205-pounds as a true freshman, and just let him run around and cause mayhem. They're intrigued by Jones, so special teams could be his path to the field first and possibly time at linebacker follows. He's going to be really good. 

THE OTHERS: Behind McMillan in the middle would be Craig Fada, Nick Conner and Tuf Borland, but I wouldn't expect to see any of these guys replace McMillan if he goes down. Believe they would go small with Baker, and move Booker to the middle. When a walkon is pushing you for time, that's not good. Simply put. And Fada is right there with Conner and Borland. 

MORE OTHERS: On the outside for backups are Joe Burger and Justin Hilliard, and realistically these two guys should not be listed together. Hilliard needs to make a big push over the next week or so to jump into the mix. Right now, he's not pushing for time. 

SUMMARY: Last year, Ohio State had all three-down linebackers and those guys stayed on the field against every offense they played. Doubtful that happens this year, so there are going to be a lot of sets where there are only two on the field. Maybe as high as 50%. So if you're the 5th or 6th backer in the pecking order you aren't playing much. Ohio State feels they have four they are comfortable with right now, but three of them have hardly played in Booker, Worley and Baker. I think the raw talent is here, but they might take some lumps this season. We just don't know, which might be my theme for this team in 2016. 


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