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Ohio State 2015 Spring Forecast: Linebackers
By Tony Gerdeman

COLUMBUS — It has been a fairly long process to rebuild the Ohio State linebacking corps over these last few years. It seems like a lifetime ago that Urban Meyer had to ask Zach Boren to move to defense in order to be the Buckeyes' middle linebacker in 2012.

Recruiting has built the position back up and the thought of pulling somebody over from offense to man one of the most storied positions in OSU football history is ludicrous at this point. The numbers are back where they need to be, and the coaches believe that the talent level is getting closer by the day.

The Buckeye linebackers could be one of the strongest areas on a very strong team in 2015, and it's been a while since that could be said about this position this early in the preseason.

Who's Coming Back?
Ohio State loses starting middle linebacker Curtis Grant from last season, but they do return eight linebackers who played in at least 11 games a year ago. Redshirt sophomore Darron Lee emerged nationally during the postseason, and he will certainly be receiving some preseason accolades this year.

Leading tackler Joshua Perry returns for his final season, and he'll be looking to improve upon his 124 tackles from last season. He took over for Ryan Shazier at the Will linebacker spot and performed very well. He is one of the team's leaders and most mature players.

Sophomore middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan rotated quite a bit with Curtis Grant last year, and he should step in quite nicely for Grant this season. He finished with 54 tackles last year in a reserve role. Senior Camren Williams, and sophomores Dante Booker and Chris Worley all provided valuable minutes last season in backup roles, as well as special teams. Worley even started against Navy in order to get more speed on the field against the Middies' triple-option attack.

Redshirt freshman Kyle Berger has a ton of promise, but knee injuries have hindered him the previous two years. True freshman Nick Conner has enrolled early so he should be involved in spring practice as well. Fellow true freshmen Justin Hilliard and Jerome Baker will be joining the team in the summer, and both were sought after by programs from all over the nation.

Expectations Heading Into Spring
The expectations of the Ohio State linebackers is at a level that it hasn't been for years. With two proven starters returning in Darron Lee and Joshua Perry, and a sophomore like Raekwon McMillan in the middle, this will be the first time the Buckeyes start three linebackers with All-Big Ten possibilities since perhaps the 2005 season with Bobby Carpenter, A.J. Hawk, and Anthony Schlegel.

There are no expectations for regression by either Lee or Perry, and Luke Fickell is absolutely confident that McMillan is ready to take over at middle linebacker. We shouldn't be surprised if he takes the position to a level that OSU hasn't seen since James Laurinaitis. McMillan still made plenty of mistakes last season in the running game, but that's life for a freshman.

Chris Worley was one of the more impressive defenders during the spring and summer camp last season, and that should continue this spring as well. He is very similar to Lee because he is fast and agile, and he is also a very good tackler. Dante Booker will be looking to establish himself as the heir apparent to Perry. He didn't get much time on defense last year, but working with the twos this spring will give him some very valuable reps.

Camren Williams will likely be McMillan's backup, though that spot could also go to Booker. How much work Kyle Berger and Nick Conner will be able to handle remains to be seen. Walk-ons Craig Fada and Joe Burger will also get plenty of reps, as they always do. Fada played in every game last season as a valuable member of the special teams. Burger played in 12 games. Both are position leaders for the Buckeyes.

Read more on Page 2, including a projected Spring depth chart
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