Looking at Ohio State's 2014 Linebacker Depth Chart
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the commitment of five-star 'backer Raekwon McMillan on Monday, the Buckeyes now have four linebackers set to sign in the 2014 recruiting class. Added to the three linebackers signed last year, and the depth issues that have plagued the Ohio State defense of late are on the verge of recovery.
That depth would be immeasurably helped by the return of Ryan Shazier, who is still up in the air about his pending NFL decision. Even if he doesn't come back for a senior season, the number of options that Luke Fickell will have at linebacker will be much larger than he has had this season.
With that in mind, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at what the Buckeyes could have in the mix at linebacker next season.
Ryan Shazier (Sr. 6-2, 230)
Shazier has led the Buckeyes in tackles the last two seasons, and though it may be a long shot for him to return, almost anything is possible. With another year like he has had this year, he will likely leave OSU as the all-time leader in solo tackles, overtaking Chris Spielman. There's also a chance he could finish ahead of Mike Vrabel as the school's all-time leader in tackles for loss.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Trey Johnson (So. 6-1, 220)
Johnson was Shazier's backup this year, which means that he didn't see the field much. Johnson has 11 tackles on the season, including a quarterback hurry. If Shazier does leave for the NFL, Johnson would currently be the smart money to take his spot.
Devan Bogard (Jr. 6-0, 198)
Bogard moved to weakside linebacker after playing safety as a freshman. Unfortunately, he has torn the same ACL each of the last two years, the second time just 53 weeks after doing it the first time. Given that he was able to contribute on special teams this season, he should be able to recover in time to do it again in 2014. Asking any more of him right now is probably a bit much. In fact, a redshirt year probably wouldn't be a bad idea.
Kyle Berger (Fr. 6-2, 222)
Like Bogard, Berger suffered a torn ACL, though his came at the beginning of the season. Berger is rated a four-star prospect, and the #3 outside linebacker by Scout. Ohio high school football scout John McCallister has raved about him, saying that he runs well, has excellent burst and finishes every play.
Aaron Mawhirter (rFr. 6-2, 220)
Mawhirter was an invited walk-on this season, having been a second-team Div. II All-State selection at Perkins High School in Sandusky.
Nick Snyder (rJr. 6-1, 210)
Snyder is a walk-on from Westerville South. He had a special teams tackle this season, as well as the biggest smile in the stadium afterward.
Curtis Grant (Sr. 6-3, 243)
Grant improved greatly this season as the team's middle linebacker, though there is still room to grow. He has only averaged a little over four tackles per game this year, which isn't nearly enough. He has played through injuries this season, so production should improve once healthy.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Mike Mitchell (rFr. 6-3, 222)
Before there was the hoopla around Raekwon McMillan, there was hoopla around Mike Mitchell. Like McMillan, Mitchell is a five-star prospect who committed to Ohio State through great fanfare. Mitchell was making his mark early in fall camp before having a setback with an injury. He fell behind after that per the coaches, and by the time they felt he was ready to contribute, the value of a redshirt outweighed anything else. Expect him to contribute on special teams, and if that goes well, they will find snaps for him on defense.
Camren Williams (Jr. 6-1, 231)
Williams was called on a few times when Curtis Grant went down with injuries, though he was rarely healthy himself. He is enough of a veteran that he could probably help out at any of the three linebacker spots next season, though the improved depth wouldn't necessarily require it.
Raekwon McMillan (Fr. 6-2, 249)
While some people may want to pencil McMillan into the lineup yesterday, that rarely happens for a freshman. Granted, enrolling early and participating in the spring will help, but there are still players ahead of him. With Curtis Grant and possibly Ryan Shazier graduating following the 2014 season, I would assume there will be no desire to redshirt McMillan, or any of the freshman linebackers if possible.
Joe Burger (rSo. 6-2, 235)
Burger has played in five games this season, and has been called on in some serious situations. Even though he's a preferred walk-on, he will provide experience and toughness for the entire linebacking corps.
Joshua Perry (Jr. 6-4, 246)
Perry is the incumbent, and he improved as this season went on. He is currently sixth on the team in tackles (54), and would be expected to be the starter next season as well. He is an incredible athlete, and would seem to only be trending up over the next two seasons.
Photo by Dan Harker
Darron Lee (So. 6-2, 219)
Lee played in a pair of games this season on special teams, though he may be able to redshirt if he was injured. He came to Ohio State as a playmaking safety, so that gives you some indication of his athleticism.
Sam Hubbard (Fr. 6-5, 222)
Hubbard was a 6-5 safety this season at Moeller, but will move to linebacker the day he arrives at Ohio State. His athleticism is legit, but it may take him some time to grow into his eventual position, wherever that may be.
Dante Booker (Fr. 6-3, 212)
Booker is the 2013 AP Player of the Year for the state of Ohio, and is the #1 outside linebacker in the 2014 recruiting class per 247 Sports. Booker finished with over 100 tackles this season and 24 tackles for loss. He will play in the Army All-American Bowl. Like the rest of the freshmen, he will have to contribute on special teams first.
Craig Fada (rSo. 6-1, 235)
Fada has played in every game this season, save for the Big Ten Championship Game. He is finishing up his second season as a walk-on, and could be looked upon as a special teams vet next season.
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