Just how important was Raekwon McMillan to the Ohio State defense?

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 27: Hosey Williams
COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 27: Hosey Williams /

Could Raekwon McMillan have been more important to the Ohio State defense than many realized?

After just two games, much has been made of the struggles the Ohio State defense has had defending the pass. Could part of that problem be because Raekwon McMillan decided to turn pro after his junior year.

Why should a middle linebacker be that important to the Buckeyes’ pass defense? Because he was the guy who got the other Ohio State defenders in the correct position prior to the snap, and he did that better than anyone in the country. And because the linebackers have to help out the defensive backs defending the opponents passing attack.

Think that doesn’t matter? How often in the quick pass, spread option era have you seen a defensive player nearly tip a pass, but because he didn’t it goes for a 20+ yard completion?

That same ball could have been tipped to another defender and been a pick six. That’s the difference from becoming a hero or a goat.

And these things can be corrected by a player moving a foot or two one way or the other prior to the snap. And that takes a leader on defense to recognize the formation, body language of the receiver etc., to bring it to the other player’s attention. That can make all the difference between a three and out or the offense moving the chains.

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And when it comes to linebackers, that is especially important when teams are attempting to get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in 2-3 seconds. After all, the linebackers can disrupt that kind of passing game if they are in the correct position and anticipating a throw their way.

I certainly don’t want to throw this year’s Ohio State middle linebacker Chris Worley under the bus. The fifth year senior has been an excellent player for the Buckeyes but he has always played on the outside, only having to take care of his own responsibilities.

But now he is the man in the middle, and with that comes added responsibilities. Raekwon McMillan had an advantage over Worley because last season was his third year playing the position. Worley has only played two games at middle linebacker so it just makes sense it will take time for him to fully understand his new role.

I think there are more issues than just replacing three new players in the secondary this season. Remember, Ohio State had to do so last year but still had one of the best pass defenses in the country.

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Sometimes it’s not a matter of how many players you have to replace, but who you have to find a replacement for. Quite possibly, Raekwon McMillan was much more important to the Ohio State defense than many of us gave him credit for.