Fall camp is underway in Columbus, but Ohio State coach Urban Meyer might not be able to hide his concern over the linebacker position.
The Buckeyes have had substandard linebacker play in the past two seasons following the graduations of Brian Rolle and Ross Homan in 2010. To make matters worse, OSU only has six linebackers on scholarship, with only Ryan Shazier having started more than four games in his career.
In short, Ohio State has very little, if any, proven depth at the position.
Shazier may be one of the top linebackers in the country, but the other five scholarship linebackers have their fair share of question marks.
Junior Curtis Grant is expected to start at middle linebacker, but he was phased out of the lineup shortly into the 2012 season after starting that year at middle linebacker. He was largely invisible and barely saw the field in the second half of the season.
Sophomores Josh Perry and Camren Williams each saw some spot duty in base defenses toward the end of the season. Perry made a little bit more of an impact in the base defense than Williams did, though it may have possibly been due to him enrolling in the previous winter.
The other two linebackers on scholarship with the team are true freshmen Trey Johnson and Mike Mitchell. Both have outstanding size and athleticism, but like any freshman, each will need time to adjust to the overall speed of the game.
OSU has to replace its entire starting defensive line, but it has a deep stable of candidates competing for four starting jobs, particularly sophomores Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence.
Shazier is the only returning starter in the front seven, but he faces a much bigger task than anyone on the defensive line does. He not only has to be the best linebacker on the field, but he has to compensate for the lack of experience across the board at the position.
Luckily for OSU, the offenses it faces this year may demand less 4-3 and thus require more nickel or dime packages. However, the truth remains that OSU doesn't have a proven second linebacker.
When you don't have a second proven player at the linebacker position, that's a big problem that only game experience can fix.
Ohio State's defense is going to need one of those other five linebackers behind Shazier to step up. Meyer has three weeks to find out who that is going to be.
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