Ohio State Football: How the Linebackers Became a Problem for the Buckeyes

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Ohio State Football: How the Linebackers Became a Problem for the Buckeyes
Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

In last Saturday's 52-49 win over Indiana, after Ohio State moved starting fullback Zach Boren to linebacker, he also led the team in tackles.

That is a massive red flag and it's incredibly surprising that it happened to a school that produced such great linebackers as A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and James Laurinaitis.

How exactly did this problem come up?

Flash back to 2009, when Ohio State started Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, who were as good of a combination at linebacker as the Buckeyes have had in some time.

That year, OSU recruited four linebackers: Boren (who moved to FB), Jordan Whiting, Storm Klein and Dorian Bell. They added David Durham and Jamel Turner in 2010, then signed Ryan Shazier, Curtis Grant and Conner Crowell in 2011.

Heading into Saturday's game against Purdue, four of those players have since left the school for various reasons, and only three have started games.

Now while it's true that not everyone you recruit will turn out to be a star, getting only three starters out of the last ten linebackers signed, not including the 2012 freshmen linebackers, is just bad in several different ways.

Grant and Crowell aren't quite ready for the big-time yet, with Grant struggling to learn the position and Crowell continuing to fight injury issues.

That is the biggest reason why there is little depth.

Shazier is the only good linebacker among this group, even though he has some problems of his own on the field, and Klein hasn't quite lived up to the potential he had coming out of high school.

No matter how good your defensive line is, even though the Buckeyes' is pretty good, having only one good, starting-caliber linebacker on the roster is a recipe for disaster.

It's not fair to put a lot of blame on Jim Tressel, who recruited all of these players to Ohio State in his last three years in Columbus.

Recruiting is a very weird science where sometimes you hit the jackpot and other times the pot at the end of the rainbow is full of fool's gold.

That's the unfortunate bad luck the Buckeyes have had at the position.

It's a situation that manifested itself last year and continues to rear its ugly head this time around. And unless any of the freshmen like Josh Perry or Camren Williams step up to fill the void, at least until Etienne Sabino comes back, then this problem may linger for another year or two.

All of this is an extremely tangled combination of events and circumstances that have led to the Buckeyes boasting their worst linebacker corps as a whole in a long, long time.

There's also the 15 practices the Buckeyes normally would have before a bowl game that won't happen this year, due to NCAA sanctions.

The worst part is because those bowl practices won't happen, unless OSU finds a stud LB freshman that can step it up, it may only get worse before it gets better.

The safety position is its own concern, but poor linebacker play can cause a ripple effect throughout the back seven. If that isn't stable, most things in the back seven will be affected.

At some point, the hope is that one young player emerges, fills in as a stud alongside Shazier and helps to diminish this crisis considerably.

Unfortunately, we haven't seen anything like that come forward and it's not likely that it will happen.

If it's not time to panic yet, it's pretty close.

 

Follow me on Twitter @bielik_tim for the latest college football news and updates.

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