The key to a successful 2013 campaign for the Buckeyes will be if a middle linebacker emerges on defense. A player just can’t emerge, though. Of the candidates vying for the starting job, whoever steps up must play up to the level that Buckeye Nation is accustomed to seeing from their starting middle linebackers. The question is, who will that be?
Curtis Grant received tons of hype coming out of high school, being ranked the top linebacker in the country in 2008 according to Scout.com. However, many questions surround Grant as he enters his junior season.
The first two years of his career at Ohio State haven’t exactly panned out like most expected. He had a shot at the starting role last year, but was unable to solidify his spot as we saw Zach Boren become the starter as the year went on. There’s no question that Curtis Grant has all the physical tools to be the next Buckeye great. At 6’3", 235 pounds, he has the look of a monster when he puts on the pads.
This spring will be key as Ohio State kicks off practice on March 5th. Grant needs to show his improvement or he could be passed up for good. The hope is that the light bulb goes on for Curtis Grant this spring and he starts playing like the freak linebacker he was projected to be. With Curtis being an upperclassman, the game could start to slow down for him. Again, there’s still time for Curtis to step up, but it needs to be over the next month if he wants a chance to anchor the Buckeyes defense next season.
Camren Williams will challenge for this position as well. Camren was part of Urban Meyer’s first recruiting class and possesses great instincts at the linebacker position. The knock on him last year was that most felt he was too small to step in and play right away. At 6’2", he certainly wasn’t lacking in the height department, but like most freshman, he needed a year of college training to put more muscle on. Over the past couple months, Camren Williams has done just that.
Going through a full offseason of Mickey Marotti’s strength program, Camren is now in a position, physically, where he can fully compete at the college level. He and Curtis Grant will most likely go head-to-head all of spring practice in what should be one of the more interesting position battles of the year.
Mike Mitchell or Trey Johnson
Now, it’s hard to predict how true freshman will pan out their first season without having seen them compete at the college level. However, two other names to consider for this role are Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson. Each were considered two of the best linebacker prospects in the recruiting world this year and if no one steps up in spring practice, these young pups could have a chance to take the job once fall camp rolls around.
Mitchell’s size and speed makes him an intriguing option as he punished Texas high school competition this past season. The physical tools are already there; it’s just a matter if he will be able to adjust to the college speed fast enough. As we know, it’s a whole new ballgame once you step on a college field and fall camp may not be long enough for Mitchell to adjust and prove himself to the coaching staff.
As for Trey Johnson, he seems to be on the path of Camren Williams. Both have a knack for getting to the ball carrier with great instincts, but Johnson may have to physically mature for a year before he is able to compete at his highest level. The decision to not enroll early will hurt Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson’s chances of starting as true freshmen.
With that said, if current Buckeyes aren’t able to step up to Coach Meyer’s liking over the next month, it’ll be fair game once these two step on campus in the fall.
There’s no question that Ohio State’s linebacking core is young, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. Loads of talent surround this position and this unit will be talked about by the Buckeye faithful throughout the duration of spring practice. Luke Fickell has a great history in developing linebackers, and this year shouldn’t be any different.