Ohio State Football: Will the Real Linebackers Please Stand Up?

David RegimbalFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 6:  Ryan Shazier #10 of the Ohio State Buckeyes attempts to pick up a Nebraska Cornhuskers fumble in the first half at Ohio Stadium on October 6, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. Shazier was unable to get control of the ball and Nebraska recovered.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Linebackers. They’re kind of important.

If you don’t believe me, ask Urban Meyer. The Ohio State Buckeyes have been uncharacteristically sloppy on defense this year, and a lot of their struggles are the result of poor linebacker play.

“We’re not very good in certain areas and you’re exposed,” Meyer told Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch.

Ohio State's depth at the position is razor-thin. Linebackers that Jim Tressel recruited like Dorian Bell, Jordan Whiting, Jonathan Newsome and Scott McVey are no longer with the team because of transfers or medical issues.

When you factor in the injury to Etienne Sabino that will keep the senior sidelined for at least two more weeks, Meyer is left with Ryan Shazier, Storm Klein, a struggling Curtis Grant and a bunch of unproven freshmen at linebacker.

That's why Zach Boren, the team's starting fullback, saw significant action at linebacker against Indiana Saturday night.

Despite not playing defense since his senior year of high school four years ago, Boren led the team with eight tackles against the Hoosiers.

Saturday night only affirmed Ohio State's desperate situation at linebacker. Sticking Boren in the middle of the defense wasn't even good patch work as the Buckeyes hemorrhaged 49 points to Indiana. While the Hoosiers are improved on offense, that's the most points an Indiana team has ever scored against the Buckeyes.

While Boren's move to the defense was described by Meyer in his weekly press conference as "temporarily permanent," the coaching staff should be looking for more viable solutions, you know, from actual linebackers.

Sticking Boren with the linebackers might be a temporary fix, but it doesn't help Ohio State resolve its issues permanently going forward.

Young backers like Joshua Perry and David Perkins should step in. Keeping them on the sideline in favor of Boren only prevents the growth of the young talent on the team. The playing time Boren is getting could be a huge opportunity for those young guys to grow, which is especially important when you consider Storm Klein, Etienne Sabino and yes, even Zach Boren will graduate this year.

It's easy to understand why Meyer, Luke Fickell and the coaching staff want to stick with Boren if they feel he's the best option. But for a team that doesn't have anything to play for this year because of NCAA sanctions, in addition to the fact that the staff will have this same issue next season without Boren as a fall-back, wouldn't it be smart to get some experience for the guys who will be on the team next year?

That's the pressing question for Meyer. What do you think? Should Ohio State play Zach Boren at linebacker to provide the best chance at winning this year, or give the freshman linebackers a shot to develop for what could be an even worse linebacker situation in 2013?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or continue the conversation with me on Twitter @davidreg412.