As you may have heard, redshirt senior Chris Worley is Ohio State’s starting middle linebacker, and it was a decision that was made for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons that his coaches have entrusted him with this duty and honor is because his teammates respond to his leadership. Another reason is that he simply gets the job done.
“The leadership piece, that Mike linebacker is our quarterback,” linebackers coach Billy Davis explained. “He has to understand everyone’s job, he has to line them up. You not only have to line up others, but you also have to be able to do your own job after that, and not everybody can do that. Not everybody can get everybody else lined up and still hold their own down. A lot of them can just take care of themselves. Chris is outstanding at getting everyone else and himself lined up.”
Being Ohio State’s starting middle linebacker instantly puts a player in the spotlight. Sometimes that spotlight can be distracting, but Worley is remaining focused. In fact, when asked about his own personal goals, he was more interested in talking about the team’s goals.
“I haven’t really thought about individual goals, that’s going to come, but as far as team goals I just want to help this defense get better,” he said. “We were a top-five defense last year in the nation but I feel like we have some way we still can go. It’s up to me and the other older guys and everyone that’s going to touch that field on the defense to get better. At the end of the day the goal of the year is what we did in 2014, that’s the national championship. This is my last go-around, so that’s what I’m shooting for.”
The only starting Buckeye linebacker who is playing the same position he played a year ago is Jerome Baker, and he’s one of the guys more accustomed to playing multiple positions than anybody. After all, he started last season at the Sam linebacker spot before being moved to Will after Dante Booker’s injury.
That versatility speaks to Baker’s athleticism, which was on display in a myriad of ways in high school. In fact, before Baker was a Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior linebacker, he was a First-Team All-State running back as a junior for Cleveland Benedictine.
Speaking with the media on Thursday, Baker (with running back Mike Weber well within earshot) was asked if he was a better running back in high school than Weber. Before Baker could even get his answer out, Weber chimed in.
“Don’t even lie,” the tailback said.
“Not only was I a better running back,” Baker said, “but my high school is definitely better than his.”
While on the subject of running backs, assistant coach Tony Alford was asked how he felt about this group of running backs, which appears to be his deepest since coming to Ohio State. So far, he likes what he sees, but that doesn’t mean he’s satisfied.
“You’ve got to have more guys,” he said. “You can never have enough. It’s like if I have a really good toy I want another really good toy. You can never have enough money, I want more. Competition breeds that. You have to make sure the guys know they have an opportunity to excel and be great. You bring in as many great players as you can. A bell cow? I want to have three or four of them. I want to have three or four bell cows, that’s how I look at it.”
If he still isn’t happy when the spring is over, maybe he should have a chat with Jerome Baker.