Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Friday, February 26, 2016

2016 Ohio State Spring Football Preview: Youth Will Be Served, Early And Often – LB Preview

“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 school career.

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 (Freshman).
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 fall?

These questions, among others, will be on my mind once Ohio State spring practice begins March 8th.

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