Josh Winslow/BSB

Grading Ohio State's 2016 Season: The Defensive Line

The Buckeye Sports staff takes a look back at Ohio State's 2016 season and gives each Buckeye position group a final grade for the year. After a break in the series for National Signing Day, the next group up is Ohio State's linebackers.

Junior Raekwon McMillan was the undisputed leader of Ohio State’s linebacker group, but he caught some flak in the first half of the year for not producing statistically, even though he was playing well.

In the final seven games of the season, that argument went straight out the window.

Through six games, McMillan had 36 total tackles. In the next seven contests, he racked up 66 stops (9.4 per game). He finished the season as Ohio State’s top defender with 102 total tackles, seven tackles for loss and two sacks to go with four pass breakups and two forced fumbles. His pressure of Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight led to an interception return for a touchdown, which was arguably the most important play of the game for the Buckeyes, and one of the most important of the season.

In addition to McMillan’s play, the whole linebacking unit came into its own in the second half. Sophomore Jerome Baker was stellar with a total of 83 tackles, 9½ tackles for loss and 3½ sacks, and his interception against Michigan set up another key score for the Buckeyes. Junior Chris Worley was fourth on the team with 70 tackles, including 4½ for loss, and his performance against Michigan State might be what saved the Buckeyes from a second straight loss to the Spartans.

Reserve linebacker Joe Burger played an important role down the stretch as well and saw increased playing time against Michigan. He finished the year with 14 total tackles as one of Ohio State’s team captains.

Looking ahead, the Buckeyes have big shoes to fill as McMillan opted to leave for the NFL, but Dante Booker never played after the opener and is set to receive a redshirt. That means he’ll be back, and he and Justin Hilliard should be in the mix to start in the middle next season, along with true freshman Baron Browning.

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BSB Midterm Grade: A-

BSB Second-Half Grade: A

BSB Final Grade: A

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