The Ohio State football team has a unit full of new faces at linebacker, not one has started a game in their career at Ohio State. In their season-opener Thursday night, the new Buckeye linebackers will be thrown to the wolves against Minnesota’s impressive rushing attack.
Ohio State will likely rotate a handful of linebackers this season including players like Teradja Mitchell, Cody Simon, Dallas Gant, and K’Vaughn Pope. Mitchell is the only clear starter at Will linebacker after emerging as the leader of the unit and being named a captain.
Outside of Mitchell, no one is sure who else will start, or who will get a lot of snaps at linebacker. The Buckeyes won’t have time to usher in their new contributors at linebacker due to their big test right out of the gate.
The Minnesota Gophers’ prolific rushing attack will be a challenge
The Minnesota Gophers have a great rushing attack led by their huge offensive line and fifth-year running back Mohamed Ibrahim. The shortest projected starter on their offensive line is the center John Michael Schmitz at 6-foot-4.
Both projected guards for Minnesota are 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6, and their projected starting left tackle is 6-foot-6. Daniel Faalele at right tackle is as big, or larger, than Ohio State’s tackle Dawand Jones. Faalele is 6-foot-9 and roughly 380 pounds.
Minnesota’s offensive line is experienced as well. Among the starters, there are two sixth-year seniors, two fifth-year seniors, and one fourth-year senior. This could be one of the better offensive lines in the Big Ten this season.
The catalyst of the Gopher offense is the running back, Ibrahim. He has a whopping 2,840 career rushing yards, 31 rushing touchdowns, and averages 5.5 yards per carry through his career. Ibrahim was also named the Big Ten Running Back of the Year last season. He does not go down easily and can be hard to find when he’s running behind such a big line.
Clearly, the Gophers’ offense relies heavily on the run. Ohio State’s linebackers will need to be up for the challenge, or it could spell big trouble on the road in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Buckeye linebacker Mitchell discussed the challenge of tackling Ibrahim,
“Definitely can’t go in arm-tackling. I think he’s one of the better backs in the country, so it’s definitely gonna be a challenge for the defense. We’re gonna come in there, and we gotta play. Definitely can’t have any arm tackles, gotta wrap him up.”
The Ohio State football team’s linebackers can make a statement Thursday night
There are plenty of questions surrounding Ohio State’s linebackers this season, which is understandable since they are so inexperienced. But the talent is certainly there for all of the linebackers expected to play. The unit should be faster and more athletic this season, giving them a higher potential than past Ohio State linebacking corps.
If the linebackers go in and stuff Minnesota Thursday night, there’s going to be little concern about the linebackers in the run game this season. The opportunity is there for the linebackers to make their presence known.
Mitchell, with a grin, answered a question about if the unit was tired of hearing the doubt about the Buckeye linebackers this season,
“Yeah, we’re definitely getting tired of hearing it, but I mean that’s what comes with it. Like I said, we’re an inexperienced group, so we understand. But, like I said, we’re prepared, we put in the work and we’re ready to show it.”
Well, if Ohio State’s linebackers are truly tired of hearing doubt, they have the perfect opportunity to make a statement against Minnesota. The linebackers will need to be good versus Minnesota if the Ohio State football team is going to win comfortably.
The silver bullets will look to make impact plays in their road challenge, leading Ohio State to an impressive season-opening victory versus the Minnesota Golden Gophers.