On Monday, Urban Meyer announced that the Ohio State football team was down a linebacker. Middle linebacker Tuf Borland suffered an Achilles tendon injury this spring, but it is not expected to endanger his 2018 season.
Borland entered the spring as the Buckeyes’ only established starter at linebacker. The Buckeyes must now continue this spring looking for two new starters while also getting reps from relatively unproven players at middle linebacker.
The search, to this point, has been productive.
“We have [Justin] Hilliard and Baron Browning in the middle right now,” Meyer said. “And Pete Werner is very flexible and having an excellent spring. Malik Harrison is another guy we start talking about. Keandre [Jones] has made a good push. So you’ve got some good bodies. We’re not ready to say who is going to be in what position. It’s our job to get the best of them out there.”
Harrison played regularly last season as a Sam linebacker, which would seem to make him the favorite at that spot this spring. Jones was the backup to Jerome Baker at the Will last season. Werner was a contributor on special teams. Hilliard and Browning also found time on special teams while the Buckeyes went through struggles in the middle last year.
Even though there are still a number of unanswered questions, Meyer likes that there are players who are providing answers.
“The good thing is there is some opportunity for someone to step up and go,” he said. “That position, once again, they’re not perfect and they don’t have to be, but they’re trying. I kind of like that position right now.”
Meyer wasn’t very happy with Monday’s performance from the entire Ohio State football team, but he has seen enough to this point to feel confident in what the Buckeyes have at linebacker. He is getting the type of effort that he wants, and he knows the talent is there — with more coming in the summer.
This is all part of why he’s just not that worried about the linebackers this year.
“I’m not concerned,” he said. “Coach Davis is doing a good job, and there are some talented cats. Dallas [Gant] comes in, we have K’Vaughan Pope coming in. We have Teradja Mitchell coming in. So, I mean, Tuf Borland it just breaks your heart because he’s one of the best kids I’ve been around in my life.”
Even without Borland this spring, Ohio State’s recruiting has made this a strong linebacker group. It wouldn’t be unfair to expect more out of this group than last year’s linebackers.
In fact, if the Buckeye linebackers aren’t better than they were a year ago, then you can expect Urban Meyer to begin showing some concern.