Ohio State Football: New look LB unit impressive so far

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 29: Malik Harrison
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 29: Malik Harrison /

If the linebackers continue to perform as well as they have, there will be one less question mark for the Ohio State football team entering the 2018 season.

One of the biggest question marks on the Ohio State football team heading into spring practice was the linebacker situation. Outside linebackers Jerome Baker and Chris Worley moving on left big shoes to fill. Then when Tuf Borland went down with an injury the Buckeyes no longer had a returning starter.

With a group of inexperienced linebackers to work with, it appeared to be a difficult situation for coach Billy Davis. At the very least, you would think it would take some time for the unit to make a favorable impression on Urban Meyer.

Evidently that’s anything but the case. During his press conference, here was Urban Meyer’s reply to a question concerning the middle linebacker situation, per 247Sports.  

"“Good. It’s a positive right now. Actually moved Malik Harrison to Will for a little bit to try that out, Keandre at Sam. That’s one of our better units as far as getting better. Baron Browning graded a champion for Friday’s scrimmage, so did — who else? Hilliard was honorable mention, and Pete Werner graded champion. So they’re getting better. Really talented guys.”"

Looking at the players coach Davis has to work with this spring I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise the LB unit is performing as well as it is. It is a very talented group.

Justin Hilliard  6-1, 230: The former five-star recruit was supposed to be the linebacker entering the NFL this year, instead of classmate Jerome Baker, but two separate bicep injuries held him back. Now he is healthy, playing well and competing for the starting spot at middle linebacker.

Malik Harrison  6-3, 240: How in the world this talented young guy was ranked the No. 683 overall player in the 2016 recruiting class is beyond me. Did you see how well he played last year filling in when the LB unit was hit by the injury bug? As of now, it looks like he has one of the outside linebacker spots locked up.

Keandre Jones  6-2, 238: One of the trio of terrific linebackers in the 2016 class, Jones has been impressive so far this spring. By everything I have heard, he would start at Will linebacker if the season started today.

Baron Browning  6-3, 238: This guy is the elephant in the room. Urban Meyer can’t stop raving about Browning and the young man will make an impact at some position this season. He is listed at MLB at the moment but don’t be surprised to see him on the edge.

Pete Werner  6-3, 235: In my article about the “Super Sophs”, I wrote that Werner and Browning are both ready to explode onto the scene. Last year on special teams Werner proved he has a nose for the football and a great motor. I have only heard good things about him so far this spring.

Dallas Gant  6-3, 215: He has already made an impression as an early enrollee. It looks like he will get his feet wet this year.

More from Ohio State Football

Even more talented players will be added to this group pretty soon. Dante Booker is on rehab at the moment but is expected to be back for fall camp. Teradja Mitchell and K’Vaughan Pope, two top 10 ranked middle linebackers, will be enrolling in June.

Outside linebacker Javontae Jean-Baptiste will be enrolling as well but he may be converted to a defensive end.

There was never any doubt about the talent in the linebacker unit as Urban Meyer has been recruiting the positions hard the last few recruiting cycles.

What is somewhat of a surprise is how well the linebackers performed the first half of spring practices. With the open spots available, every player hit the ground running.

Next: How competition in spring will trim roster to 85

That’s certainly promising for coach Davis and defensive coordinator Greg Schiano going into the 2018 season. Their new look linebacker unit has the potential to be a very good one.