MotSaG Look at the Linebackers

OSU Football

After thinking back to the start of last season, I have some of the same reservations about this year’s linebacker group. With the exception of Ryan Shazier, the unit is very inexperienced. There are plenty of players that need to step up and make a big impact on defense this year. Let’s take a look at some of the names vying to add their name to the great tradition of Buckeye linebackers.

Who the Buckeyes lost from last years team…

Zach Boren – Has a starting fullback ever changed to starting linebacker halfway through the season (making the change in one week) and instantly become the team’s second best linebacker? If you ask me, that is exactly what happened last year when Zach Boren moved to starting MLB. He was a difference maker down the stretch and solidified the otherwise turbulent position. Zach is continuing his pursuit of playing football. He signed a free agent contract with the Houston Texans.

Etienne Sabino – Etienne is another guy who suffered through injuries at OSU. He was a solid player that often went unnoticed. I believe sometimes “senior leadership” is overrated, but given the buckeyes have struggled with continuity over the last couple of years at linebacker, Etienne’s experience will be missed. Etienne also was undrafted. He signed a free agent contract with the New York Giants. There have been some promising reports coming from Giants camp. It appears Etienne has a decent shot of making the roster.

Other losses – Storm Klein and Conner Crowell Best of luck to all!

Who will replace them…

Before we look at some of the new projected starters this year, a linebacker preview is not complete without mentioning Ryan Shazier. Ryan is the clear leader of the Buckeye linebackers. He has proven himself. He will be a beast. The preseason All-American selection is well deserving of the accolades coming his way. Below are a few comments from Ryan after practice this weekend courtesy of

Let’s take a look at a few players that need to step up and contribute (in a big way!). They are inexperienced and young. The talent is there. We are waiting for it to burst onto the field.

Curtis Grant – Curtis is the current projected starter at MLB. The ups and downs (mostly downs) of Grant’s young career as a buckeye have been well documented. He was a consensus 5-star recruit coming out of high school. Rivals rated him as the 2nd overall prospect, not linebacker, 2nd overall player. The expectation was enormous, but Curtis has yet to live up to the hype he received coming out of high school. Reports this preseason say Curtis is a “changed man”; ready for the big time. He is saying all of the right things…

“It’s more than determination,” he said. “A lot of things have changed in my life that has made me a lot hungrier about the game and things I needed to do. I tell my mom every day, ‘We’re going to make it.’ That’s my promise to her, and I’m determined to make it for her.”

Time will tell if this is the year he finally breaks out and becomes the player we have been waiting for. Grant was in the same position last year as the starting MLB, but was only able to hold the spot for 3 games. That has to change this year. Grant’s limited contribution to date still makes him the second most seasoned linebacker behind Shazier. Hopefully Grant can quickly recover from the concussion he suffered early in camp.

Joshua Perry – I will be the first to admit that Josh is a bit of an enigma to me. He was a member of the Rivals top 150 coming out of high school. It is quite possible his ability is being overlooked. He played sparingly as a freshman, mostly on special teams. Often times, players without high expectations and out of the spotlight are the unsung heroes of a team. I am hopeful that Josh can mold himself into that type of player. I need to see Josh play more to make a better assessment of what he brings to the team. He will have his chance this year as he steps into a starting role. If the spotlight has been dim until now, that is all about to change. I am looking forward to see what Josh brings to the table. Again courtesy of the, here are some comments from Josh after practice this weekend.

Who are the Backups…

That is a good question! You tell me. A pair of highly touted recruits are making a strong case to contribute this year – Mike Mitchell and Trey Johnson. Given the lack of depth at linebacker, I would be surprised if either of those player red-shirt this year. Both Mike and Trey are big time talents as you can see from their highlights and high school stats. From what I have seen and read thus far, I believe the Mike and Trey will be required to contribute early and often especially on special teams. I would also not be surprised if one or both push for playing time at the linebacker spot as the season moves along.

As I looked down the roster for other players expected to contribute, the same theme holds true – NO EXPERIENCE! The Buckeyes need to avoid injury at the linebacker spot this year. Since there are no fullbacks to pull from this year, let’s all hope the young guys can continue to develop. The Buckeye defense is really lacking depth at this position.

Player who could surprise…

Mike Mitchell – For me the obvious choice here is Mike Mitchell. The uncertainty surrounding Curtis Grant may provide an amazing opportunity for the true freshman. Can’t wait to see how this plays out. Has the season started yet?

How they will fare…

Let me continue to beat a dead horse…Shazier will be a beast! The rest of the group is a crap-shoot. Your guess is as good as mine. One thing last year’s linebackers had going for them was an experienced defensive line. This year, that is not the case. The development of the young linebacker group will be largely connected to the development of the front four. Ultimately, the Buckeyes have a long tradition of great linebackers. The players will develop. The play will be solid. That doesn’t change the fact that the Buckeyes start the 2013 season with one linebacker with experience, period. The other players need to step up early! How will they fare? … ????????????? … Time will tell.


  1. Maybe it is just naivety on my part but I am not worried about the LBs at all… Curtis Grant was a 5 star and has the tools he just needs to have his head in the right place. Josh Perry also has a lot of upside combine that with 2 stud Freshmen in Mitchell and Johnson and I have a lot of confidence in them to get things done this year… oh and we still have a guy named Ryan Shazier so yeah.

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