“Almost everything that is great has been done by youth…” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
Ohio State will begin spring football practice on March 8th. Heading
into the 2016 college football season, Ohio State will have 44
players on its roster designated as either a redshirt freshman (21 of
the 25 players signed in February 2015), or a true freshman. For a
roster that can have only 85 scholarship players, Ohio State will have
around 52% of its roster with no playing time experience. As
former Ohio State Head Coach John Cooper used to say, “If a dog is going
to bite you, it will bite you as a pup.”.
For the next several weeks, I will be writing position group
previews, leading up to the Ohio State Spring Football Game in Ohio
Stadium on April 16th, 2016. These position groups will be ranked, from
least to most concern, as I perceive them. It is entirely possible
that my concerns, as well as the coaching staff’s concerns, will be
reevaluated after the spring game.
8th – Linebacker
Players Lost – Joshua Perry, Darron Lee, Cam Williams, and Kyle
Berger. Perry exhausted his eligibility, and was a solid, dependable
two year starter at outside linebacker. Lee was also a two year starter
at outside linebacker, and declared early for the 2016 NFL Draft, with
two years of eligibility remaining as a redshirt sophomore. Williams
exhausted his eligibility as a four year contributor, primarily upon
special teams duty. Berger was forced to give up football this winter,
due to a recurring knee injury that never fully recovered from his high
Returning Players/Incoming Players – Jerome Baker (Sophomore), Dante
Booker (Junior), Joe Burger (Senior), Nick Conner (Redshirt Freshman),
Craig Fada (Senior), Justin Hilliard (Redshirt Freshman), Raekwon
McMillan (Junior), Chris Worley (Redshirt Junior), Tuf Borland
A few things to keep in mind as it relates to this position group…
· Raekwon McMillan is a lock to start at middle linebacker,
barring unforeseen injury. If McMillan was unable to play, this position
group would rank higher in my estimated concerns. McMillan has already
been designated a captain by Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer.
McMillan will be strongly depended upon by the coaching staff to steady
this position group during the initial phases of the 2016 season.
· Dante Booker
seems to be the leading candidate to replace Joshua Perry at the Will
linebacker position. Booker has played primarily on special teams in
2014 and 2015, and now is his opportunity to rise up and seize the job
at Will linebacker.
· The battle to watch seems to be at the Sam linebacker spot
between rising sophomore Jerome Baker and rising redshirt junior Chris
Worley. Baker seems to be the favorite, but fans would be wise to
remember that Worley gave Darron Lee a run for the job two seasons ago,
and will not want to remain on the bench.
· Justin Hilliard and Nick Conner were among the
highly-touted 2015 recruiting class. Hilliard and Conner both
redshirted due to injuries. Will either be able to make a move, with
two positions open at linebacker?
· Joe Burger and Craig Fada were both awarded scholarships
for the spring by Coach Meyer. Will either be able to move beyond
special teams duty this spring?
· Tuf Borland was an early enrollee this January. Can
Borland show enough this spring to warrant a look for playing time this
These questions, among others, will be on my mind once Ohio State spring practice begins March 8th.