What Does Greg Schiano Need to See from Buckeye Linebackers?

Ohio State Football Buckeyes Tuf Borland Linebacker

Last year was not the kind of season the Ohio State coaches were expecting from their linebackers. Injuries knocked out two starters, and an ill fit in the middle was causing problems even before the injuries ever took hold.

Chris Worley opened in the middle, but was slated to give ground around the very same time he suffered a foot injury. Dante Booker then went down later in the season. Jerome Baker didn’t have the season that many expected him to have, including himself.

Overall, it just wasn’t what people had become accustomed to. As such, there are concerns that the same thing can happen this season.

Despite middle linebacker Tuf Borland suffering an injury this spring, and no definitive starters emerging, the Buckeye coaches didn’t share any type of concern after spring ball was done. In fact, they only relayed confidence in the talent on hand.

Five different linebackers played routinely last season, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how well they are playing. For the Buckeyes, however, it wasn’t always great.

The struggles have led to the linebackers being arguably the biggest concern for Ohio State this year, which is why they will be watched closely by the coaches once fall camp begins.

So what will defensive coordinator Greg Schiano be looking for to ease his concerns about this group?

“The middle’s different than the two outside,” he said this spring. “Even though the two outside are different from each other, they’re not as different as the middle linebacker. But to me, you train them in linebacker skills and then what they lack is experience — cumulative reps at that position. But the linebacker skills are the same. So there is carryover.”

The spring was an overarching teaching session featuring cross-training across the linebacker spectrum. That training had to be put on hold, however, once Borland suffered his Achilles injury. At that point, the coaches had to realign their focus with an eye towards the fall.

“Certainly when Tuf went down, it made us alter kind of our thinking because you don’t know,” Schiano explained. “I mean you hope he comes back, but how do you know? A guy has surgery and then you have to make plans for both his return and if possibly he doesn’t make it back when we think he’s going to. So that makes all that a challenge.

There is difficulty in getting players reps at various spots when there is a hole in the middle to fill. They did the best they could, but the adjusted process was a bit different than they had planned on.

The good news is that the players handled the hiccups this spring well, which has the coaches feeling good about the adversity that they are sure to face this season.

“The positive, there’s a lot of really good young football players in that room and they’ve made huge strides,” Schiano said. “They need to continue to make them for us to be a really good defense. But I like the way they work and I like the way they approach their jobs, so I think they will.”

14 Responses

  1. Stop with the experimenting, shuffling guys around. Yeah it can be useful if they have enough time to develop, but the merry go round last year hurt the Buckeyes at all 3 spots. Changes in each of their position duties didn’t help matters either. Again, as previously, that is totally on the coaches. I’m hoping that Bill Davis went to remedial teaching school and actually has learned what each of his guys strength’s and weaknesses are. Come fall camp he won’t have Greg Schiano there to babysit him, so we have to hope that he actually started to learn how to teach young talent.

  2. Linebackers WILL be better, they got a lot better after the Iowa game and were pretty dominant cod the rest of the season. If Bill Davis is going to be blamed for those 2 losses, he deserves some praise for the turnaround of that unit at the end of the season. Personally I think the fault lies on Urban for moving Worley from outside to inside.

    1. I agree 100%. As soon as they moved him I said it was a mistake. He wasnt big enough or physical enough to play against good teams.

    2. If a position coach takes more than half a season to turn his unit around, especially with the caliber of player, and experience on the roster……….it AIN’T the player, it’s the guy experimenting with actually having to teach. 120+ schools in the FBS would crap themselves having starters returning like Baker, Worley and Booker…even before considering the rest of the bench with guys like Borland, Hilliard, Browning, Werner, Jones, Harrison………among others waiting in the wings.

      I have no clue who you talk to, but people that I know and talk with says that Davis isn’t in the NFL anymore because he couldn’t make adjustments on the fly and if the HC wanted to change the scheme he was lost. We can dance round and round with excuses, or but but but’s, BUT the fact remains, Meyer saw a problem and sent Greg Schiano to fix what Davis broke. I’ll repeat this once again. Bill Davis NEVER taught linebackers at ANY level. He was pulled into the NFL because of his dad and no other reason. He could sit for a year watching Luke Fickell develop players and churn out high quality talent and production, but he’s never had to do it himself before.

      But, you are right…’s the CEO’s fault that the problem existed in the first place. It would be funny if it wasn’t the Buckeyes watching a superstructure built over nearly 2 decades turned into rubble in less than a year by incompetent assistant coaching.

  3. In Fickell’s absence, the LB play fell off to damn near historic lows. Guys that looked like sure fire 1st rounders (i.e. Jerome Baker) began to look completely lost. This better get fixed…quick (or 2 to 3 losses are coming).

    1. Yep, you hit the nail square on the head.

    2. Yes, spot on, Believe that OK and IA exploited their poor play or better yet, their sometimes poor coaching. One thing we learned since Urban’s arrival, he relies heavily on his assistants, evidenced by the huge swings in D and O play when OSU loses or has competent assistants. With the stars and depth of all of our LB’s we should be wondering why their unit ranking is so low and why this isn’t a strength

    1. I’m not finished being upset over the trainwreck Davis made of the linebackers last year, so I’m already upset! The talent in that room is among the best in College football so Davis is without excuse this year.

  4. I just hope that the linebackers act as if they have seen play action before. Their lack of recognition cost the team a chance to play for a championship with their embarrassing games against Oklahoma and Iowa.

  5. Even though we’ve been recruiting 5 star prospects is seems we really miss Vrabel and Fickell from this position. Hope the same won’t be said of Coombs departure.

    1. Good point. I think that the players we have will respond and be better than last year’s efforts. I have confidence in the back end players. Grinch is more than just capable he is a riser, and the talent is undeniable. Honestly, I’m more concerned with the Quarterback situation. I hope it’s unfounded.

    2. All good points. Last year we couldn’t cover TE’s vs Iowa, not from lack of talent but because our LB’s and their coach had no idea what was happening to them or what to do about it.

    3. Taver Johnson is an excellent coach. He checks his ego when his feet first hit the floor in the morning. He knows the system isn’t broken so all he has to do is continue the same plan Kerry Coombs laid out. I think he’ll do just that. With Alex Grinch coming in to work the safeties we should see even more improvement from the secondary.

      If the linebackers can play Buckeye football again in 2018, the defense will be championship caliber.

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