All week long, we have been bringing you extensive looks into the linebacker position for 2013. We looked at some of the young guys, as well as the two leaders of the group: Ryan Shazier and Curtis Grant. Those two are going to have to lead a core of young talent into battle this season. The vets are going to need each young LB one to contribute if the Buckeyes want to remain undefeated and earn a shot at the National title in January.
Everyone knows who Shazier is, and we all know what he is going to bring to the table each and every game. He is one of the country’s best linebackers and, hopefully, after this season, he will come back for his senior year. The team just needs Shazier to keep being the guy that makes big play after big play. The biggest question I have about this year’s linebacking core has to be Curtis Grant. He just hasn’t produced yet and this is his year to make a name for himself. The Buckeyes are going to need him because there will be no Zach Boren to take his place this year. He needs to come out with a chip on his shoulder all summer long to earn that starting spot, and continue to be aggressive going into the season. If not, some of the younger guys like Joshua Perry and Camren Williams will have to step up.
What else needs to be done in 2013 to stay undefeated? First of all, the Buckeyes need to tackle better. That was a big problem last year. Not just at the LB position, but everywhere. The linebackers are in the best position to lead the way in changing this trend, because these guys are flying all over the field, reading the play, or helping to make a tackle. If the poor tackling continues, the Buckeyes will not remain undefeated for long.
In addition to better themselves as tacklers, the Buckeyes are going to have to become better in coverage. Teams aren’t going to throw the ball deep against the Buckeyes because of our safeties and our #1 corner, Bradley Roby. The LB unit has to be ready for the flare outs from the back field and the guys coming across the middle. If they can do this, it puts more pressure on the running game, and we all know that Ohio State can stop the run.
Another problem is the depth at the linebacker position. This is going to be an issue again this year, with only two guys who have seen actual playing time. The young guys are going to have to be ready to step in, in case something happens to Shazier or Grant. This includes the two incoming freshman Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson. These guys may not see much playing time this year, but they will need to be ready.
If the Buckeyes can get better in the areas they struggled with last year, and the young guys step up when called upon, this defense is going to be a formidable foe for opposing offenses to take the field against. And when the defense wins battles, it makes the game easier for us to win. So, the success of this season relies on the young defense. If these guys come to play, there is no way the Buckeyes don’t finish another season undefeated and have an opportunity to play for the National title.